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Handbag Fever

To make sense of the current bag-mania CBS News This Morning invited Valerie Steele, curator at the museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology and author of soon-to-be released book on bags called, what else, but Handbags.

Handbags have become the ultimate new status symbol. Some women will pay as much as their monthly rent or more to attain a luxury bag.

Here are some of the reasons cited by Steele:

  • Money: A handbag that is trendy can be like a successful fragrance. It can make huge amounts of money for the fashion company launching it.
  • Status: A woman can carry one, put it on a table and it shows off immediately her money, taste and sense of style.
  • Fashion: Because fashion has become much more minimal, women are wearing fairly simple suits. The handbag is a good way to up one's fashion quotient.

The following handbags are at the top of the list:



Coco Chanel was the first to introduce the luxury bag with its classic black quilted leather bag.

"The Chanel gilt and quilt that Mademoiselle Chanel invented in '55 became the big handbag of the 1980s," explains Steele.
Nowadays, she says, a new version is very "ergonomic and 21st century, which they hope will be the first of the new direction in bags," she says.



In 1985 Prada introduced its now legendary black nylon bag making all other bags seem dowdy.

"Prada was the second major handbag purveyor. In 1985,... produced black nylon bags, which revolutionized the style. Now they are producing all of these utility bags for men as well as for women," Steele notes.



The 162-year-old Parisian company has dedicated three bags to style setters such as Grace Kelly (the "Kelly" bag), actress Jane Birken (the "Birken" bag), and now Lyn Revson (the "Lyn" bag).

"Vintage ones can sell for up to $10,000 at auction," Steele says, adding that a surprisingly large nuber of people are willing to pay such prices.



Gucci's "Jackie-O" bag was named after the fashion icon who used to carry an earlier version of the single-strap shoulder bag in the 1960s.

"They were hot already in the '50s and '60s. But hey overlicensed. Their name lost prestige. [Two designers] cut back on the licensing, restyled the classic designs, things like the bamboo handles, and made them so hot there are tremendous waiting lists for these," Steele says.

Louis Vuittonsize>


The traditional European fashion house reinvented its LV logo bags transforming them into much hipper versions.
Gucci also did the same with its traditional designs.

"When Marc Jacobs came to Louis Vuitton, in the first nine months that they produced these wonderful colored Vuitton bags, the company made $40 million," she says.



The Fendi baguette bag, introduced in the fall of 1997, is a small shoulder bag that can be carried under the arm like a loaf of French bread, and is credited with the current bag mania. It comes in about 500 variations, from nylon to sequins, ranging in price from $475 to $12,000. And Steele says people are collecting them like crazy.

"They are getting them in everything from denim, wool, crocodile to this amazing handmade silk velvet made at the rate of 20 centimeters a day," she says.

Other fall trends include calf- and pony-skinned bags, as well as ornate bags bejeweled or beaded, that can be ethnic-inspired bags.

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