Earlier this year Kylie Jenner, beauty mogul and Kardashian-Jenner family member, gave one of her patented home tours to Architectural Digest.
Included on the tour was her “purse closet,” a room that includes a reported 400 bags (or more) encompassing many Hermès Birkins, Chanels and Diors. While the bags are stylish, she insists, “They’re also a great investment.”
That’s the kind of statement that can make people roll their eyes and cringe — except that she is not wrong.
Hermès handbags have spawned a secondary market and have sold for jaw-droppingly high prices at auction. (One of those apocryphal fashion sayings has it that an Hermès bag is a better investment these days than gold.) But Hermès is no longer alone. High-end handbags, like high-end sneakers, may be turning into an asset class of their own.
Which implies that it might be time to stop thinking of your purse closet — or shelf, or wicker storage bin — as part of your wardrobe and to start thinking of it as part of an investment portfolio, complete with blue chip stocks, the opportunity to short-sell some names and to make more money while doing so.
That’s what Charles Gorra thinks, anyway. He is the founder of Rebag, a luxury handbag resale site that has introduced “Clair,” for “comprehensive luxury appraisal index for resale.” It is an algorithmic tool that shows bag owners the resale prices of their bags if they were to liquidate them immediately by selling to Rebag.
(Unlike other resale sites, Rebag buys stock outright, rather than giving the owner a percentage of the sale when it occurs.)
Over the next few months, Gorra will introduce tracking features that allow you to see the rise and fall of those prices to better calculate the future value of a bag — and make a buying or selling decision in the moment.
“The information is: What percent of retail am I recouping?” he said during a demonstration of the tool. “I can see a time when people will buy bags differently based on that. The true value of a luxury brand is in its stickiness: its percent of retained value.”
The pioneer of the accessory index is StockX, the resale site that treats fashion products like commodities to be bought and traded. Although it is most famous for sneakers, StockX expanded into watches and luxury bags in 2017.
If StockX is the New York Stock Exchange of accessories, with buyers and sellers dealing directly with one another, Rebag (which is significantly smaller) aims to be Nasdaq: a dealer-moderated market, with prices set as an aggregate of behavior.
And the fact that there are now at least two such exchanges reflects a move away from the “It” bag engine of aspiration and social signaling that once powered the luxury market and into more tempered, calculated purchase patterns.
According to NPD, a market research service, in the 12 months ending in August, the women’s handbag market in the United States had declined 15% over the past two years. By contrast, sales of women’s backpacks grew 10% during that time, and sales of fanny, waist and belt bags grew more than 200%.
Luca Solca, a luxury analyst at the money management firm Bernstein, said that “goes hand in hand with bags that women can wear on their shoulders or across their chest as they need both hands to tap into their mobiles.”
As a result, handbags are becoming less of an emotional purchase and more of a rational one. And the people buying them are starting to behave a lot like car buyers, who plan and research their purchases in advance and “think about the investment value,” said Beth Goldstein, fashion footwear and accessories industry analyst at NPD.
Which brings us back to Gorra, who wants Clair to become the handbag equivalent of the Kelley Blue Book, the automotive reference resource that uses new and used car pricing to arrive at a fair market value.
Bag owners, who do not have to be Rebag customers, can bookmark their bags and track their value. Clair can tell you, for example, that the Louis Vuitton Pochette Metis would sell for almost 100% of its original price but the LV Papillon, a more common style, is closer to 40%.
And now Rebag is going to start publishing Clair’s Picks, a quarterly list of bags it recommends that people buy or sell, the same way an analyst shares stock picks. If you wanted to play the market, you could buy a few bags that were selling cheaply, betting that other people would see they weren’t selling for much and stop bringing them to market, which would make them relatively rare, which would raise the price — which would mean you could sell high.
But, as any investment analyst will tell you, there is no such thing as a sure thing. There are always (in this case, purse) strings attached to any investment.