Fashion: It's All In The Bag

At Coach, designers have perfected the science of divining the next hot handbag. Inside their system

There was a time when fashion designers could make or break their career on a sexy silhouette or an unusual use of color and fabric. Now most fashion careers are subject to the whims of handbag consumers. With huge margins and high visibility, bags like Chloé's Paddington and Vuitton's Murakami can add hundreds of thousands of dollars to the bottom line, or a nice $300 million in the case of the Murakami. So luxury kings like Bernard Arnault, owner of mega-brand Louis Vuitton, fret over the star power of each one they produce.

What makes a handbag hot, in some cases even before...

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