China's middle class stampede for luxury handbags - Fashion - Life and Style - The Independent

China's middle class stampede for luxury handbags

It could be a queue for a pop concert, a top nightclub or even the opening night at the theatre.

But the hundreds of people lined up in a Hong Kong street are actually waiting to bag a bit of luxury.

"We're looking for new handbags," says student Celeste Law as she queues patiently alongside her friend Karina Luh outside the supermarket-sized branch of Chanel on Hong Kong's Canton Road.

The students, both 20, already sport impressive accessories - Celeste carries a Louis Vuitton monogrammed bag, while her friend's is from Chanel.

Both work part-time and saved for over a year to buy their trophies.

"We want them because of the famous brand," said Celeste. "What can I say? People will focus on your bag. It's about feeling confident."

Even on a weekday morning, Canton Road is flooded with shoppers happy to pay a small fortune for a luxury tote, shoulder bag or evening clutch in its jumbo designer stores.

Many are from the Chinese mainland, and some even carry suitcases to get their purchases home. The market for such luxury has extended far beyond China's roughly 900,000 US dollar millionaires.

The market is now being driven by China's burgeoning middle class, with the truly rich going ever further upmarket - happily spending tens of thousands of dollars on the right bag.

Handbag sales for Prada alone grew by over 80 percent in China in 2010, Sebastian Suhl, chief operating officer at the Prada Group, told AFP, while those of the group's Miu Miu brand rocketed by over 500 percent.

"We believe we have only begun to scratch the surface of China's potential," Suhl added.

The brokerage firm CLSA Asia-Pacific Markets predicts China will become the world's largest luxury goods market by 2020, accounting for 44 percent of worldwide sales and bigger than the entire global market is now.

Christina Ko, who blogs at HK Fashion Geek, said the Asian love of the luxury bag has become "a cultural fact. In the same way that Asians prefer rice to potatoes, they also prefer luxury handbags to non-branded ones."

But as customers become more sophisticated, the demand is changing - bringing those who would previously have bought fakes into the market for the real thing.

"Middle class people are getting the Louis Vuitton bags, and the people who used to get them are now looking for something else," Amanda Lee, who writes the Hong Kong-based blog Fashionography, told AFP.

Zuki Ho, a sales associate and mother, is one of the middle-class buyers boosting the industry: she owns 15 luxury handbags, and once spent HK$40,000 (US $5,135) "double her monthly salary" on a handbag.

She says she loves handbags because "I enjoy being watched on the street when I'm carrying the bag." But she would never buy a fake - "I'm afraid of being found out," she added.

Fakes remain big business in China, but genuine luxury is bigger.

And while women are a growing force in the Chinese designer market, men are not immune, competing fiercely over the most stylish 'man bag'.

At the second-hand luxury handbag store Milan Station in Hong Kong's upmarket Central district, bags sometimes sell for more than their retail price.

"People always ask for some kind of limited edition, a more expensive bag," supervisor Jackie Lau told AFP. "People don't feel guilty about it (buying a designer bag) because it's like an investment."

Customers can trade in their bags and take to the streets with a new one as often as they like, while those lucky enough to make it onto waiting lists for limited-edition bags can sell them straight to a second-hand store for a profit.

A waiting list is common for a truly coveted bag, with a wait of several months currently the norm for Mulberry's Alexa bag.

The ultimate bag of desire remains the Hermes Birkin, which famously takes 18 hours to make by hand. The crocodile skin version uses the finest sections of hide from four crocodiles.

It costs from $9,000 to an astounding $160,000 for one of the top diamond-studded models, a Hermes spokeswoman told AFP.

Chinese women appeared immune to the "luxury shame" that affected females in other parts of the world during the global economic downturn, the consultancy Bain & Company said last year.

But while handbags are traditionally used to broadcast one's success and good fortune, this too may be changing as more and more women join the designer-toting club.

Lee herself has a denim Chanel bag, a gift from family - but carries it "so that no one sees the double C (logo)", she said.

"People would know (who the designer was) already if they were really into Chanel, from the shape and so on, but I feel like there's no need to let the entire world know."

News
John Travolta is a qualified airline captain and employed the pilot with his company, Alto
people'That was the lowest I’d ever felt'
Life and Style
healthIt isn’t greasy. It doesn’t smell. And moreover, it costs nothing
News
peopleThe report and photo dedicated to the actress’s decolletage has, unsurprisingly, provoked anger
Property
Home body: Badger stays safe indoors
property
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
News
The programme sees four specialists creating what they believe are three perfect couples, based on scientific matchmaking. The couples will not meet until they walk down the aisle together
tvUK wedding show jilted
Arts and Entertainment
US pop diva Jennifer Lopez sang “Happy Birthday” to Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, president of Turkmenistan
musicCorporate gigs become key source of musicians' income
Arts and Entertainment
You've been framed: Henri Matisse's colourful cut-outs at Tate Modern
artWhat makes a smash-hit art show
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
filmsDaniel Craig believed to be donning skis as 007 for first time
Sport
Mikel Arteta pictured during Borussia Dortmund vs Arsenal
champions league
Voices
Yes supporters gather outside the Usher Hall, which is hosting a Night for Scotland in Edinburgh
voicesBen Judah: Is there a third option for England and Scotland that keeps everyone happy?
Arts and Entertainment
Pulp-fiction lover: Jarvis Cocker
booksJarvis Cocker on Richard Brautigan
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke and Pharell Williams in the video of the song, which has been accused of justifying rape
music...and he had 'almost no part' in writing it
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Fashion

    Senior QA Engineer - Agile, SCRUM

    £35000 - £50000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior QA Engineer (Agil...

    Marketing Executive - West Midlands - £28,000

    £26000 - £28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Digital Marketing Executive (SEO, PP...

    Retail Business Analyst

    £40000 - £50000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our retail client ...

    Senior C++ Developer

    £400 - £450 Per Annum possibly more for the right candidate: Clearwater People...

    Day In a Page

    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    The Imitation Game, film review
    England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

    England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

    Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week