One of the most expensive and popular bags is the classic Birkin from Hermès. Legend has it that Jean-Louis Dumas, then CEO of the French fashion house, was on board a plane when he unexpectedly ran into British actress and singer Jane Birkin. It was on a Paris-London flight and during the flight Monsieur Dumas noticed that the artist did not stop struggling with her bag. For her, none was big enough and that is why she "preferred baskets".
Unknowingly, Birkin had just inspired the creation of what would become one of the iconic bags. Currently, this Hermès accessory is not sold on the firm's website, nor in its stores. For years to get one you have to join a waiting list and the price ranges from 7,800 euros to 87,000 euros, depending on the model and size. But it seems that the Birkin is not the only complete one that reaches this crazy figure, now the Chanel firm has raised the price of its iconic padded accessory. Revaluation of the brand or crisis in the Maison?
The iconic 2.55 bag owes its name to its date of birth: February 1955. At that time it went on sale for around 170 euros. It was the 50s. However, four decades later, in the 90s, the accessory had already become an icon and had reached 1,000 euros. In 2016 it was already around 4,900 euros and, today, it costs 7,700.
“Chanel wants to imitate the status of Hermès with the increase in the prices of its handbags”, Bloomberg clarified about the increase in the price of this bag. And one of the usual buyers of this type of luxury products is the Asian consumer. "The products of haute couture firms have many tariffs, especially in China," Cristina Martín Blasi, president of the Spanish Luxury Association, explains to this outlet. Hence, when they visit the West "they buy for themselves and for all their family and friends," he adds.
In haute couture there are large groups such as Louis Vuitton, Gucci or Dior, more artisan firms such as Hermès or Chanel, and lastly, new designers and also little ones like Jacquemus or Nensi Dojaka. "Although a Louis Vuitton is more artisan than that of Inditex, they are also mass-produced and, therefore, it is not as exclusive," points out Martín Blasi.
Before the pandemic, the House was navigating between two worlds. On the one hand, it competed against the large holding companies, but in its essence lay artisanal clothing. "It is a firm that has a workshop for each product and follows a very traditional process," explains María Martín-Montalvo, Director of Institutional Relations at Fashion Business School (ISEM). In his opinion, the firm's price rise does not respond to a crisis caused by the pandemic, but rather is one more way to revalue itself. “The Maison wants to be at the top of the pyramid, to differentiate itself from the fashion holdings, to claim that they are artisans”, underlines Martín-Montalvo.
Each step taken by the French firm "is strategically analyzed, and if they have raised the price of 2.55 it is because they sold a lot of bags," explains Martín-Montalvo. In fact, for some time the Maison has limited purchases, that is, there is a limit to the number of items that the same user can buy. It is a strategy that confirms, even more, the need to emphasize that exclusive value that the firm so longs for.
“Chanel is one of the few companies that is still in family hands. They are freer, they do what they want and they do not intend to compete against anyone, beyond being profitable”, Martín-Montalvo points out. And, although it is one of the oldest brands in the luxury market, "it does not go out of style, it does not age, it continues to reign in the world of haute couture and has managed to be iconic even for the new generations", corroborates the president of the Luxury Association. Thus, the price of 2.55 may be the cost of immortality, because as Martín-Montalvo points out "this bag could be carried by your grandmother, your mother and now you, and in neither case would it be out of style".
Ana Rodríguez, professor of Economics at the Open University of Catalonia (UOC), considers that the bag has positioned itself as "a safe value". In her opinion, investing right now in this Chanel piece can be equated "to the purchase of art, be it paintings or other goods of this style." According to this expert, the age of the piece will not determine a lower value, quite the contrary. "The older the bag, the more exclusive it will be and the more it will reinforce the idea of a unique and inaccessible piece," he confirms.
For Rodríguez, the accessory could continue to rise in price. “It is true that in these first sixty years growth has been faster, but that happens with all investments. However, the fact that it reaches 7,000 euros is not a brake, I could continue to increase and surely it will, although from now on it will be more sustained ”, he concludes.