One size fits all!

10:23 pm Contributed by JW

Take a stroll down Avenue Montaigne, still fashion's super-luxury destination in Paris, and there is no question about what is filling the windows of the upscale stores: handbags. And more handbags.
They come as mighty totes heavy with metal or as tiny clutches embedded with crystal. The shock is not that they now have prime place behind the plate glass. It is in the prices, which French law requires to be on display: €1,100, €1,700, €5,300. (Don't even think about what that means when translated into the flailing dollar.) When did the handbag break the €1,000 barrier? Why is it doubling that now?

It is handbag heaven for luxury-company honchos, who have found a product that, when powerful and creative design is injected, can become a hot property with a huge price tag. Where once the Herm├Ęs Kelly stood supreme, other brands have risen and exceeded its price level.

Yet in the luxury world, a self-interrogation is going on behind closed doors. What comes after the handbag?

The answer is high-end jewelry and watches, which are now the focus of all the major brands.

Why these precious pieces, rather than mere clothes? You might imagine, after a seven-year reign of absolute domination, when the handbag you carry defines who you are among the fashion elite, that clothing might stage a comeback. After all, the trajectory of the brands that have made the biggest waves over the last decade was from accessories to clothing (think Bottega Veneta, Gucci, Prada). Those fashion houses like Dior or Yves Saint Laurent, which were built on fashion, moved into accessories to boost the bottom line. But as the current New Look revivals show, fashion recognition is still the DNA of the image.

But no one is giving the big push to designer clothing, except perhaps to the commercial part of the collection not shown on the Paris runways. More accessible clothes have been repackaged as "cruise" or "pre-fall" lines and put on the catwalk in other cities to give the brands "second life" appeal.

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