For Whom the Vuitton is Sold

aclockworkbag.jpgWhat is the social function of a $52,000 handbag (the Louis Vuitton “patch bag” pictured at right)? I’ve speculated that such bags can make trademark restrictions a new sumptuary law, designed to prevent the masses from “status signaling” they can’t really afford. The head of Luis Vuitton’s parent company suggests that everyone might be aspiring to such a bag:

“You feel as if you must buy it . . . or else you won’t be in the moment. You will be left behind,” chief executive Bernard Arnault explained to Dana Thomas for her new book, “Deluxe: How Luxury Lost Its Luster.”

The Wall Street Journal suggests that even if such bags are out of reach of most consumers, they still perform an important “anchoring” role in subconsciously raising the bar for what we consider a “reasonable” expenditure:

[M]any luxury brands — selling everything from $14,000 Ralph Lauren handbags to $899 Bugaboo baby strollers and $6,900 Beefeater barbecue grills — push their top price points higher than they’ve ever gone before. What’s priced below falls into that ever-expanding category: “affordable luxury.” Some people cut and run when confronted with prices that seem crazy. But many of us experience a sudden emotional-mathematical transformation. We set a new ceiling for a “reasonable” price. Disinclined to go all the way to buy the trophy, we instead settle for a consolation prize.

So do not ask for whom the Louis Vuitton “patch bag” is sold–it is sold for you.

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