NEW YORK — Like a piece of social anthropology on a strap, high-end handbags reflect the style sensibilities of a certain rarefied set at a particular moment. Manufacturers have learned to strike while the leather is hot, cultivating the myth of exclusivity with long waiting lists.

For fall, there’s a buzz surrounding Chanel’s perforated camellia bags. “Chanel is back in a big way,” said Eppie Engle at a recent Christian Dior runway show and luncheon at the Americana Manhasset in Manhasset, N.Y. “I think they’ve gotten a younger look. They don’t all have chains and aren’t hard to carry.”

Americana Manhasset customers are dedicated fashion shoppers who’ve completed buying their fall wardrobes before the slightest nip is in the air. The open air center is home to boutiques such as Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Christian Dior, Hermès, Yves Saint Laurent, Prada, Giorgio Armani and Hirshleifer’s. If what the women carried on their shoulders is any indication, then Chanel was a front runner. Of course, there were plenty of Dior handbags in attendance?in honor of the company’s runway presentation.

“Last year was a big year for Chanel,” said Barbara Lembo. “The younger girls are buying the handbags. I see my daughters and their friends in their 30s. I have three daughters and they all bought the perforated bags with the camellias. I think Chanel is changing to appeal to a younger customer.”

Nancy DeMatteis flaunted her new perforated camellia handbag. “That’s the new Chanel,” she said proudly. “I’m a shopper. I’ve already purchased the Yves Saint Laurent bag with the big flower to wear later in the fall.”

Lisa Wilens, who was holding a black quilted tube-shaped Chanel bag with chain strap, said, “The Chanel handbag did go away for a little while, but it’s definitely making a comeback. I just put them away and recycle. I have 15 Chanel bags.”

While a popular bag can propel a reasonably successful brand to red-hot status, the ephemeral nature of the beast means that a brand might return to oblivion if it doesn’t follow up with subsequent hits.“There’s always going to be the hot, It bag of the season,” said Arie Kopelman, president and chief operating officer of Chanel Inc. “That’s not the way to run and grow a business over time.”

A case in point is the baguette. “Fendi is out with our friends because the new style is garish,” Aileen Murstein said of the company’s Chef bag. “The Louis Vuitton [Murakami] bags are also out because there are so many copies.”

Kopelman said that there’s a certain magic that comes from the fashion bags that keeps the traditional models fresh. According to sources, the company’s handbag business is up close to 20 percent for fall.

Most women said they have already gotten all the bags on their wish lists. But Marilyn Rubenstein still has her eye on a Louis Vuitton tweed and leather handbag from the fall collection. “It’s a gorgeous bag,” she said. “I’m number 41 on the waiting list.”

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