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Clothing and Footwear Spend May be Down, But Consumers are Dishing Out for Designer Accessories

The designer logo backpack is on its way to becoming the status bag of 2018.

Despite overall declines in the $19 billion fashion accessories industry, data from The NPD Group indicates that consumers are investing in bags and small personal accessories that deliver functionality, luxury—or both.

The spoils of items like smart watches and phones have led consumers to expect the products they purchase to enhance their day to day lives. “Everything should be a problem-solver in the mind of the consumer, and fashion accessories manufacturers are starting to embrace this,” said Beth Goldstein, NPD accessories and footwear industry analyst. “Even luxury designer brands are adding more function into their products, and this convergence has proven to be an equation for even greater success among today’s fashion accessory consumer.”

While consumers are buying more of some items, like fashion backpacks, NPD found they are spending more on others, like clutches and shoulder bags. In fact, NPD said Designer was the only brand segment to grow across the fashion accessories market, accounting for 12 percent of industry dollar sales, following 10 percent growth in the past year.

‘It’ items from the early 2000s like the Dior saddle bag, Fendi baguette and Burberry’s iconic checks are once again piquing the interest of nostalgia-loving millennials. But a new crop of luxury (and accessible luxury) labels like Mansur Gavriel, Cuero & Mør and Building Block are gaining momentum through aesthetically appealing social media campaigns and an emphasis on pared down, versatile designs.

Since launching in 2012, AAFA’s 2018 American Image Awards Fashion Maverick honoree Mansur Gavriel has hit several homeruns, beginning with its black Bucket bag with a red interior ($595 retail), followed by the Circle bag ($797-$1,095 retail) offered in a scope of Instagrammable colors. This season, the brand is betting on Italian saffiano leather backpacks and its Lady bag with multi-strap options.

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Cuero & Mør came onto the accessories scene with its signature Perla, a zip top bucket bag with two strap options—a leather cross body or gold plated chain. Meanwhile, Building Blocks offers an array of minimalist wristlet/clutches, adjustable waist bags and top handle bags with removable shoulder straps.

Designer brands are driving growth in most categories, but NPD said multi-strap options are an example of functional solutions that appeal to a broader base of consumers. Multi-functional and multi-strap bags accounted for nearly 40 percent of handbag dollar sales in the last year.

“The move from acquisition and consumption to experiences, travel and healthier living, is challenging the fashion accessories industry to remain relevant among competing spending opportunities vying for consumer dollars,” Marshal Cohen, The NPD Group chief industry advisor, said. “Luxury items have managed to keep the industry alive, as consumers view these products as worthy of the investment, but fashion accessories manufacturers and retailers also need to look at how consumers live and address a broader spectrum of needs, desires, and demographic life stages.”