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The Top 10 Accessories: Attention to Detail

Highs and lows characterize the market.

Appeared In
Special Issue
WWD 100 issue 07/23/2008
1. Liz Claiborne
2. Nine West
3. Ralph Lauren
4. Coach
5. DKNY
6. Gucci
7. Louis Vuitton
8. Ray-Ban
9. Candie’s
10. Chanel
 
Business is full of dichotomies, and the accessories market is no exception.

The past year has been a newsworthy one for the bauble market. Out went the “It” bag, in came “It” sunglasses. Metal and gemstone prices are skyrocketing, giving the costume jewelry category ample room to grow — and all the while top-tier diamond jewelry is still selling out. The high-low phenomenon continued with brands including Botkier and Sigerson Morrison signing deals with big box retailers like Target, while more brands launched collections with precious exotic skins — some with fi ve-digit sticker prices.

With all these options, what do consumers really want? The 10 most familiar brands in the $31.15 billion women’s U.S. accessories market seem to have it fi gured out.

Topping the list, Liz Claiborne offers an array of handbags ranging from slouchy leather looks to patchwork styles featuring a subtle “LC” logo. There are also more fashion-based looks, such as leopard clutches and oversize tortoise Jackie O-inspired sunglasses.

Nine West, which moved up a notch this year to second place, is taking the designer route. Fred Allard, the fi rm’s fi rst creative director, continues to bring his experience working at haute houses Stephane Kélian and Castener by introducing a cutting-edge advertising campaign and au courant footwear and accessories styles. The fruits of Allard’s labor can also be seen in embossed metallic clutches with self bows, bright patent shoulder bags with a Sixties vibe and elegant leather-covered minaudières for evening.

“I think that with luxury goods now being both inspirational and aspirational for consumers, it gives us a great range and more room to pull key trends from the runways and bring them to our consumer at accessible prices,” Allard told WWD.

Third-ranked Ralph Lauren has upped the accessories ante this year. On his fall 2008 runway, Lauren showed an array of cloches with vertiginous plumage and blanket bags with his signature American-luxe touch. Lauren also showed bold belt buckles, and jewelry.

Reed Krakoff, Coach president and executive creative director, also plays with American style. The 66-year-old brand this year employed an archival horse-and-carriage logo on its bags and other accessories. Coach, which landed in the fourth slot, recently opened its Hong Kong fl agship. The 9,400-square-foot store on bustling Queen’s Road Central exhibits the scale of Coach’s ambitions in the Chinese market, a key region for luxury goods.

“One of the most exciting things is having a store that really encompasses what Coach is all about, with all the different categories,” Krakoff said. “It shows what the brand is today and what it will be in the future.”

At number five, DKNY continues to embrace its city-chic aesthetic. Long scarves, slouchy leather hobos and sleek fl at sandals are top styles.

Gucci, number six, is going strong in the handbag arena with its Hysteria bag. The style comes in several fabrics including tapestry, ikat print and the requisite, superexpensive exotic skin — in this case, crocodile. Fine jewelry is also a push for the brand, which features Drew Barrymore in ads for the precious baubles, including a gold and diamond horse-bit link bracelet and chunky gemstone rings.

It’s all in the art, for seventh-ranked Louis Vuitton. This past spring, creative director Marc Jacobs tapped artist Richard Prince to design a limited edition bag line using his signature saturated colors and pithy pull quotes.

“I started silk-screening the monogram. I started stamping it. I took it apart. I cut it up. I splashed it around. I tried to abstract it in a way that you would still be able to recognize it,” said Prince, of collaborating with Jacobs on the collection, which garnered enormous attention.

Ray-Ban, ranked eighth, has also been in the public eye in the last few years — or rather, on the public’s eyes. Barrymore, Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen and Sienna Miller are just a few stars who have been spotted wearing the classic shades lately. Owned by eyewear giant Luxottica, Ray-Ban’s newest collection of Wayfarers played with color contrasts, such as purple for the lens and burgundy for the temples, or white for the exterior of the frames and black for the interior. The brand also took a stab at superluxury with the Ray-Ban Ultra line. The limited edition line of Aviator and Outdoorsman styles made in titanium, beta-titanium and pure gold have an engraved serial number on the inner side and retail for $485.

With a slew of celebrity endorsers under its belt, including Fergie and Jenny McCarthy, number nine Candie’s hopes its newest celebrity ambassador will work marketing magic, too. “Heroes” starlet Hayden Panettiere posed in colorful wedge sandals, resin bangles and girly sunglasses for the brand, which is exclusive to Kohl’s.

Rounding out the list, 10th place Chanel continues to push the limit with its accessories designs. One bag, dubbed the Love Bow, is essentially a giant satin bow that doubles as a carry all, while an acrylic sphere made its way under the heel and above the platform of a bold platform shoe.