Chanel camera bag
Chanel camera bag
Image: Supplied

Kate Moss, super of supers, queen of the catwalk, keeper of the Frow, was doing as Kate Moss does in fashion season: taking up her rightful place and looking swell at YSL during Paris Fashion Week. Her doppelgänger, meanwhile, walked for Marine Serre. It was another milestone for Moss in a year of milestones: turning 50, becoming a wellness guru, and being eerily cloned — by a woman called Denise Ohnona, who goes by @iamnotkatemoss on Instagram.

Apparently, Ohnona has recently been divorced and this sideline in Moss repliKation — getting paid for paparazzi shots in front of a Tesco (UK supermarket chain) and causing a storm of speculation that the real Moss had returned to the catwalk for a midlevel brand — has brought a little balm to her addled spirit. I don’t know how Moss feels about it, but it made me think about the cost of a Chanel handbag. The fashion classics that were once a rite of passage for every French woman, expensive but not prohibitively so, have seen a price hike of 75% in the past 10 years.

A medium-sized Chanel classic flap bag currently retails at about US$10 200 (R200 000). Chanel says this is because it takes 270 steps to make a bag and it is a couture product, something that will last a lifetime. Although, the house doesn’t use gold in the hardware like it used to. So, arguably, the vintage versions’ worth is a bit more tangible.

Chanel’s pricing strategy runs concurrently with its attempts to shut down the secondary market — not just the fakes but also the vintage resellers. It is suing The RealReal and What Goes Around Comes Around. It is estimated that the vintage-resale market and secondhand-apparel market will grow by US$183.54-billion at a compound annual growth rate of 14.76% between 2023 and 2028. According to market analysts, the growing popularity of online curated retail experiences is the way the market is trending. Which may explain Chanel’s attempt to shut it down before it undermines the brand’s retail strategy.

Apparently, Chanel is trying to position its classic flap bag at the level of a Hermès Birkin. Meaning that it is about to raise a price that has already been rising steadily. Chanel’s 2022 corporate report said its excellent financial results were “driven by strong client demand across all product lines, reaffirming the desirability of Chanel’s creations”. Its 2022 revenues were reported at US$17.2-billion, up 17% compared to 2021, and growing 27% year-on-year to 2023 to US$19.4-billion.

Hermès...tries to limit the people who can buy the original to real customers or superfans, as opposed to punters wanting to make a substantial profit.

Hermès is also invested in shutting down the secondary market because the Birkin resale values are off the charts. So, it tries to limit the people who can buy the original to real customers or superfans, as opposed to punters wanting to make a substantial profit. This is why Hermès is, in turn, being sued by two customers who claim they are being bamboozled into buying all sorts of other Hermès stuff they don’t really want so that they can be put on the waiting list for a Birkin.

The Hermès group’s consolidated revenue amounted to €13.427-million in 2023, up 21% year on year. But, according to Gugus (a southeast Asian pre-owned luxury goods platform), its “2023 Pre-Owned Luxury Trends” data covering purchases, consignments, and completed sales showed that Chanel topped the resale charts, followed by Hermès, Rolex, Louis Vuitton, and Cartier. Hermes, Louis Vuitton, and Chanel maintained their respective positions with no major changes from last year’s rankings, with bag resales ranked first at 49%, followed by watches at 21%, jewellery at 13%, clothing at 9%, and shoes at 4%.

This is an entire market built on an impression of scarcity, exclusivity, and uniqueness, but with increasingly younger clients selling within a year of purchase. It seems that, at a certain level of luxury, even older versions of the real thing cause problems to your bottom line. And if recent attempts at pulling up the drawbridge are anything to go by, luxury brands too feel the fear that they are a mere click away from having their perceived exclusivity undermined by a divorcée called Denise outside a Tesco.

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