I have compiled a few alternatives to consider, because I am frankly tired of seeing the same bags over and over on women around Tampa and across the world (Italy was no different).
If you’re seeking…
French style, consider Vanessa Bruno
Cabas Medium embellished suede shopper, $362 at mytheresa.com.
Ms. Bruno had her heyday, but simplicity is often timeless, and such is the case with her designs, which are unfussy and elegant. I like that they’re all made in either France or Italy, and are affordable compared to most other things coming out of those countries.
Something brown, consider Tibi
Mignon striped leather tote, $990 at Net-A-Porter.
Tibi is known for its affordable quality, so it is no surprise that its handbags are made in Italy and designed by Myriam Schaefer, formerly of Balenciaga fame. She designed the classic city bag we all know.
Eco-friendly materials (non-animal), consider Stella McCartney
Black small falabella shaggy deer tote, $1,195 at SSENSE.
These are quite trendy in Europe (less in the U.S.), but are certainly eco-chic (how environmentally friendly they are to create, sans animals, is unclear) and uniquely Stella (curb-chain trim is her accessory signature).
A large tote-bag, consider Mansur Gavriel
Navy leather large tote, $675 from SSENSE.
Another newish brand that is trendy-ish, but that’s not a bad thing. Mansur makes everything in Italy, with simple, elegant designs that look sturdy enough for mom-duty or any other use.
A trendy bag, consider Saint Laurent
Medium sunset leather cross body, $2,150 at Nordstrom.
I am nearly never a fan of loud logos, but this Saint Laurent burgundy bag is pretty subtle. It’s a great, underused color, though it isn’t cheap.
Something patterned, consider Prada
Saffiano printed leather shoulder bag in grass green, $1,970 at Prada.
Perhaps too whimsical for some, but I just love this springy print. It would certainly catch peoples’ eyes on the street, and be the envy of all of Instagram.
A brand with travel / voyage legacy, consider Globe-Trotter
Jet Duffle Bag in desert rose, £840 (approx. $1,025) at Globe-Trotter.
Globe-Trotter has been around nearly as long as Louis Vuitton, though in Germany and then the U.K., with a classic tradition of trunk-making using vulcanized fiber. I can’t personally vouch for its leather goods, but I bet they are exceptional too, since you can find them in stores like Harrod’s, Barney’s, and Lane Crawford. Plus, you get the added benefit of niche obscurity!
And men, I didn’t forget you! Consider Belstaff
Pinner brown leather tote bag, €795 (approx. $840) at Luisaviaroma.
Not the first thought when it comes to accessories, Belstaff is more known for its rugged outerwear, but I am loving the utility-belt realness of this leather tote bag. Made in Italy, of course.
Read on for more detail on my motive behind this post…
I just turned 30, and if you’re around my age, you were a teenager and college student during the height of logo-mania. Louis Vuitton was at the center of that frenzy, and seized the hearts and minds of many of my peers, with designs that upended the traditional brown and tan look of the brand.
While there is now a wider range of options available across a flatter online shopping landscape, many in the world still see the French brand as a worthwhile option for bags, wallets, and other accessories. I am here to suggest what to buy instead of Louis Vuitton, for reasons I will outline momentarily.
While excitement for other brands largely reliant on a monogram signature like Coach, Michael Kors, Gucci, and Fendi has waned, L-V is perennially popular. Why?
For one, its management was always careful to walk the thin line between saturation in a market and the semblance of quintessential French exclusivity. There was a time when the number of Louis Vuitton stores in Florida ballooned, only to be dialed back with the closures of its landlord department store, Saks Fifth Avenue, in Tampa and Orlando. Conversely, in the Miami market, Louis Vuitton closed its flagship inside Bal Harbour Shops only to open two others: at Aventura and in the Design District.
And, true to the Veblen Good rule, LV has kept demand high with regular, visible price increases, which tend to signal to consumers something of intrinsic quality that isn’t the case with more affordable brands. Vuitton is pricier than others it shares mall space with, but maintains an “affordable” distance from two key French brands popular in the handbag world: Chanel and Hermès.
The thing I have never understood about Vuitton’s volume sellers—bags made of coated cotton canvas in various prints—is why they’re so pricey. While animal-sourced leather is priced according to the supply and quality of a finite resource (cows, lambs, etc.), with exotic skins like alligator and snake commanding an even higher premium, canvas is a comparatively infinite resource. It is reasonable to assume that the plastic coating and printing of this material could be done efficiently and inexpensively as well with certain economies of scale.
Louis Vuitton is upcharging for your right for to associate yourself with their name. Not the creativity of the design, beauty of the material, or the intrinsic longevity of its components, but the brand name and associated image only.
Maybe you’re okay with that, and it would make sense if the product was also incredibly durable. But it isn’t. I think it may have been in the past.
I have seen plenty of Louis Vuitton canvas bags and wallets disintegrate, fray, and fade after just a few seasons of everyday use. This is in comparison to things like my dad’s leather Mulberry wallet, which is going on ten years old and still looks pretty tidy; my former Bottega Veneta woven leather wallet, also durable and aged gracefully; even nylon Prada bags which are also made of a manmade synthetic fabric, but last forever.
Purely from a sense of touch, I also have never found the hard, synthetic material to be pleasant against the skin. I feel like hugging some of my leather bags, especially the ultra-soft nappa ones.
What is fascinating about Louis Vuitton is its devoted fans: YouTube vloggers who document and “unbox” new purchases for their followers. In the same way that groups of disparate consumers used to bond over their Ty® Beanie Babies collections, just as soon as Louis Vuitton releases something new, a spin on an old formula, these people buy it up as if it will undoubtedly appreciate in value and somehow be more thrilling than the last version.
I subscribe to many of these vloggers’ channels because I am so curious about their mindset. What drives them? How do their tastes reflect individuality, collectivism, a sense of belonging, etc.
I’m also skipping over an entire aspect of the appeal of luxury shopping, which is the experience of being waited on and doted over. To that I say, a nice experience is great to add onto a purchase you already love, but it shouldn’t be the primary reason for purchasing.
I hope my suggestions here have sparked some inspiration and my reasons for writing about what to buy instead of Louis Vuitton were clear and logical.