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A classic Chanel bag is one of those items, like Louboutin heels or a Burberry trench, that fashion-obsessed girls seem to aspire to from birth, partly because they're timeless, but also because when you're an impressionable 16-year-old who's addicted to Vogue, it's the kind of thing you think you need.
And guess what: Since Chanel pricing increases an average of 15% each year, you would have been way better off saving your babysitting money and splurging on the brand's iconic flap bag a decade or two ago than taking the purse plunge today. The term "investment piece" is thrown around a lot in fashion, but is a Chanel bag one of the rare items that actually lives up to the hype?
We decided to investigate one of the most popular iterations of the Chanel classic flap bag: the medium in black lambskin. Let's take a look at the numbers, shall we?
While there was no increase between 2012 and 2013, this year the price went up $500, nearly doubling the 2008 cost. Why have Chanel bags gotten ever more expensive in the past decade? Inflation has a bit to do with it. As you're well aware, everything costs more today than it did half a century ago or even ten years ago, from raw materials to labor. But considering you could buy the quilted handbag for $1650 in 2005 and now they go for no less than $4,900, there are certainly other factors at play.
Chanel would not confirm pricing tactics or provide comment for this story, except to say that, "Like all major luxury brands, we regularly adjust our prices in line with changes to our models, production costs, the price of raw materials and exchange rate fluctuations." So we turned to Thomai Serdari, an adjunct associate professor at New York University who has spent much of her career researching luxury goods, to find out what exactly has caused the spike.
She noted that in recent years, Chanel has added a slew of new products that fall within the $600-$1000 price range. This is, of course, still expensive, but these purchases are considerably more affordable than a $5,000 purse. "In order to maintain exclusivity and to keep increasing profit, they must increase the price of bags," she explained.
Chanel's medium classic flap bag in lambskin. Photo: Chanel
Last week, Lucky's Eva Chen discussed the rising cost of Chanel purses on Bloomberg. (She's certainly an appropriate expert, considering her ample and well-documented collection.) When asked if buying a bag was actually a wise investment, she said, "I mean, I hope it's an investment because my whole closet is full of them. That is my sole portfolio right now."
Serdari largely disagreed: "I would suggest only purchasing something like this if you love it, and you'll still love it in 10 years, and you don't need to buy cheap little things every day to make yourself happy." She added, "I would never, ever encourage a young girl straight out of college to invest in a luxury good."
It also depends on how you define "investment": If you carry a bag regularly for years, it will depreciate in value. A bag is more like a car, and less like real estate, in this way. But investment as in investing in your future wardrobe? That's a different story. If you have the cash lying around and can justify spending thousands of dollars on Chanel, you will ultimately save money by acting sooner rather than later. Not to mention, high-quality pieces that are well-made last a long time, so the cost per wear can feel like a serious steal.