what is considered luxury handbags hierarchy of luxury brands cover

What are considered luxury handbags – The luxury hierarchy

I do not have an impressively vast collection of luxury handbags but I’m a lover of things that are made exquisitely and with “savoir-faire”. But if you’ve ever contemplated purchasing a luxury handbag, you might have felt perplexed at all the different brands and products and what is considered luxury and what is not. Well, in this article I hope to clear that up for you and help you to understand luxury handbags from a different perspective that you’ve perhaps seen before. By the end you should be better able to navigate the luxury handbag space. 

What are luxury handbags 

Luxury is not easy to define because it evolves alongside our changing society. However luxury products have shared characteristics that make them unique and set them apart from non luxury products. These characteristics revolve around the product itself, the brand and the customer experience. Handbags are no exception and I’ve been trying to understand what makes them special and what makes us love them so much. 

Luxury handbags contain certain characteristics that distinguish them from other handbags such as exquisite design, fine materials, expert craftsmanship, scarcity and a certain level of exclusivity. Because these bags are so bespoke, they usually come with an excellent customer experience and at a very high price point.

However, the money that you pay for a luxury handbag is not only for the product itself but to also own a product from a brand that usually but not necessarily has a long history of making luxury goods. These brands work consistently on their brand image, product development, creating exclusivity and therefore often have a reputation of excellence and prestige.

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What are considered luxury handbags

The term “luxury handbags” usually refers to a select number of traditional luxury brands from Europe like Hermès, Chanel, Louis Vuitton and Gucci etc. However today, luxury handbags exist on a scale because the luxury industry has expanded due to the emergence of contemporary luxury and affordable luxury brands. 

Traditional luxury brands are those that were created before the 1950’s like Hermès, Gucci and Chanel and contemporary luxury brands were created after the 1950’s like Versace and Boarini Milanesi. Affordable luxury brands have been created both before and after the 1950s but they produce at least some products that are targeted to a larger market with lower price points, these include brands like Lonchamp and Coach for example.

What is the hierarchy of luxury handbags

The hierarchy of luxury handbags ranks luxury brands in respect to their different price points and their different levels of exclusivity. It usually takes the form of a pyramid but it does not measure other characteristics of luxury handbags like quality, design, durability or fabrication.

The most inexpensive luxury brands populate the base of the pyramid as they are the most accessible. The tip of the pyramid contains the most expensive luxury brands and therefore the most exclusive as well. The pyramid is based on my own research of all the brands below to see how accessible their handbags were and at what price points. I have also gone into a bit more detail about each individual brand at the end of this article.

what is considered luxury handbags hierarchy of luxury brands pyramid

Affordable

Affordable luxury brands aim to bridge the gap between high quality and accessibility. They create products for people who are willing to pay a higher price for good quality materials and craftsmanship. However, unlike high-end luxury, affordable luxury brands do not try to make their products scarce intentionally to keep the demand and prices high. 

Rather they try to meet the demand in the market by producing higher quantities of their products so that they are more readily available to more consumers. This in turn reduces the exclusivity of their products to a certain degree making them the least expensive luxury brands for handbags on the scale which is why they form the base of the pyramid.

Related: Affordable luxury alternatives for the Celine Box Bag
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Accessible

Accessible luxury brands, as the name suggests, are intended to be accessible to a wide range of people but not necessarily at affordable prices. This means that they are more expensive than affordable luxury handbags but are still attainable for a large number of people if they want them. 

They are also more accessible geographically as they can be purchased online from almost anywhere in the world. This particular category of luxury brand operates by finding and maintaining a careful balance between availability, accessibility and the prestige that is associated with their brand. This balance is accounted for in the higher price points of their products which makes them moderately exclusive while still being attainable to a good number of people.

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High-end & Ultra high-end

High-end and ultra high-end luxury brands produce standardized handbags, as opposed to made-to-order handbags from bespoke brands. They are still characterized by a high degree of creativity that often embodies the vision of the fashion house’s creative designer. They cater to small groups of people with ultra high-quality products.

These categories contain a range of high price points because their handbags must reach a very high standard and they can take a long time to produce. Some brands within these categories are more recognizable to the general public than others (like Louis Vuitton vs Bottega Venetta) but aficionados will be able to spot these bags immediately even without obvious branding. They’re highly coveted as status symbols on social media and are by far some of the most replicated bags on the market.

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Bespoke 

Bespoke luxury brands make handbags that are made almost exclusively for each customer with an extremely high level of craftsmanship, customisation and fine materials. These brands aren’t interested in addressing a large market but rather a very select few clients and their products are usually equated with pieces of art.

These handbags are therefore substantial financial purchases in themselves and are world renowned for their prestige and unparalleled rarity. Bespoke handbags are usually manufactured for particular customers in very small quantities each year to ensure very high standards and attention to detail but also to preserve a very high level of exclusivity. 

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Why are luxury handbags so expensive

The most expensive luxury handbags can cost the same as a brand new expensive car in some instances. Does the extra expense translate into better quality? You can expect a bag that is impeccably made but the ultra high price tag does not necessarily correspond with the same elevated level of quality. This is not to say that they are not high quality but it means that other factors are included in the price tag that are not included in products from other brands.

Luxury handbags are expensive because they are often handmade by expert craftsmen with fine or exotic materials which means they are not mass produced and cost more to manufacture. Brands also price their handbags high so that they remain exclusive to a select few who can afford them.

Exclusivity is not created by randomly pricing products at a high cost however. Maintaining exclusivity around a brand’s products consist of certain strategies to create a particular brand image, a great reputation and a high level of prestige. These strategies include meticulous branding, marketing, advertising, presentation, excellent customer service and creative product development. 

Therefore the “price to quality” ratio of the very expensive luxury bags is not always balanced as it often prices in all of the elements that contribute to the business’s overall exclusivity and prestige. Even though this is looked on unfavourably by some people, it’s just how the luxury business model works because some people want to purchase products that are not owned by everyone so they are willing to pay more for that and certain luxury brands aim to cater to that market.

what is considered luxury handbags hierarchy of luxury brands hermes bag

Are luxury handbags worth it 

The answer is, it depends. There are many different types of luxury bags and different reasons for buying them. To decide if a luxury handbag is worth it, you need to assess your motivation for buying it. This will provide the most accurate answer to this question for your situation. 

I have identified four of the most common motives that people buy luxury handbags for. These include for financial investment, for the rareness and exclusivity of the bag, for the superior quality and longevity that the bag offers and finally because there is a genuine passion for style and fashion that provides enjoyment. 

Below I’ve tried to help you understand whether luxury handbags are worth it based on these different motivations. However you must also take into account the specific bag you are thinking of buying and carry out some research to assess how that bag addresses your personal motivation and meets your specific needs. 

Related: How to have expensive taste (authentically)

Should I buy a luxury handbag

If you are thinking about purchasing a luxury handbag but you are still a bit hesitant because you’re unsure of whether you will regret it or not, it is important to take into consideration your personal motivation for purchasing a particular bag and how well the handbag matches it. Your motivation can be one, all or a combination of the following things so it’s best to be as honest as you can be to understand if your desired handbag is the right one for you. 

Financial

If you are thinking of purchasing a luxury bag as a financial investment, then it is important to recognise that not all high-end luxury handbags are guaranteed to appreciate in value. It’s important to do a lot of research and manage your risk appropriately. A good place to start is some of the most iconic handbags from some of the oldest high-end luxury brands like Dior’s Lady Dior bag.

It’s beneficial to understand what makes a luxury brand successful and why some handbags retain more of their value compared to others. If you are comfortable with your research and the assessment of your own situation then you should purchase the bag and take good care of it. Don’t forget to reassess the situation on an annual basis to see where your handbag stands on the market place.

Exclusivity

If you want to purchase a luxury handbag because it is rare and not worn by many women in the world, then it is helpful to assess certain factors that contribute to its scarcity. How many of the bags are made annually? Are they available online or only in store? Are they going to be sold over a limited period of time? 

These factors along with a high price point will affect the overall availability and therefore exclusivity of the bag. If your desired handbag matches these criteria then that’s a good indication that you should make your purchase. If your purchase maintains exclusivity over a long period of time or even gets discontinued by the manufacturer this can be good news for the future resale value as well as the bag’s rarity.

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Quality

Here is where it gets interesting. If your main motivation for buying a luxury handbag is to purchase something made with exquisite craftsmanship using high quality materials that can stand many years of wear and still retain its quality and condition then you need to assess and compare the particular bag you are interested in carefully. 

As explained earlier, the most expensive luxury bags do not always translate to equally elevated quality or longevity. The higher price usually reflects the cost of maintaining exclusivity of their products and creating prestige around the brand. There are many more affordable luxury brands that offer handbags that are priced more closely to their cost of production but are still made with very high quality materials that can last a lifetime.

Passion

You don’t need to be an avid and dedicated collector to love and find enjoyment in owning or wearing luxury handbags. Passion for beautiful handbags can come in different degrees and one is not better than the other. So whether you love one particular luxury handbag and everything about it or whether you find it enjoyable to amass a huge collection of them, it’s clear that it means more to you than just for an investment, for its quality or for its rarity. 

People who wear luxury products and women collectors in particular get a lot of criticism from people who say this kind of passion is driven by vanity or the need to feel wealthy. While that may be the case in some instances, other types of collectors or activities that people find enjoyable are not criticised in the same way. So if you absolutely love a particular bag and you know you will enjoy owning and wearing it for years to come then you should absolutely buy it, provided your personal situation allows for it. 

what is considered luxury handbags hierarchy of luxury brands hermes bag

Whether affordable or bespoke, handbags are an expression of who we are, and as our most prominent fashion accessory, our handbag is both functional and symbolic, allowing the world a deeper look at our personal taste and how we see ourselves. It’s such an exciting time to be watching this space in the fashion world because there are new designers and brands popping up all the time with innovative designs, materials and processes. And sometimes the limited knowledge around up and coming brands provides another type of exclusivity as well 😉 

I hope you found this helpful. I would love to see how you use the tips in this article to enhance your style so please please tag me on Instagram, Tiktok or Pinterest or you can or send me a message because I would love to see! 

About the author 

Mish has a Masters in Fine Art and she’s passionate about classical design, history and culture. She loves to analyze fashion and style through this lens to help people develop authentic personal style.

  • APC, founded in 1987, is an affordable luxury brand that bridges the gap between quality and accessibility. They create products for people who are willing to pay a higher price for good craftsmanship but don’t try to make their products scarce intentionally to keep demand and prices high.
  • Balenciaga, founded 1917, is a French high-end luxury fashion house that made a return to haute couture in 2021. They offer clothing and high-end leather goods at various price points. Some leather goods are more affordable but most of their products are more exclusive and intend to reach a high-end market.
  • Balmain, founded 1945, is an haute couture fashion house and high-end  luxury brand. They offer clothing and high-end leather goods at price ranges that make them quite exclusive. Some of their leather goods products are more accessible but the majority of their products remain exclusive.
  • Boarini Milanesi, founded 2016, is an Italian handbag company and a bespoke luxury brand. Every handbag is impeccably made and created exclusively to order for a specific client and their name is hot-embossed in the leather. Their handbags are some of the most expensive handbags in the world. 
  • Bottega Veneta, founded 1966 is an Italian fashion house and ultra high-end luxury brand. They offer a variety of high-end products including clothing, accessories and footwear and are known for their signature intrecciato weaving technique. Their products are highly priced and intended for a very small market. 
  • Burberry, founded 1956 is a luxury fashion house that is most known for their signature tartan print. Their products are accessible to many people but not necessarily at affordable prices. They are more exclusive than affordable luxury brands but are still attainable to people who want to buy them. 
  • Bvlgari founded 1884, is an Italian high-end luxury brand. They offer exquisitely made fine jewelry, watches, accessories and leather goods for men and women. Their products are highly priced and intended for a small market. They also own a chain of luxury hotels in big cities across the world.
  • Celine, founded 1945 is a French fashion house and high-end luxury brand. They offer a variety of high-end and superb quality products including clothing, footwear and accessories both online and in store and are known for their minimalist Parisian aesthetic. Their products are highly priced and are intended for a small market. 
  • Demellier is an affordable luxury brand that bridges the gap between quality and accessibility. They create products for people who are willing to pay a higher price for good craftsmanship but don’t try to make their products scarce intentionally to keep demand and prices high.
  • Chanel, founded 1910, is an haute couture fashion house and high-end luxury brand. They offer clothing and high-end leather goods at price ranges that make them very exclusive and are known for classic and timeless women’s fashion. Their products are highly priced and intended for a very small market. 
  • Chloe is an accessible luxury brand that offers a range of products at various price points. Some products are in the high-end range but others are less expensive to cater to a younger audience. They are superior to affordable luxury brands but are still not as coveted as high-end luxury brands. 
  • Coach, founded 1941 is considered an affordable luxury brand that bridges the gap between quality and accessibility. They create products for people who are willing to pay a higher price for good craftsmanship but don’t try to make their products scarce intentionally to keep demand and prices high. 
  • Coccinelle, founded 1978, is not considered a luxury brand but rather a premium brand. Their range of products are created in large quantities and are widely available to buy online at very low and promotional price points with little to no exclusivity associated with the brand. 
  • Dolce & Gabbana is an accessible luxury brand that offers a range of products at various price points. Some products are expensive but some are more affordable and available to a larger number of people. They are superior to affordable luxury brands but are still not as coveted as high-end luxury brands. 
  • Delvaux, founded 1829, is a Belgian leather goods house and ultra high-end luxury brand. They offer a variety of high-end products including bags and accessories and are known for being the oldest fine leather goods house in the world. Their products are highly priced and intended for a very small market. 
  • Dior, founded 1946, is an haute couture fashion house and ultra high-end luxury brand. They offer clothing and high-end leather goods at price ranges that make them very exclusive and are known for revolutionising the women’s fashion industry. Their products are highly priced and intended for a small market. 
  • Dooney and Bourke, founded in 1975 is not considered a luxury brand but rather a premium brand. Their products have been seen on some celebrities but their products are created in large quantities and are widely available to buy online at very low and promotional price points.
  • Emporio Armani, founded 1975, is an affordable luxury brand that bridges the gap between quality and accessibility. They create products for people who are willing to pay a higher price for good craftsmanship but don’t try to make their products scarce intentionally to keep demand and prices high.
  • Fendi founded 1925 is an Italian haute couture fashion house and ultra high-end luxury brand. They offer a variety of high-end products including clothing, accessories and footwear and are known for their daring designs and signature “F” logo. Their products are highly priced and intended for a very small market.
  • Furla, founded 1927, is an affordable luxury brand that bridges the gap between quality and accessibility. They create products for people who are willing to pay a higher price for good craftsmanship but don’t try to make their products scarce intentionally to keep demand and prices high.
  • Givenchy founded 1952 is a French fashion house and a high-end luxury brand. They offer a variety of high-end products including clothing, accessories and footwear and are known for their little black dress worn by Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Their products are highly priced and intended for a small market. 
  • Gucci, founded 1921, is an Italian haute couture fashion house and a high-end luxury brand. They offer a variety of high-end products and are known as being one of the oldest and most famous luxury brands in the world. Their products are highly priced and intended for a small market. 
  • Hermès, founded 1837, is a French fashion house and bespoke luxury brand. They’re known for making fashion’s ultimate status symbol; the Birkin Bag but the brand also makes clothing and other accessories. Their bags are notoriously difficult to buy as there’s a long waiting list and limited quantities.
  • Hugo Boss, founded in 1924, is an affordable luxury brand that bridges the gap between quality and accessibility. They create a variety of products at different price points for people who want well made products but do not have the same quality leather goods as high-end luxury brands. 
  • Isabel Marant founded 1994, is an affordable luxury brand that bridges the gap between quality and accessibility. They create products for people who are willing to pay a higher price for good craftsmanship but don’t try to make their products scarce intentionally to keep demand and prices high.
  • Karl Lagerfeld was founded in 1984 and is owned by Tommy Hilfiger. Their products have been seen on some celebrities but it is not considered a luxury brand because their products are widely available to buy online at very low and promotional price points
  • Kate Spade was founded in 1993 and is owned by Coach following the death of Ms. Spade in 2018. Their products have been seen on some celebrities but it is not considered a luxury brand because their products are widely available to buy online at very low and promotional price points.
  • Lana Marks, founded 1987, is an American handbag company and a bespoke luxury brand. It’s a family-owned and run business that creates luxurious exotic skin handbags and accessories. They’re known for making very limited quantities of their designs and for owning one of the most expensive handbags in the world.
  • Launer London, founded 1940, is an English high-end luxury leather goods brand. They offer handbags, wallets and purses at price ranges that make them very exclusive and are known for receiving the Queen of England’s official seal of approval. Their products are highly priced and intended for a small market. 
  • Lanvin, founded 1884, is a french fashion house and high-end luxury brand. They offer clothing and high-end leather goods at price ranges that make them very exclusive and are known for decadent embellishments in their designs. Their products are highly priced and intended for a small market. 
  • Loewe, founded in 1846, is an accessible luxury brand that offers a range of products at various price points. Some products are expensive but some are more affordable to a large number of people. They are superior to affordable luxury brands but are still not as coveted as high-end luxury brands.
  • Longchamp, founded in 1941, is an affordable luxury brand that bridges the gap between quality and accessibility. They create products for people who are willing to pay a higher price for good craftsmanship but don’t try to make their products scarce intentionally to keep demand and prices high.
  • Love Moschino founded 1983, is an accessible luxury brand offering products within a limited low to mid price range so their products are attainable to a large number of people. They are more popular than affordable luxury brands but are still not as good quality as other accessible luxury brands. 
  • Louis Vuitton, founded 1854, is a Parisian leather goods house and high-end luxury brand. Originally a luggage company they now offer clothing, accessories, handbags, jewelry and more, but they are most known for their monogram printed leather.Their products are highly priced and intended for a very small market. 
  • Marc Jacobs, founded 1986 is an affordable luxury brand that bridges the gap between quality and accessibility. They create products for people who are willing to pay a higher price for good craftsmanship but don’t try to make their products scarce intentionally to keep demand and prices high. 
  • Michael Kors, founded 1981 is an affordable luxury brand that bridges the gap between quality and accessibility. They create products for people who are willing to pay a higher price for good craftsmanship but don’t try to make their products scarce intentionally to keep demand and prices high.
  • Mulberry is an accessible luxury brand that offers a range of products at mid to high price points. They are known for the very high quality of their vegetable tanned leather and English aesthetic. They aren’t as coveted as high-end luxury brands but are very well respected for their quality. 
  • Polene, founded 2016, is an affordable luxury brand that bridges the gap between quality and accessibility. They create products for people who are willing to pay a higher price for good craftsmanship but don’t try to make their products scarce intentionally to keep demand and prices high.
  • Prada is an Italian high-end luxury fashion house founded in 1917, and is very well known in the luxury fashion industry. They offer a variety of high-end products both online and in store and rarely run promotions so as to maintain a certain high level of exclusivity of their products. 
  • Ralph Lauren is an accessible luxury brand that offers a range of products at low to high price points so some of their products are attainable to a large number of people. They’re more respected than affordable luxury brands but are still not as exclusive as other accessible luxury brands.
  • Rebecca Minkoff founded in 2005 is not considered a luxury brand but rather a premium brand. Their range of products are created in large quantities and are widely available to buy online at very low and promotional price points with little to no exclusivity associated with the brand. 
  • Roberto Cavalli, founded 1972, is a luxury brand offering products at low to mid price points making them more affordable and available to a larger number of people than other luxury brands. Cavalli products are targeted to a younger mid-range demographic, so they’re considered an accessible luxury brand for their leather goods. 
  • Salvatore Ferragamo is an accessible luxury brand that offers a range of products at various price points. Some products are expensive but some are more affordable to a large number of people. They are superior to affordable luxury brands but are still not as coveted as high-end luxury brands. 
  • Stella McCartney, founded in 1995 is an affordable luxury brand that bridges the gap between quality and accessibility. They create products for people who are willing to pay a higher price for good craftsmanship but don’t try to make their products scarce intentionally to keep demand and prices high.
  • Strathberry, founded in 2013 is an affordable luxury brand that bridges the gap between quality and accessibility. They create products for people who are willing to pay a higher price for good craftsmanship but don’t try to make their products scarce intentionally to keep demand and prices high.
  • Ted Baker founded in 1987 is not considered a luxury brand but rather a premium brand. Their range of products are created in large quantities and are widely available to buy online at very low and promotional price points with little to no exclusivity associated with the brand. 
  • Tory Burch is a designer who founded her brand in 2004. It is considered an affordable luxury brand that bridges the gap between quality and accessibility. Her ready-to-wear pieces are easily accessible online and are for people who want good craftsmanship and design at a reasonable price.
  • Valentino, founded 1959, is a high-end luxury brand that offers some mid-range products that are available online for more people to purchase. Their higher price points make their products more rare than other accessible luxury brands but they are still not as exclusive as other high-end luxury brands. 
  • Versace, founded 1978, is a luxury brand that offers some of their products at accessible price points. They produce ready-to-wear pieces and accessories, as well as haute couture pieces under the Atelier Versace brand and a streetwear line under the Versace Jeans Couture brand. 
 
  • Yves Saint Laurent is an haute couture fashion house and high-end luxury brand. They offer clothing and high-end leather goods at price ranges that make them very exclusive and are known for sophisticated and elegant women’s fashion. Their products are highly priced and intended for a small market.