Monday, May 07, 2007

Of Brands and Bags

Like many confused and overwhelmed preteens, I stumbled through my middle school years trying to figure out just what and how much I needed to do to be viewed "acceptably cool." I knew that being the most popular girl in school was out of the question (these things are preordained, and once you realize that you haven't been chosen, you recognize there's no hope for rising above a certain point of popularity) but I figured that as long as I was just cool enough to not be picked on, and generally regarded as an okay person by the popular crowd, I could slide through my awkward, uncomfortable years relatively unscathed.

My parents were never the type to indulge me by buying the "must have" item of the month. Try as I might, I couldn't convince them that that pair of Old Navy sandals paled in comparison to the $100 pair of Birkenstock sandals, and that every single person in school would not just notice the difference, but would also see me as a social outcast, forcing me to transfer schools and taking away my every reason to live. A tad dramatic perhaps, but to a 13 year old, every action takes on such epic proportions.

As a middle schooler, the brand names that you advertised on your shirt, shoes, sunglasses and purse went a long way in determining your social status. Abercrombie, Nike, Adidas, Ralph Lauren, Tommy Hilfiger, Birkenstock, North Face (this was the late 90's, people)... the more you had on, the cooler you were. Bonus points were given if you had a more expensive brand name item, like a puffy vest instead of a basic t-shirt, or a backpack instead of a baseball cap. Even being able to wear a pair of socks with RL in little blue and red letters to gym class gave you an added boost, small as the gesture might be. This is what had me rummaging through the racks at my local department store, searching for the Tommy Hilfiger t-shirt with the largest logo imaginable that I could buy with the $20 my parents gave me.

It's been years since I've given this phenomenon (which thankfully became far less important in high school) much thought. That was until I was browsing through the mall a few weeks ago and I couldn't seem to get away from purses that screamed out their brand name from every possible surface.


My only theory as to the popularity of these logo bags is that the people who buy them follow the same logic I did as an 8th grader in an Abercrombie store: if I'm going to be paying a premium for a recognizable brand name, it better be obvious to everyone who sees me that I spent a lot of money on this item (which a humongous logo ensured). As with all logo clothing and accessories, it's not like these bags are any more attractive than ones from the same line that aren't plastered with the logo. So I'm guessing that if people are going to shell out $300, $800 or $1500 on a handbag, they want to squeeze out all the prestige they can out of that brand, which a bag with a small, nondescript logo just can't provide.

Marc Jacobs says: "This is the only Marc Jacobs bag you'll ever be able to afford! HA!"

I've also noticed that the trend toward logo bags is most prevalent at the low luxury level, bags priced between $150 and $400. If you have enough money to buy a regular Marc Jacobs or Chanel bag, you're probably able to advertise your wealth in many other ways. But for people without that kind of money, spending $250 on a Dooney & Burke or Juicy logo bag is a way of "testing the luxury waters." If you've saved for months to splurge on a luxury bag, you're probably more likely to want to advertise it. A number of companies that are capitalizing on this fact by making an unprecedented percentage of their bags in the logo style. Check out the Coach store. I'd estimate that between 1/3 and 1/2 of their bags are logo.

You'll also notice that a lot of brands charge less for their logo bags than other styles. This hooks people for whom an extra $100 makes a big difference. The consumer gets a luxury bag for less and the company gets free advertising. Everyone's happy.

I know that I'm going to get responses from people who insist that they bought logo bags simply because they like the look of one logo style or another, that it wasn't about the brand, etc. If this is the case, I'm just curious what it is that led you to purchase that bag over another, and what kind of responses you get from friends/family/strangers who recognize the bag (my guess is that people spend more time oohing and ahhing over the fact that it's that brand than the style and design of the bag itself, though I could be wrong).

And before people get angry, I want to say that I'm not here to look down on people; it's your money and you can spend it the way you like. But I do find this to be a curious phenomenon, and I know I'm not the only one who finds logo bags to be tacky (whether or not the purse beneath is attractive).

27 comments:

Tiff said...

I will be the first one to admit , I buy the bags with the Logos on it because if im going to spend 500 $ on a purse I want everyone to know it. I want there to be a distinct difference between my bag and some Walmart special. I believe anyone who says anything different is kidding themselves.

Emma said...

I have to agree with you - I cannot bear logo bags and think they are one of the tackiest things to grace this earth. However, that said, I think my opinion has been more influenced by the sad knockoffs that are in the marketplace - whilst logo bags make me wince, logo bags that are misspelt or just plain wrong are worse!

EthidiumBromide said...

I don't like logo bags at all. Whenever I see someone with a logo bag, my first thought is always that they are shallow for carrying a bag with the sole purpose of letting everyone know that they're carrying that bag. I think they're very unclassy. All the designer bags that I own (a couple of Coach bags, and then a Marc Jacobs and a Prada, both of which were gits) are not logo bags at all. If they were, I wouldn't carry them, it's that simple.

Anonymous said...

Logos are not classy. They can be amusing, ironic, or ignorable, and that's all fine. But logos worn for the sake of logos to flaunt the value of an item? Tasteless.

Jessica said...

I haaaaaaate, haaaaaaaaate, haaaaaaaaaate anything with a logo plastered all over it. This goes for purses, t-shirts, anything! It's so tacky and it just screams "knock off" to me. I'm certainly not a label whore, but ughhh, logo items are just hideous and stupid and obvious. I live in West Virginia, so every time I see someone carrying a Louis Vuitton logo bag, I immediately assume it's fake just because of where I live. It could be 100% authentic, but there are no places within 100 miles of where I live that sell anything Louis Vuitton and most of the people in West Virginia cannot afford to blow upwards of $300-$500 on a purse. I just think they're ridiculous and honestly, who cares where you bought your purse (or shirt or shoes, etc.) ? Even designers are starting to market to the "lower" echelons of society by desiging lines for Target, H & M, and others. If it looks good and it makes you feel good, who cares how much it cost?

ambika said...

I hate logos. Period. Whether it's 'Bebe' on a tee or Coach 'C's on a bag (or shoes, or umbrella or cell phone holder), I can't stand them. They're only purpose is to show how much money you spent on the item when the ironic fact of the matter is that this only renders the item hopelessly tacky.

Teresa said...

I refuse to pay good money to advertise for someone. If a company wants to rent out space on my body for a billboard, they can pay me market rate to do it! Even as a teen, I would not buy clothing with logos plastered all over it. (Perhaps not coincidentally, I was horrifically unpopular.)

Sometimes I find the logo prints objectively cute (like the colored LV on white) but never classy or appropriate for a mature woman.

Distar said...

I tend to abhor the logo trend to... especially on clothing. But I think there's a tier in logos as well- and not all are neccesarily distasteful.

For ex, I have to admit I have a thing for the Coach minis and LV pochette- the logos are almost a print, and therefore aren't tacky in my opinion.

I translate your argument as basically saying that anything that can be identified as belonging to a specific designer is tacky? Would that go for the Fendi spy bag ? The ubiquitious Balenciaga bag? I mean carrying those, everyone knows what brand they are as well. Does it have to be spelled out?

Distar said...

oh as for family/friends reactions, strangely no one reacts with the logo'd bags, most likely because this is NY. But I recently purchased a gorgeous non-logo Mulberry and even strangers on the street have stopped me to inquire where I purchased it, recognizing the make. Which goes to show you don't need a label to attract attention nor for people to recognize the brand.

The Mommanista said...

My first Coach was a Logo bag, black. I did not buy it because it had the logo, but rather because it was the style that was stylish (a slouchy hobo), and was more affordable than the ones without logos.

Since then I have bought two without logos, a leather one and a satin evening bag. My mom just bought me another one with logos.

I don't like loud obnoxious logos, like the bright coloured ones or huge ones...but brown on brown (like my mom just got me) or black on black is nice. It is, to me, just another texture or design decision. Those in the know can recognize a designer bag whether or not it has a logo anyways.

I live in a pretty affluent neighborhood, no one oohs and aahs over my Coach bags qwhen they see the logo. When I get compliments on my bags, it is on the designs.

Rachelle said...

Just a thought on the issue of logo bags being cheaper: The logo bags are usually fabric and the non-logo bags are often leather. I know this is the case for many of the Coach bags. LV logo bags are canvas and the non-logo ones are leather (like the Epi line). Anyway, I think that also accounts for the price difference and that's one of the main reasons I stay away from the logo bags: why pay that much for a bag that's not even leather. That's why I don't understand the Prada nylon bags. Just my two cents.

Kathryn said...

slightly off topic, but still about bags: I am obssessing about a bucket-style bag I saw on my way home tonight - pale pink canvas with chocolate brown large bees with crowns stenciled and chocolate brown leather handles and bottom - gorgeous! I compliemnted the woman carrying it and she said that it came from Nordstrom but that's all I got. I have no idea of the brand ... any chance you've seen something similar sounding in your travels? There is a much wider selection down south of the border where you are ...

thanks!

franki durbin said...

Meg, you are completely right. What a great observation. If you invest in an "it" bag, and need everyone to know you shelled out $1200 - what does that say about your self worth? Those who covet the same brands will already recognize the item. Those who don't recognize it shouldnt have to be hit over the head with branding.

I think it's an age issue. When I was 13 it was all about the brand. As an educated adult I buy what I lovve. Yes, the brand esteem does influence my choice. But in the end I buy a less conspicuous item from the collection. And I purchaase it to please myself, not strangers.

Great post.

franki durbin said...

Rachelle, you bring up a point I recognized as well. Bag construction on Coach's signature line is fabric, not leather. This explains (to some extent) the price difference. More shocking still is Prada's entire nylon line - which defies any logic.

But in the case of LV, the Alma bag is offered in two fabrics. One is the ever-present monogram canvas, the other is the Damier canvas.

Damier is a check pattern from the original LV days. Sadly, the bag costs the same in both fabrics, but I always prefer the subtlety of the Damier print to the garish LV-ridden fabric I see everywhere.

The Mommanista said...

Kathryn, did you check Dooney & Bourke? I know some of their bags have bees on them, and are canvas with leather handles, and bucket shaped.

I'll take a look for you! (twist my rubbber arm and make me look at handbags, will ya??)

ashley churchill said...

i <3 my vintage LV monogram tote because it's beautifully made and screams 'old money!' old money baby, old money. xo

Corey Doyle said...

I'm an oddball, I buy Coach because the purses LAST! I bought my first Coach (black leather bucket, no logo) in 2001 after deciding I was DONE buying cheap Wal Mart purses that broke every five minutes and Nine West that seemed to fall apart at the same rate. I carried that sucker until 2006 which I got a steal at Marshall's on a Rafe bag. May not be a big name but they are expensive (the bag I got was originally $500 something) and I got the cutest purse for $75. I went back to the Coach when straw bags had to be put away and I recently got a new Coach w/ the black on black logoing because I wanted a bit of a change. Seriously, I carried the SAME bag for almost 5 years. I needed a change!

It all depends on the bag and the logo I guess. I LOVE the mutlicolored LV print but I hate almost all of the bags. I am like everyone else that's commented - when I see LV I assume fake unless I know the person. I don't look down on someone for it though and I didn't throw the fake ones my fiance was SO proud of buying back at him either.

Currenty I am carrying my freebie from Bath & Body Works and I get the most complements on it. LOL

Kimberly said...

I, too, find logos unbearably tacky in principle. In addition, many cheap manufacturers now cover their bags with logos that can be almost identical to more expensive brands and logo bags tend to be the cheapest ones in any handbag lines, even the pricier ones.

Logo bags do not make you look like you have a lot of money. They make you look like you spent your money unwisely to try to look rich, but since every other woman is carrying a logo bag (often with ratted hair, sweatpants, and lousy jewelry), we know that you don't have to be rich to carry those bags.

I work with quite a few genuinely wealthy women. They carry only all-leather handbags. With no logos.

WhoseMommyIsThat? said...

I work with quite a few genuinely wealthy women. They carry only all-leather handbags. With no logos.

Not my experience at all. I live in a very affluent neighborhood, and most of the women I know are genuinely wealthy. Some of them carry bags from Winners, some from 9 west, some Coach, some Fendi, some Tiganello, some Wal-mart...etc...etc. One does not only choose the purse they carry based on how much money they have and what they can afford (or how much money they want to look like they have) but also on what they like, what their priorities are, how much they are willing to spend on a bag regardless of income, and and what is in style.

Logo bags are very in, and I know many genuinely wealthy women that carry them. Not so much the ones with huge or bright coloured logos (whioch always look fake to me even when they are real), but the Jaquard Logo bags from Coach are very popular (for everyday bags, anyways) and I know many wealthy women that carry them.

As for me, I am not very wealthy, but I am comfortable enough to buy a nice handbag, and when I chose my first Coach I did choose a Logo one. It was more affordable (and taking that step into over $100 is a scary one and made me want to stay as close as I could to that price point while still getting an attractive bag in a nice size). It wasn't so much about having a handbag that screamed Coach as one that was what was in style. That said, since it was my first I will admit looking down and seeing the Cs did give me a little thrill. Since then I have bought several more Coach bags and some other designer ones, both with an without logos. It is more abouit the style and how much I am willing to spend at that time then looking rich or having everyone know what kind of bag I have.

P.S. I also see lots of genuinly rich women dressed in sweats with ratty hair. Of course, todays sweats can be pretty pricey. Looking good is not always about how much money one has to spend on it.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the posts of distar and whosemommy. Those who have wealth, choose things they like, with or without logo.

It may be those who don't really have the money that carry the bags just for the logo, or even worse the fakes.

A logo doesn't cancel out a bag for me. I look at other things.

Gauri said...

Hello! I found this post at the Fabulous Fashion Festival! :) I'm not attracted to logo bags at all. I tend to choose clothes and accessories according to whether they match my aesthetic, and logo bags generally don't. Thanks for writing this!

Anonymous said...

But what about the Burberry plaid? It's not a logo, but it's very distinctive. I don't like logo bags, like the LV ones, but the Burberry plaid is more like a signature, like the red sole of the Manolo shoes, or the black and white cushiony fabric some Chanel bags have. It's a definite brand give-away, but on a more subtle note than logos, no?

Anonymous said...

This is so true. I hate COACH (have you ever seen how they skin he poor animals for a stupid bag?) LV, DB, and all the other stupid bags. 15 years from now, is anyone really going to remember that dumb purse that was $600? $300? $200? I'd rather put it in the bank and let it grow... and truly be rich!!!

Anonymous said...

Logo bags are so stupid.... its like the silent standard... If you don't have one, you just arn't fashion forward or rich. Well.. sad thing is, most americans are in debt over their heads, and I'm sure that COACH went on a credit card, right along side that Louis Vuitton that was bought a year ago and still isn't paid off. Personally, I like things (jewelry, clothing, purses, furniture, home furnishings, ect.) that are one in a million. Things that are hand made and custome made for ME, and will last forever or keep their value. I have had several bags made by a local seamstress, and I have been stopped a million times and asked "WHERE DID YOU GET THAT PURSE!!!!???? Or, it could be a neclace that I designed and had made, or the swarovski chandalier earings my mother made for me. I love cruising yard sales and thrift stores. I may find a plain black, silver or gold bag for $2. Then I'll go to the fabric store and buy some lace remnants and a small beaded aplique for $4. Put it all together.. and you have a one in a million bag!!! Isn't that what fashion is all about? To be envied? Jackie O always made sure that no one else would be wearing what she was wearing to an event. That happens so much in Hollywood today.. stars showing up in the same thing, or something very similar.
Fashion comes and goes... I would rather invest in Diamond Solitaire earings and have them for a life time rather than pieces that are super expensive and become dated after a few months. True style comes from class.... look at style icons, of the past and present, such as Jackie O, Marilyn Monroe, Madonna,Reese Witherspoon, Grace Kelley, Princess Dianne. Reece Witherspoon is my personal favorite. Her style is vintage and classic. She even requested an ascher cut diamond for her engagement (which are timless but unpopular in the last few years). I create my own personal style based on the same principles, not some stupid logo stamped on a purse for advertisement and marketing of a brand.

Anonymous said...

In response to the above comment, I,too, love custom made items. I feel like a true super star! Celebs have everything custom-made. You wont find any classy gal on the red carpet with a dress or bag thats a dime a dozen... its one in a million untill the big night.. then all the knock off designers make it for us.

wonderfromdownunder said...

I cannot fathom as to why people buy those corny $500 logo bags that are so ugly! The logo all over it looks extra shitty... if you're going to spend a mint on a purse, make sure it looks damn fuckin good before you purchase it!!!

Nicole said...

Wow, great post! I hate hate hate logo bags, but to be honest, I never thought if it to the extent that you all have, about it being about people trying to appear rich, or that their carriers are shallow. But you are quite right.

I never liked them simply for the way they look. I dont like to advertise for free either, in anything I wear...but the hatred for bag logos is more about aesthetics than anything else. I especially cant stand the white LV or D&B with the multicolored bubblegum logos. No thanks.

I dont care what other people know about my purse or how much I spent or didnt spend. I care about what looks good, and what works for me. And like someone else pointed out, if that sort of thing does matter to you, real fashion people will know you have a quality bag with or without the logos.