The Shophound is old enough to remember the days when an Hermès Kelly Bag, once the ultimate statement of taste and luxury, cost just somewhere north of $3,000, which was considered an exorbitant sum of money for a handbag. Back then, even the expensive ones rarely cracked the four figure ceiling, but those days are long gone. Now a basic Kelly is nearly $10,000, but it is no longer the exclusive statement it once was. It is an icon that announces itself. In today's Thursday Styles, Critical Shopper Molly Young explores two of the more recherché shops that are vying for customers looking for a more discreet expression of status by way of leathergoods.
First up is Goyard, which made the decision a few years ago to raise its profile with in-store shops at Barneys and Bergdorf's that unleashed a slew of widely copied tote bags in Manhattan. So, Goyard is not so much a best-kept secret anymore thanks to its signature geometric-patterned canvas that serves as pricier status alternative to the Louis Vuitton monogram without the crass display of someone else's initials. Once at the lavish new store, where the tote bags are pushed to the sidelines in favor of more elaborate items, our shopper discovers the $675 cat collar, and the $21,290 backgammon set, all customizable and ready for your own monogram. The luxury seems to be less in the products themselves, which are certainly extravagant, but in the way the customers are treated.
Service at Goyard is attentive. A salesclerk stays a cool 48 inches from your side, hands clasped, in case you’d like to see an item that is locked in a case. If you retrieve your phone to send a text, this salesclerk will politely look away, for privacy. When you point out the beauty of this or that item, the salesclerk will say, “Thank you,” a quaint little distinction that sums up the brand’s old-fashioned grace.
Then it's on to Valextra, a formerly little known Italian brand devoid of signature patterns and details save for good design for which you will pay a premium. After flirtations with Bergdorf's and Saks, it is now ensconced at a prominent counter at Barneys and, more recently, its own Madison Avenue boutique which is distinguished by a staff well versed in the understated selling skills needed to move those $1,440 iPad cases.
When I expressed mild interest in a bag, a saleswoman wrote all the information down on a card (price, color, name) and slipped it into my hand, just in case.
That's how it is done where shoppers are looking for more than a status billboard to hang from their wrists.
Critical Shopper: At Goyard and Valextra, Leather Goods That Are Durable, Versatile — and Invisible By Molly Young (NYTimes)
Goyard 20 East 63rd Street between Fifth & Madison Avenues
833 Madison Avenue between 69th & 70th Streets, Upper East Side