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Handbag Sticker Shock? Try These Entry-level Luxuries Instead

Ten (moderately) affordable alternatives to buy from bag brands playing hardest to get.

Handbag Sticker Shock? Try These Entry-level Luxuries Instead

Handbag Sticker Shock? Try These Entry-level Luxuries Instead

Handbag Sticker Shock? Try These Entry-level Luxuries Instead

Handbag Sticker Shock? Try These Entry-level Luxuries Instead

Handbag Sticker Shock? Try These Entry-level Luxuries Instead

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Price increases on high-end handbags have become public fodder that rivals the latest celebrity divorce scandal.

PurseBop, an online forum for luxury collectors, has been publishing like-for-like data on bag prices for 11 years, but those articles have seen a “huge surge in readership lately,” said founder Monika Arora. “Everyone wants to know what they’re going to have to spend to get the bag that’s on their wishlist.”

Hermès and Chanel rolled out their latest price increases at the start of 2024, citing inflation and rising production costs, while Burberry, Comme des Garçons, and Louis Vuitton are among those offering costlier bags with niche, artisanal details geared toward the 1 percent.

Handbag Sticker Shock? Try These Entry-level Luxuries Instead

An Hermès Kelly bag.

For those without unlimited funds (or even those who have them), resale is an alternative, but much of the allure of designer goods is the in-store experience. According to shopping expert Isabel Bazzani, “aspirational customers get a lot more excited about that because it’s rarer for them.”  

In many cases beauty has become the token for entry-level luxury with brands like Prada and Tom Ford beefing up their cosmetics lines, but aspirational customers tend to use “girl-math” when determining value. “They’re really all about use-per-wear,” Bazzani explained, and fragrances and lipsticks are meant to be used up. So she recommends small accessories and lower-tier ready-to-wear styles as “really the way to go.”

Handbag Sticker Shock? Try These Entry-level Luxuries Instead

A Kelly Double-Tour bracelet from Hermès, $630.

Oftentimes, iconographic design elements of hero bags trickle down into entry-level products. Take the aforementioned Prada, which uses the same industrial nylon as its backpack for hats and hair accessories, or those French houses Hermès and Chanel: The former has found clever uses for its Kelly bag’s Touret clasp in fashion jewelry and the latter recently featured the Medium Classic in print form on a scarf. 

Lifestyle categories like swim and tech can also be treasure troves for luxurious, cost-effective merchandise with myriad uses. With creative styling, the tartan maillot from Burberry’s new Classics line doubles as a bodysuit, while a phone pouch from Celine could eliminate the need for a full-size bag at all.

Flip through for 10 (moderately) affordable alternatives from the brands playing hardest to get.