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The million euro handbag

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by Vanessa Friedman at FT.com

Q: When is a hand bag not just a handbag ?

A: When it is also a piece of high jewellery and a sculptural object.

Such is the case, anyway, with Hermès’s second foray into haute bijouterie (as opposed to haute joaillerie — the former starts with outrageous  designs, the latter with mega stones). Their jeweller and shoe maestro Pierre Hardy created four different mini-handbags, in part  inspired by the brand’s iconic handbags, using gold and a LOT of precious  stones. They are each functionally a “bracelet” and they actually work as (very  small) handbags.In theory, anyway.

It seems to me the idea of anyone actually carrying a handbag worth €1.5m  and made of intertwining chains covered in 11,000 diamonds, or a rose gold  version of the Kelly bag with crocodile scales and 1,160 diamonds is a little  nuts, and I mentioned this to Patrick Thomas, the CEO of the brand. He  laughed.

 The crocodile skin and diamond Hermès bag (photo by  Dan Tobin Smith)

“We are a little crazy here,” he said.

Then I asked Mr Hardy whom he thought would buy the handbags. “I have no  idea,” he announced. He seemed to think this was very funny. “But maybe they  will have two bodyguards!”

I have no doubt the bags will be bought — if recent history proves anything,  it’s that the crazier and more extravagant the luxury object, the more there’s a  market for it — but it was also nice, I have to say, to hear a brand talk about  their products without announcing they were planned for “the Asian market” or “the American market”, or any other sort of highly researched demographic.  Hermès had made the bags, it seems, because the design idea was very Hermès and  because they wanted to see if they could (it took two years to develop and they  can only make three versions of each).

The Louis Vuitton bag (photo by Vanessa Friedman)

As it happens this is not the first time a brand has unveiled a high  jewellery handbag. Louis Vuitton’s high jewellery launch in January featured a  round ball of a handbag with the LV monogram picked out in an eye-boggling  number of brown and white diamonds. (Jewellery has become such an important  extension for the brand that they are opening their first stand-alone jewellery  store on Place Vendôme in Paris this spring.

I had the same reaction then I had to the Hermès bags: giggling in disbelief. “No!” I said. “Yes!” said the LV jewellery folks, delighted. They met my  disbelief with the same equanimity as the Hermès execs: “make it and they will  buy” pretty much sums up their position.

I guess you can sort of see the equation:

handbags (enormously popular luxury  accessory) x fine jewellery (super-exclusive one-off design with commodity  investment potential) = must-have object

So that makes two examples of this crazy idea. One more, and we’ll have a  trend on our hands. Or our arms, to be exact.

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