The luxury handbag possesses a hypnotic force that has the ability to turn the most average, sane and grounded woman into an embarrassingly obnoxious victim of capitalism, so far she will go as to rent a handbag as she would her home. It was in Sex and The City when I first became aware of the borrowing of luxury handbags; Jennifer Hudson, playing Louise from St Louis carried about her rented Vuitton denim patchwork bowling bag and seemed just as excited about this bag she was paying rent for as if she’d worked blood, sweat and tears for it and it were hers to keep.
Admittedly, luxury is not available to us all and we may possibly never afford an Hermes Croc Kelly, let’s be brutally honest here, most of us won’t ever afford an Hermes bag period, let alone any crocodile, python or ostrich skin bag – regardless of the designer. We can dream, we can aspire and we can admire, there’s honestly nothing wrong with that – but when we begin to fool ourselves and the world with ‘Bag Borrowing,’ do we need to aspire or dream anymore? Luxury is no longer a lifestyle, but a borrowed experience. Avelle, the online luxury rental site Louise rents her patchwork Vuitton from, prides itself on opening up the gate to luxury fashion, “It gives customers greater access to a vast inventory of luxury accessories and the opportunity to indulge in more, more often,” says Lynn Ridenour, senior vice president of marketing.
Economist, Veblen theorised that the increase in accessibility and availability of a product eventually diminishes its desirability. Isn’t the whole point of the luxury handbag its rarity and expensiveness, the fantasy and the great sense of pleasure we feel when we finally get to have a slice of that luxuriously fantastical pie? We love the luxury handbag for its longevity, the stories it will tell when it’s thirty years old, the new life it will have when we hand it down to our daughters and the sheer ownership of a piece of art and fashion history. The luxury handbag doesn’t seem so whimsical or substantial when we have to hand it back at the end of the lease, hundreds of pounds poorer. In actual fact, all this bag rental phenomenon does is kill the luxury for everyone – the borrower, the luxury bag owner and the bag itself. Of course there’s one link in the chain that strengthens and that is of course, the bag lord or lady.
I adore luxury handbags and spend hours figuring out how I can alter my lifestyle temporarily, in order to save for a beautifully crafted, calf’s skin handbag with cold, gold hardware. I have to compromise the Gucci tribute bags or the Judith Leiber bejewelled clutches for bags that are timeless and suitable for most occasions, but I always feel good about making and owning my purchase. Louise from St Louis waltzed around New York City, unemployed, with a rental, gimmicky Vuitton bag in tow.
In my opinion, a penny spent on this kind of bag, rental or bought, is an ultimate waste – fashion theorists believe the exhibition of waste and uselessness is an occurrence familiar to the wealthy or those that wish to appear so. Maybe this is the beauty of Avelle, the opportunity to display wealth and luxury with the woman’s most significant and indicative item of dress, without ever having to be too pragmatic about the purchase. However I’d always rather commit to just the one bag, that will dent my bank balance and reduce my social life – a bag that I can be proud of because it’s a luxury, it’s expensive and it’s mine.