Why the mid-priced handbag is fashion's hottest accessory

Image: Dillon, £345, Michael Michael Kors (Available at Kingston, Brent Cross, York and Newcastle); leather gloves, £95, Giglio; faux-fur scarf, £125, Ruby & Ed; earrings, £169, Rada; Baby Doll Kiss & Blush, £27, YSL; Aqua Allegoria fragrance, £42, Guerlain (Available at Fenwick Bond Street)

That women no longer want be duped into parting with nearly £2,000 for a handbag is possibly one of the best things to say on the subject of arm-candy in recent years, writes The Times deputy fashion editor, Carolyn Asome. I know, I know; I write about consumerism and luxury…and yet, there is something wrong, wrong, wrong about bags that have quadrupled in price in less than a decade. Even inflated property prices in London haven’t risen as sharply.

Sure the psychological point of a designer bag is a whole lot more complex than something to cart around your green juice, flax seed bar and iPhone but women are increasingly opting to buy moderately expensive handbags, aka the midi bag which is one of this year’s most sought after Christmas presents. At around £350 - £500, it’s still an investment, just not your monthly mortgage payment.

Tamara Sender, a senior Fashion Analyst at Mintel says: “There has been a move away from women buying top-end designer handbags, with 21 per cent of shoppers buying own-brand label handbags in the last 12 months, compared with only 13 per cent who purchased a designer bag. More affordable and trend-led fashion brands such as Michael Kors, Longchamp and Ted Baker have grown in popularity, while luxury labels such as Louis Vuitton and Gucci have struggled to compete."

Popular with style insiders and celebrities alike - Coach’s Borough, a simple, capacious holdall has been spied on Jessica Alba, Sarah Jessica Parker and Karlie Kloss – it helps that these are totes which are classic in shape and often the designs are glamorous without being ostentatious, aspirational without being challenging and as functional as they are fashionable.

With their distinct absence of embellishment or hardware, these bags are also far easier to interpret and are less easy to distinguish at a glance from very expensive designer versions. These simple styles also chime well with the current economic climate and cannily scream “business” in the office but can still be carted to the playground at the weekend.

Simply put, these are hard working bags. “Fashion is becoming more and more democratic, and I think that’s a good thing,“ says Michael Kors the designer whose mid price bags are spied on everyone from Gwyneth Paltrow to your next door neighbour and whose company’s most recent total year revenues were a staggering $3.3 billion.

“I’m a believer that everyone should have something glamorous and luxurious that makes them happy every day—and a great bag does that,” says Michael Kors.

Those not entrapped by the bag phenomenon may be astonished how much of their salaries women will sacrifice – or as most women are wont to put it, “invest". And why do some designer labels charge so much? When one journalist asked the press director of a well-known luxury name why they had begun charging £3,000 for their bags, when they had previously only sold them for half the amount, she replied: “Hermès has done it for years." Thankfully, women now have other options.

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By Carolyn Asome