It’s Not My Bag, Man

A Tale of Handbags and Marketing

Handbags are a huge fashion accessory right now. Anyone who reads PEOPLE magazine or watches the CW knows this.  And it’s not just in LA, which admittedly is the epicenter of monkey-see, monkey-do. This is a national phenomenon. A handbagnomenon, if you will. (Actually, I don’t think anyone uses the word “handbag” anymore. I read somewhere that the current term is “arm wear.” Yeah – I got your arm wear right here, lady.)

How does a bag become an “It” bag? Marketing.  If a starlet appears on the pages of PEOPLE magazine carrying some pieces of python skin stitched together by INSERT NAME OF BIG SHOT DESIGNER HERE, the bag will immediately sell out.  On back order. Till next year. Everyone HAS TO HAVE THAT BAG. Because if you have the same bag as Ms. Starlet, it means that you have taste.  It means that you are hip. It means that you are someone.  This is marketing. What marketing does is tell a story.

Most designer handbags are expensive, ergo, following the marketing story, if you carry one, you have money. Or your daddy does. Or your sugar daddy does. Or you owe VISA your first born child. (PLEASE NOTE: VISA does not want your child, and will not accept it in lieu of payment, so if that’s your plan you might want to rethink that strategy.)  There have always been status bags – everyone can recognize the “LVs” of a Louis Vuitton or the interlocking “Gs” on a Gucci. Those bags are a shorthand to status. But there are other bags now, vying for the title “It” bag. These bags are made of the finest buttery soft Italian leather. These bags hold you and rock you gently to sleep at night with the dulcet tones of angels. Or maybe they just hold your cell phone and wallet?

Recently, I myself fell under the spell of the handbag siren’s call. I will admit that I am not above the lure of buttery soft Italian leather.  Sadly, I have caviar taste on a fluffernutter budget. However, I found myself in need of some new “arm wear,” so off to the store I went. (Um, wouldn’t “arm wear” be, like, sleeves?)

After much confusion and temptation (tassels! many pockets! chains!) the bag I ultimately chose was simple and classic, made by a well established brand, known for its good workmanship and materials. And it was on sale! It was meant to be. I bought the bag. I went home and set it on my bureau to admire it. I liked the way it looked.  It held my cell phone and my wallet. Plus, I didn’t have to dip into my retirement account to buy it. Despite the fact I heard no dulcet angel singing emanating from the bag, I was happy with it.

Until I started reading on the internet about the company that made my bag. They were a good solid company that had turned out quality bags for years. Recently, in an attempt to share a larger piece of the huge handbag pie, they introduced some new lines and raised some prices. Well, this really bothered some handbag consumers, who didn’t like the idea that this old established company was trying to up their image.  This small band of consumers turned their noses up at the company, telling it to step off, and keep its pedestrian wares for the masses at the mall.  There were gossipy posts in chat rooms about the company, putting it and its new designs down. Putting it in its place. Putting me in my place.

I had really liked my bag up until I read those posts, but now I questioned my own taste. Maybe I had made a huge mistake! If people saw me with that bag, would they snicker and laugh behind my back? Would they know I was a clueless nerd who didn’t know enough to buy from the right designer? What story was my bag telling about me?

After some chocolate and soul searching, I realized that the bag wasn’t telling any story about me. It was a bag. A nice, well made bag that I really liked. High school was a long time ago and I don’t have to prove anything to anyone (HEATHER and SARAH!!!) My bag will not transform me into a Hollywood star.  It will, however, carry my wallet and cell phone. And that’s what a bag is supposed to do.

Marketing, people. Marketing.

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One Comment on “It’s Not My Bag, Man”

  1. Rick Sanchez says:

    Now for all of you environmental conspiracy theorists out there, one of the most brilliant plots thought up by the oil cartels is the retail return policy. Every item sold must be returned to the place of purchase doubling the consumption of fuel. Marketing.


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