Sunday, May 24, 2015

Is it a 'Michael Kors bag' or a 'fake Birkin'? One wonders ...

When the Michael Kors store opened in 2011 at the Tanger 1 Outlet Center in Bluffton, I began to notice what seemed like a marked shift in the brand of purse that women and teens who live in this area started carrying. It went from Coach or Vera Bradley to — obviously, because what else am I talking about here? — Michael Kors.
I’m sure part of this was just a reflection of a shift in trend nationally, but it did have a small-town element to it. Tanger had just upped its game with a complete tear-down/rebuild and a new crop of more relevant stores, so naturally we all flocked there like this was “Little House on the Prairie” and we’d just heard tell that Oleson’s Mercantile got a new bolt of fabric.
(Who wore it best? Nellie wore it best.)
The Michael Kors trend continues. I’m not a market analyst, but I would say the purse game in Beaufort County goes something like this: Michael Kors, then Kate Spade, with Spartina 449 coming in hot and Marc by Marc Jacobs (RIP) mixed in here and there.
And here’s the thing about Michael Kors that not enough people seem to talk about (at least not enough for my liking). Its Hampton line of bags (which I have in East-West black and a lot of women locally also have) resembles an Hermes Birkin bag, that exclusive $10,000-plus, waiting-list-only purse that serves as an Upper East Side hiney sniff for women who need to know your pedigree before they’ll talk to you. 
The design — with its “What! I’m not copying a Birkin! My my, the accusations!” variations — gives you the same silhouette as a Birkin would. The same tidy rectangle with primly looped handles. With a quick glance, it might just fool people.
It reminds me of when Reed Krakoff rocked Coach’s world with his “C-print” design 10 years ago. It looked too much like a Gucci knock-off for me to accept it into my purse family. But I went for this Michael Kors bag.
When we invest in a designer purse, we’re choosing a certain look that is particular to a brand. The MK looked like an MK purse but also kind of familiar to me. I couldn’t place it at first. Now I can place it. So now I’m wondering if it’s a “Michael Kors purse” or a “fake Birkin.” The answer doesn’t matter, but sometimes I like to think about things like this. By the way, tell me if you think I’m wrong about the Beaufort County purse order. I want to hear what you think.
By the way, tell me if you think I'm wrong about the Beaufort County purse order. I want to hear what you think.-Liz Farrell

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Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Floyd Mayweather My Crocodile Bag ... Is Worth $150,000

Floyd Mayweather is flossin' a ridiculously rare man-bag ... and it costs more than your CAR!!!! 
The boxer just touched down in Georgia this morning ... flaunting one of his favorite expensive purchases -- a diamond Hermès HAC 50 bag made out of crocodile skin.
We spoke to someone from Hermès who told us the bag isn't being sold in stores -- and therefore, it MUST be a custom job (Pharrell had a custom Hermès bag made in 2007).
So, we went to the The Money Team looking for answers ... and one of Floyd's top TMT guys told us Floyd paid around $150k for the bag, which is accented with 245 diamonds on the metal hardware.
It's a drop in the bucket for Floyd who claimed he made around $200 million for the Pacquiao fight.
And he's not done spending yet ... Floyd tweeted to his people in Atlanta -- "Anyone know what time the stores open up? I need to pick up a few items for the [Atlanta Hawks] game tonight."


Hermès doesn’t make it easy for you to buy its stuff

That’s why it sells so well.

Hermès inaugurated its CityCenterDC boutique with a grand, eccentric flourish befitting a nearly 180-year-old French luxury firm that was born as a harness-maker and grew into the purveyor of $10,000 Birkin handbags. At a seated dinner in the stately surroundings of the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium, 120 guests began their meal with a foie gras feuilleté and ended it with a white chocolate “flower pot” filled with raspberries and mousse — a dessert so finely executed it could have been a porcelain figurine.
Though the fine china upon which the pea-crusted lamb loin was artfully arranged came directly from the company’s stock, the dinner otherwise did very little to showcase the actual stuff of Hermès. But in the digital millennium, luxury is defined less by products than by experiences.

And so the company recently presented an evening of culinary theater choreographed and costumed by Belgian artist Charles Kaisin (who recently dazzled Hong Kong with a 35-foot golden goat constructed from 13,500 origami horses for Chinese New Year). Two sopranos trilled the “Flower Duet,” and 60 waiters imported from New York — one for every two guests, as if catering to a royal court — marched out in synchronized precision to deliver the meal. They changed costume with each course: silver origami masks, golden welding suits and, finally, white cumulus headdresses lit from within.

Hermès is the latest high-end brand to open at CityCenterDC, the gleaming mixed-used development newly built downtown. It joins Burberry, Loro Piana, Canali, Hugo Boss, Salvatore Ferragamo, Paul Stuart and Alexis Bittar, among others. This summer, Louis Vuitton will open; Dior is coming in the fall. And in June, Carolina Herrera will throw open the doors of a CH boutique — not quite as high-end, but perfumed by its association with her flagship line and the glamour of a Vogue-sponsored cocktail party.
Of all the brands, however, Hermès is arguably the most rarefied. It is a shop where a business-card case — two small rectangles of leather stitched together — costs $335. And the suitcase-size Birkin and Kelly bags stashed not so discreetly under the tables during the gala dinner each cost as much as a car.

The 6,000-square-foot Hermès shop, on Palmer Alley NW, replaces the company’s ­Tysons Corner store. While this new space might be light and airy, it is not a joltingly modern place with sales clerks toting mini iPads in side holsters. Immediately upon crossing the boutique’s threshold, there is a mosaic insignia embedded in the floor based on one found in the mother store on the Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré in Paris — a reminder of Hermès history and tradition.

The mosaic drives home the point that Hermès traffics in slow fashion in an impatient, buy-it-off-the-runway, want-it-now culture. Babies are conceived and born in less time than it takes for a dedicated customer to acquire a Birkin handbag, which was introduced in 1984.
In many ways, Hermès violates all the rules of the modern retail environment, which is to make shopping as effortless as possible — including buying a $10,000 handbag while lounging at home in pajamas.
Yet shoppers want what Hermès is selling even if they have to go out of their way to get it. The company reported that its first-quarter revenue was up by 19 percent over last year, to $1.2 billion. That growth was fueled by Asia and Europe, as well as the United States — the No. 1 luxury market in the world. After years of luxury firms chasing consumers in China, Russia and South America, the United States is once again devouring high-priced clothes and accessories. Hermès has seven projects in the works in the country. Six, including Washington’s, are expansions in markets where the brand already had a footprint; the seventh is a dedicated perfumery in New York.
Hermès is one of the fastest-growing luxury companies in the world, according to a 2014 report by Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited, with a Q rating — a measure of a brand’s resonance and value among consumers — that places it third among luxury brands. That’s ahead of Prada, Ralph Lauren and Burberry.

Hermès is so certain of its own mystique that since 2011 it has sold a monthly mystery box to customers starting at about $250, which includes a unisex trinket crafted from workroom scraps of leather, silk or the like. “They’re making money out of their waste,” marvels brand consultant Amy Shea, who has not worked with the company.
Hermès is a contrarian company. It has no Twitter followers because it is not on Twitter. The social media site is about personalities and celebrities, and Hermès is not.
Hermès maintains a Web site that resembles a charming old sketchbook sweetly animated. It is a pretty site, but a frustrating one. There are no high-definition photos sweeping, spinning or rocketing across the screen. The bags most closely identified with the brand — the Birkin and the Kelly — aren’t even represented. Ready-to-wear isn’t displayed on models, but on drawings of models. There is no technology to give a shopper a sense of how the garment might move. At a luxury conference this year, chief executive Axel Dumas, a sixth-generation descendant of founder Thierry Hermès, joked that the company wants its things to be difficult to find — even on the Web site.

“Hermès is in a special place all to itself. They have coveted their rarity and they had to do it with all the temptations that a brand faces,” Shea says. “They didn’t know which way things were going to go [in the luxury market], but they knew who they were.”
The brand has no public face making the rounds at cocktail parties. It does not hire celebrities to be brand ambassadors. It does not make a splashy showing on red carpets — although it has been represented by Angelina Jolie, Keira Knightley and Carla Bruni-Sarkozy. The name most people might associate with the brand is Oprah Winfrey. Not because she is a devoted customer but because the Paris store once denied her after-hours shopping privileges. (The company later expressed regret.)

Last summer, Hermès announced the arrival of a new creative director: Nadège Vanhee-Cybulski. Her hiring was news in the fashion industry, but it meant little to the brand’s customers. For them, it’s the Hermès name that counts, not that of the person sketching the cashmere overcoats, which look an awful lot like the overcoats from previous years. The ready-to-wear “is timeless,” says Robert Chavez, the company’s U.S president. But that doesn’t give a fashion designer much room to experiment.
Vanhee-Cybulski arrived at Hermès with an impressive résumé, notable for its legacy of discretion. She has worked for some of the most restrained brands in the industry — the Row, Maison Margiela, Céline. She presented her first collection on the runway in March. It will arrive in stores for the fall season.
“I think she brings her own touch and imprint,” Chavez says. “It’s refined, in a modern way.” It is profoundly subtle and it looks very, very expensive, which is the definition of the Hermès brand.
Hermès fashion moves stealthily, changing millimeter by millimeter, but the company has excelled in the speed-of-light digital realm by keeping to its own quirky path, says Isabelle Harvie-Watt of the fashion and luxury consultancy Havas LuxHub.
In a recent speech, Harvie-Watt criticized luxury firms for failing to be more active in the digital realm. For most, their early response was a defensive crouch. And yet, she says, “I think Hermès is one of those that have merged technology quite well with their brand.” The Web site, in all of its obstinate inefficiency, speaks to the brand’s identity, she says, “even though it might not be the easiest thing to navigate.”
And while Hermès skips Twitter, it does use Instagram and Facebook to connect with customers. The Web site, which launched in 2002, has been the fastest-growing “boutique” within the company, Chavez says. “We have a presence in 14 states, but we ship to all 50 states. Early on, it was the classics, but now we sell bikes, place settings . . . ”

Like most of the retailers at CityCenterDC, Hermès defines itself as a luxury brand. But the term luxury has been bandied about so much that its meaning has turned murky. Longchamp, another shop at CityCenterDC, also considers itself a luxury brand, one with a legacy and point of view. The family-owned business recently celebrated the 20th anniversary of its signature handbag, Le Pliage. A customer can buy a nylon version for less than $200 from a host of outlets.
Shea argues that “luxury” has been redefined — in Hermès’ favor — and it has nothing to do with price. “Expensive doesn’t equal luxury,” Shea says. “Luxury equals rarity.”

“The millennial group continues to covet” the Birkin, Shea says. Why? They are global citizens who have “been raised with incredible access to all thing via technology. It’s changed the consumption model in a way we’re still trying to understand.” The same motivation that has people choosing craft beers — small, independently owned, artisanal — attracts them to a brand such as Hermès.

Chavez says the craftspeople who construct the company’s handbags are core to his definition of luxury. But he notes that time is the truest indulgence. “People are always willing to wait for quality,” Chavez says. “They know that it takes time. It takes more than 20 hours to make a Birkin.”
Luxury fashion, Harvie-Watt notes, has yet to produce an equivalent of Uber — a company so transformative that it’s hard to remember a time before it existed. “For these kinds of brands, the question is how to leverage technology to give customers better service?”
“Maybe someday you can order [Birkins] online,” Harvie-Watt says, “but you’ll still have to wait for them.”

-by Robin Givhan; The Washington Post

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

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Tuesday, May 12, 2015

From a Few eBay Listings Grew a $25M Consignment Business

Her arms draped in Hermes Birkin handbags that retail for $13,000 each, a laughing Linda Lightman had to confess: She doesn't own a single one herself.
"But they're coveted by many," she added with considerable appreciation.
Such longing will translate into $25 million in sales this year for Linda's Stuff, the online luxury-consignment business Lightman started 15 years ago.
At eBay, where a projected $83 billion in gross merchandise value was transacted last year, Linda's Stuff is considered a superstar. It lists about 140,000 unique items daily, the best of which are also offered at
"Their business has basically grown up on eBay," said Jon Kuhlmann, enterprise and strategic account manager for the online-shopping kingdom. "Their dedication to customers and the selection they offer is tremendous."
The family company - Lightman's husband, Fred, is president, and the older of their two sons, Max, is vice president of business development - has a workforce of 110 (average age 25, starting at $10 an hour). After five expansions since 2007, Linda's Stuff occupies 93,000 square feet at the edge of Hatboro.
Highly organized hoarding: That was my initial reaction once inside. Rows of stacked blue-plastic Sterilite storage bins containing pre-owned handbags, clothing and jewelry, and some home decor, seemed to go on forever. What wasn't in bins was in cardboard boxes or on hanging racks and shelves. There was a photography area, and spots for appraisals, listings and returns.
About 2,000 items are shipped to buyers daily. UPS delivers hundreds of boxes a day from the 22,000 consignors who sell through Linda's Stuff. Sophisticated software enables them to track their goods, for which they receive 62 percent of sales under $1,000, 75 percent for sales up to $5,000, and 80 percent for anything above that.
Consignors are assessed no fees. Linda's Stuff covers the cost of shipping, except internationally, and absorbs eBay costs - generally a 9 percent fee for clothing, shoes, and accessories.
Linda's Stuff's headquarters is so big, said Laura Weglinski, photography manager and Fitbit wearer, she usually has logged 10,000 steps by 3 p.m.
This selling behemoth began with the most modest intentions: Lightman, who practiced labor and employment law until 1991, was looking to sell her sons' video games.
"I got hooked," she said. "When our video games ran out, I started selling my clothes."
First, she had to teach herself how to use a digital camera. With no studio lighting, she opted for natural light, photographing her clothes outside, spread on patio furniture.
Soon, friends started asking her to sell their things.
In 2003, she hired her first employees, Tyler School of Art students. They would take the Temple University shuttle to the school's Ambler campus, where the Lightmans would meet them and drive them to their house nearby to help with photographing and listing.
A home-based stock trader, Fred Lightman would help with shipping after the markets closed. By 2005, with Linda's Stuff steadily growing, he quit his job to focus on his wife's.
"I was scared," recalled Linda Lightman, 53, now a Center City resident. "It was a very weird feeling for me. The stuff I'm selling on eBay is going to support our family? It wasn't a leap I took lightly."
In retrospect, it was a no-brainer. "Your audience is the world," she said. Currently, about 35 percent of her sales are international.
Marni Isaacs of Los Angeles has been consigning with Linda's Stuff for more than five years because, she said, it pays the best in the industry and because Lightman is "a very dedicated and personal business woman."
With annual sales close to $2 million in 2007, the Lightmans moved the business out of their home, where it had consumed just about every room. To Max's annoyance, that included his bedroom.
"Girls were sitting in my room watching soap operas and listing," said the 24-year-old graduate of George Washington University, who now can't get enough of the business.
Linda's Stuff moved to Hatboro in February 2014, taking on additional space twice since then.
"Until we moved to this office, we were always hamstrung by our size," said Fred, 56. "This is now the first time we have enough space to grow. Our sales will continue to go up just organically because we can list more items."
In the last couple months, they listed more new items than used, the result of a new trend: retailers turning to Linda's Stuff to sell leftover inventory.
The mother who set out to unload some video games now is in demand for TV appearances and lectures to business-school classes. And astounded by it all.
"This," she marveled, "was in my kitchen."

Linda Lightman, 53, founder and CEO of Linda´s Stuff, is surrounded by some of the luxury items she sells on consignment for others including a Chanel coat and Hermes Birkin handbags on May 4, 2015. ( CLEM MURRAY / Staff Photographer )

Sunday, May 3, 2015

How To Make a $10,000 Hermes Birkin Bag Look Low-Rent

aka A Grown Woman Acting Like a Six Year Old


NBC-TV/Today Show
Summer Reading Round-Up

Bringing Home the Birkin
top 10 summer reads!




May 18, 2008
Bag Man