Teens opt for luxury accessories


Published: Wednesday, August 1, 2007 at 8:34 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, August 1, 2007 at 12:00 a.m.

NEW YORK - Before Claire Stern goes back to school as a high school senior this fall, she needs a new tote. But not just any bag will do.

"I want a tote bag by Jaye Hersh that the celebrities are wearing, they're called Market Bags,'' said Stern, 17, who lives in Bronxville, New York. "It's more stylish than a backpack.''

The bags retail for more than $100 if they're monogrammed and Stern has noticed actresses Reese Witherspoon and Jessica Alba wearing them.

Shopping for back-to-school apparel is a late summer ritual. But as tweens and teens become increasingly savvy about fashion, they're asking for luxury products, such as $200 designer handbags and $100-plus jeans.

Industry trade group The International Council of Shopping Centers expects back-to-school sales will grow 5 percent in 2007 to $27 billion.

Mid-tier and discount retailers have been facing pressure this year as consumers cut down on extra expenses to battle rising gas prices and a sagging housing market. Wal-Mart Stores Inc. earlier this month, for example, cut prices on more than 16,000 items in a bid to turn around sales for the critical back-to-school season.

Meanwhile, the luxury market is booming. Sales worldwide topped $150 billion last year.

Teens are playing an increasing part in that, according to experts, as Web sites, tabloids and TV shows detailing celebrities and fashion make kids more aware of and demanding for luxury goods than ever before.

"They're prime candidates for luxury,'' said Gerald Celente, publisher of Trends Journal, a newsletter that tracks a wide range of trends. "Their world is the entertainment world and that's what they're focused into.''

Jaueline Nasser, ELLEgirl's fashion market editor, said teens take a cue from shows like "Laguna Beach,'' "The O.C.,'' "The Hills'' and "My Super Sweet 16'' that portray a certain lifestyle.

"They have been surrounded by celebrities and TV programs where fashion is the central point,'' she said. "They even have younger celebrities in the ads for designer labels - Scarlett Johansson for Louis Vuitton, Lindsay Lohan for Jill Stuart, etc.''

Lydia Stover, 16, said she regularly studies celebrity magazines such as People for fashion inspiration and cites Nicole Richie as someone whose style she admires.

Stover, who will be going into 11th grade at Kingston High School in Kingston, New York, saved up $200 for a Coach bag and covets a gaucho-style bag for fall.

"Sometimes I'll look at what celebrities are wearing, and think, Oh, that's a cute outfit' and recreate it somehow,'' she said.

Amy Klaris, a branding specialist at consulting firm Kurt Salmon Associates, said over the past year or two, having a luxury item has become more important to teens.

"There are so many icons out there right now for them,'' Klaris said. "There's more people they're looking up to and wanting to emulate, and they can do that through accessories.''

Where parents put their foot down depends on their income, said Klaris. And while a wardrobe of Prada might be too much for a parent to handle, they might be more willing to spend on accessories, she said.

"They want their kids to fit in,'' she said. "They're still buying T-shirts at Target, but still having that (luxury) handbag.''

Bloomingdale's fashion director Stephanie Solomon said this year, teen shoppers at the department stores nationwide are clamoring after $300 Chanel sunglasses, designer handbags by Marc Jacobs, Chanel and Chloe - which can cost between $900 and $1,250 - and $200 to $300 Tory Burch shoes

"It's really about the accessories,'' she said. "The fact that you can wear sunglasses every day and carry the same handbag every day justifies the expense.''

Solomon said the recent surge in lower-priced lines by designers - Marc by Marc Jacobs, for example, or Proenza Schouler for Target - help teens afford designer fashion, but have also made them aware of the higher-priced lines.

"They're a segue into the designer sectors,'' she said.

ELLEgirl's Nasser also said accessories are the entry point for teens buying luxury items.

"Handbags are huge,'' she said. "They are definitely a status symbol. So whether it's Marc Jacobs, Luis Vuitton, Yves St. Laurent or Chanel, girls will want the hot bags that they see all the celebrities carrying.''

Jeans - the premium denim that has been popular for several years and costs between $100 and $300 - are another popular choice.

"Having the coolest label of denim is something that every girl desires,'' Nasser said. "J Brand, Acne, Earnest Sewn, True Religion, Ksubi are all brands that ... will be big this year.''

Reader comments posted to this article may be published in our print edition. All rights reserved. This copyrighted material may not be re-published without permission. Links are encouraged.

Comments are currently unavailable on this article

▲ Return to Top