By and  on June 15, 2007

The idea that a handbag could inspire passion and ignite a buying frenzy became clear in 2003 when Marc Jacobs collaborated with Takashi Murakami to create a line of products decorated with smiley-faced cherry blossoms. Vuitton sold a staggering $345 million worth of the line in its first year, roughly 10 percent of the company’s total revenues. No handbag has come close to achieving the success of the Murakami collection, but other designers have minted bags so popular, they’ve been spotted on celebrities and snapped up by the fashion elite. The name for this phenomenon is the “It” bag, and like the “It” girl—that bright young thing who dazzles high society—the “It” bag’s time in the spotlight is fleeting. “It” bags can sell a hundred thousands units or more, but given consumers’ penchant for the new, they’re doomed to obsolescence.

Still, producing an “It” bag is a fashion house’s dream, and one that the beauty industry has occasionally shared. “The ‘It’ bag equivalent is very relevant to the beauty industry,” says Christine Dagousset, executive vice president of fragrance and beauty for Chanel. “That’s what happened with our Black Satin nail polish last fall. Celebrities loved the product and wore it. The buzz factor is what made it so successful.” Chanel wasn’t entirely caught off guard by Black Satin’s popularity. The company’s earlier Vamp nail lacquer, launched in 1995, developed a huge following. Black Satin’s limited edition status practically guaranteed sell-outs and waiting lists. Its cult status was cemented when the $19 bottles sold on eBay for $120.

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