Accessories are the biggest retail drivers of global luxury brands. Items like shoes, bags and perfumes present an opportunity to cement brand positioning in the marketplace as well as capitalize on high margins without the capital expenditures, time and energy of full apparel collections. From Gucci to Prada, these accessories are an ideal way to appeal to a wider demographic, giving those who don’t have the means to buy entire wardrobes a way to enter the prestige of the brand for a smaller investment. A rare breed of up-and-coming luxury footwear designers, however, have started to turn this thinking on its head by deploying a well-executed handbag strategy after firmly establishing themselves in footwear first.
The standout in this category is Jerome Rousseau whose launch of evening bags was part of a holistic brand game plan. The DNA of Jerome C. Rousseau footwear includes plays on volume and silhouette, hard metallic embellishments and interesting contrasts and the designer was very clear that these elements show up in his handbag line. “My handbag line is very evening and elegant, yet youthful, a fierce minaudière, a piece to notice,” says Rousseau. As the brand is such a favorite on the red carpet, the bags were carefully crafted to be “small works of art” that could complement Rousseau’s shoes. The handbag launch also supported his new e-commerce site by offering a fresh product that would draw already obsessed fans to this new sales channel.
As for others to watch, Charlotte Olympia’s handbags reflect her whimsical style, as evidenced by shapes from from a poodle to a toucan, as well as elegant hard boxes made of bright colored Perspex. Sold at retail at Neiman Marcus and Net-a-Porter, the bags stand to continue making a splash as her brand grows. Nicholas Kirkwood, meanwhile, is now positioned as a major brand in the luxury footwear domain with standalone stores in both London and New York, and is currently designing bags for a launch rumored to be sometime in late 2013, as we went to press. His protege Sophia Webster has already rolled out a few whimsical candy-colored and metallic evening clutches adorned with her signature bubble shapes on Net-a-Porter. Looking forward to more brand category breakouts. Stay tuned.