Handbag Sticker Shock? Try Spring’s Entry-level Luxuries Instead

Price increases on high-end handbags have become public fodder that rivals the latest celebrity divorce scandal.

PurseBop, an online forum for luxury collectors, has been publishing like-for-like data on bag prices for 11 years, but those articles have seen a “huge surge in readership lately,” said founder Monika Arora. “Everyone wants to know what they’re going to have to spend to get the bag that’s on their wishlist.”

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Hermès and Chanel rolled out their latest price increases at the start of 2024, citing inflation and rising production costs, while Burberry, Comme des Garçons, and Louis Vuitton are among those offering costlier bags with niche, artisanal details geared toward the 1 percent.

PARIS, FRANCE - JUNE 24: Pharrell Williams attends the Loewe Menswear Spring/Summer 2024 show as part of Paris Fashion Week on June 24, 2023 in Paris, France. (Photo by Jacopo Raule/Getty Images)
Louis Vuitton menswear designer, Pharrell Williams with a $1 million crocodile Speedy handbag.

For those without unlimited funds (or even those who have them), resale is an alternative, but much of the allure of designer goods is the in-store experience. According to shopping expert Isabel Bazzani, “aspirational customers get a lot more excited about that because it’s rarer for them.”

In many cases beauty has become the token for entry-level luxury with brands, namely Prada and Tom Ford, beefing up their cosmetics lines. And aspirational customers can justify those purchases to a point. “They’re really all about use-per-wear,” Bazzani explained, and fragrances and lipsticks are meant to be used up. She recommends small accessories and lower-tier ready-to-wear styles as “really the way to go.”

Oftentimes, iconographic design elements of hero bags trickle down into entry-level products. Take the aforementioned Prada, which uses the same industrial nylon for its backpack as hats and hair accessories, or those French houses Hermès and Chanel: The former has found clever uses for its Kelly bag’s Touret clasp in fashion jewelry and the latter recently featured the Medium Classic in print form on a scarf.

A Prada nylon headband.
A nylon headband from Prada
A phone pouch from Celine.
A phone pouch from Celine.

Lifestyle categories like swim and tech can also be treasure troves for luxurious, cost-effective merchandise with myriad uses. A tartan maillot from Burberry’s new Classics line doubles as a bodysuit with a little creative styling. Ditto for Tom Ford silk boxers, a celeb-approved sub-in for shorts. Meanwhile, a phone pouch like this one from Celine, may even eliminate the need for a full-size bag at all.

Flip through for spring’s best (moderately) affordable alternatives from the bag brands playing hardest to get.

Launch Gallery: The 10 Best Entry-Level Products from Luxury Bag Brands

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