You don't need an invitation to some exclusive fashion show here in Milan to figure out that all the money being made in this luxury capital is coming from handbags. On the Via Manzoni, Giorgio Armani's mega-store advertises the Bau Bag in three-foot-high letters in one window. A few blocks away on the Via Sant Andrea, Ballantyne Cashmere is flogging it's new Diamond Bag in the window. It's a limited edition that's made entirely of crocodile skin and surely rings in somewhere in the high five digits. And down the block at Burberry, designer Christopher Bailey has filled the windows of the British brand's flagship with studded handbags that evoke something between punk rock and medieval chain mail.
Designers here claim the strong Euro and the requisite sticker shock on high-end clothing and accessories has not inhibited shoppers. Ferragamo deisgner Graeme Black, who showed his third collection under his own name today in intimate presentations in his chic atelier has made a habit of featuring a different piece of ready-to-wear made entirely out of croc each season. Last season he showed a cognac-colored knee-length croc reddingote that cost 50,000 euros. He sold three. This season Black was inspired by Japanese craftsmanship, particularly the unique textures and materials used in basket-making. He showed a supple white croc bolero that was so soft it could have been chiffon. No takers yet. Equally beautiful was a cinnamon colored silk crepe dress folded and pleated to look like origami a focus on details that turned out to be a theme at the Burberry show later in the day, too, where Bailey showed ruched chiffon jackets and fringed silk skirts.
MCM, a brand of handbags that last had it's heyday in the early 1990s is roaring back onto the fashion radar. Their nautical theme bags in bright red, white and black with leather handles woven to look like rope is carefully crafted to appeal to the mega-yacht owners who frequent ports like Saint Tropez. But what's smart about MCM is their prices at $400-$800 they are a lot cheaper than most of the Prada and Gucci fare you see waltzing up and down Via Montanapoleone. The question remains: will people want it if it isn't expensive and made of croc?