Is This The End Of The Entry-Level Designer Bag

Illustrated by Marina Esmeraldo.
Designer bags: To some, that means an ultra-luxury It style, be it a Celine Trapeze or Phantom, say, or a Birkin (although maybe we need an alternate name for that Hermès style these days). But how about styles in the $200 to $350 range, sporting recognizable logos, branded bag bling, and/or a telltale label that says, “Why, yes, this is a boxy, basic microfiber Kate Spade purse”? The mid-range designer bag might be on the outs, according to Business Insider.

For the teen set, Michael Kors bags are now at the top of birthday, bat mitzvah, and sweet-sixteen lists, per a semiannual survey of teens by Piper Jaffray, as Bloomberg Business reported in April. The teen-handbag-lust hierarchy in 2015 is, in descending order: Michael Kors, Coach, and Kate Spade.

But even though Kors is the top pick for what teens (and plenty of grown-ups) want, sales fell 5.8% percent earlier this year — the brand’s first decline since going public in 2011 — causing its shares to drop nearly 50%. A few possible reasons for those glum numbers: Kors’ various lines cannibalizing one another (which some believe also happened at Coach), brand fatigue, and the production of way too much inventory that didn’t match demand.

Meanwhile, next-level aspirational bags — the designer handbags that some graduate to after Kors or Coach, like a Vuitton monogram or an ostentatious Gucci number — have seen declines, because today’s consumer wants more subtle indicators of wealth, according to the Washington Post. Equally tony but more quietly luxe labels like Bottega Veneta and Miu Miu are succeeding where more overt “I paid a lot for this bag” brands aren’t.

Even if the affordable-ish, highly recognizable designer bag is over, the appetite for gateway designer bags isn’t just going to disappear. Not everyone is in desperate pursuit of a Mansur Gavriel bucket bag or another north-of-$500 style — and, frankly, most people aren’t looking to spend that kind of money on a single item, period. A not-very-recognizable, mid-priced, super-popular designer bag might sound oxymoronic, but after seeing one too many bling-y gold bag fobs and patterned canvas logos everywhere, we’re rooting for it to happen.
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