December 14, 2012
I recently finished filming a series of commercials for a world-famous fashion designer I’d barely heard of, and he gave me one of his company’s handbags as a parting gift. I thought, “Cool, whatever” and handed it to my wife, who immediately burst into apoplectic seizures so severe, I had to put my wallet in her mouth. What the fuck is going on? When did women become so obsessed with a wallet-carrying device?
“Fifteen years ago a handbag was for an old lady,” Barney’s Creative Ambassador-at-Large Simon Doonan told me shortly after the incident. “It used to be the kind of thing only Margaret Thatcher cared about. Now they dominate the industry.” Doonan said Barney’s had to completely redesign their entire store, pushing all non-handbag merchandise upstairs and downstairs to make room for the huge purse demand on the ground floor. The phrase “huge purse demand” sounds as absurd to my male ears as “the trouble with guinea pigs.”
On a recent trip to London we visited the iconic department store Harrods, and the entire first floor appeared to be nothing but handbags. All the boutique stores at Heathrow Airport are the same way. While researching this article I hopped on my bike and went up to 5th Avenue near Central Park where all the luxury boutiques reside. I visited Prada, Louis Vuitton, Versace, Burberry, Gucci, Saks, and Macy’s. They were all filled with almost nothing but purses. Macy’s doesn’t just devote the first floor to purses. They take up the first THREE floors. A clerk on the first floor told me, “We still have a bit of perfume and jewelry here, but it seems like every year the handbags take over another floor.” She was standing next to a Burberry bag that cost just under a thousand dollars.
If you look at these stores on Google Maps, the icon used for each store is a purse:
It’s like a 1950s horror movie: Attack of the Killer Handbags. The insatiable blob only attacks women and is totally invisible to men.
America’s handbag industry generates about 500 million dollars a year, more than half of which is profit. The market has been soaring since 2006 and is projected to get twice as insane by 2016. With this huge surge of interest in an incredibly expensive thing that is easy to duplicate comes a massive counterfeit industry. In 2005, Customs and Border Protection estimated that fake bags cost US companies from 200-250 billion dollars annually. China has begun to throw counterfeiters in jail for life. Why all the fuss? It’s a leather bag. Don’t they last forever?