The battle of two Giants: CHANEL vs HERMÉS. Is HERMÉS losing the no.1 position?

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What do you say, dear members? Currently a very much alive and discussed topic, especially in the fashion insiders’ circles… With Hermés being THE Top for so many years, but their holy grails becoming more and more accessible. With the CHANEL pricing policy, where each year the bags’ prices go up, already “breathing” at Hermés’ back. When you think about it- a Chanel Jumbo or Maxi costs almost the same as a Kelly or Birkin these days.
Each season Chanel also releases special edition limited bags/flaps, which easily cost more than a Birkin, or a Kelly.
For me, personally- I could not carry anything else but Hermés bags for years. I used to say- once go get there, you never go back. But again, the old saying “never say never” was proved, as recently, I went back to Chanel. I also opened myself to well-made bags such as Delvaux or Valextra. And I even found myself eyeing a Hindmarch, Moschino and one (!) Dior. So my question is: Is Hermés losing its long-standing unbeatable position? Is CHANEL trying to grab as “much as it can” while it can?
Please, share your thoughts, feelings and observations. This is a hot topic. :-)

Explore more posts by BopTalk Celeb Varvara:
Bag Journey: Where I Stand.. And Where Do You?
The Increasing Accessibility of High Fashion
Rihanna Did it For Me

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I could not agree more with the the “Total Eclipse of Luxury”-article.
It is true, true luxury has died a long time ago. And social media plays a huge part in this: luxury items seem so suddenly so available. And people compare themselves a lot with their Social Media Influencer: “If she can buy this, then so can I”.
This has not only lead a bigger “variety of customers” to the stores, but also lead to pushing brands to be more trendy, and produce even more “new stuff” to keep the buzz going, as well as pushing all of this to their many stores. Especially their outlet stores. When visiting some of the huge Prada and Burberry outlet stores here in Europe, I am truely convinced that a lot of items in their stores are produced ONLY and directly for their outlet stores. This results to poorer quality in materials and finishes, but also in the fact that some brands are no longer perceived as “luxury brands” because you see their bags or clothes everywhere on everyone.

Honestly,
I don’t own an Hermès bag (yet). One of the reasons why I have placed my name on the wish list for a Kelly bag (aside from the artisan aspect and the fact that the Kelly bag is so beautiful, of course) is the fact that Chanel has become so ubiquitous: you see their bags everywhere! At the time, when my sister and I bought our first Chanel bags, we saw them rarely. It was always something special to see a girl walk by with a Chanel bag. Nowadays, you see many girls wearing the classic flap bag or boy bag. It is not that special anymore. Also, people travel a lot more than in the past due to low cost airlines. They go on holidays and come with tons of fake bags. And they show off the bags on Instagram too as if it were real ones.
Furthermore, the prices of the Chanel bags have augmented that much, that you are practically at the same level as an Hermès bag!

Anyhow,
For those who like reading on the topic of luxury and how everything changed the last decades, I can really recommend you the books below. I have read and re-read them a hundred times…
– Deluxe: How Luxury Lost Its Luster” by Dana Thomas
– The End of Fashion: How Marketing Changed the Clothing Business Forever” by Teri Agins

:-)

xx
Tiffany

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Wonderful topic! I enjoyed reading everyone’s thoughts on this too! I think I still consider Hermes to be the premier brand, simply because in Australia Chanel is SO MUCH more easily accessible. It is still very difficult to get a Birkin or Kelly (amongst other H bags). Our luxury resale market is also very limited compared to other parts of the world, hence we still swoon when we see a Birkin or K in the flesh! I also think that what both Fashion Houses offer is so different that it is hard to compare! I don’t know if i could ever say that a Birkin is substitutable for a Chanel piece or vice versa! That’s my two cents :-)

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I love both. Very much. So hard to choose. I think both brands have to completely different style (exclude Hermes Constance), they’re both just to beautiful & very classic.

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Beautifully written and thought-provoking varvara… I can’t add much more than what has already been said below…. I also have never been much of a Chanel girl, their bags are just not my style (except maybe some of the boy bags have recently caught my eye). But this is definitely a hot topic and great discussion!

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I am really really sorry for what i am about to say because i know what Hermes means and the quality they offer, but i don’t like them :( Even though i am a purse addict, lover and enthusiast, i am more in to more fresh and modern bags. That is just my style though i do appreciate their quality but never wanted one. :(

  • Pursebop
    The WonderlustStyle you do not need to need to be sorry for expressing your opinion. BopTalk is open for us to share with one another, it does not mean we all must agree or conform. I appreciate you speaking your heart.
  • The WonderlustStyle
    Thank you! It is just my personal taste. ;)
  • varvara
    Hello, my dear. I absolutely understand. No question here at all! xoxo
  • LeOrangeBliss
    Don’t be sorry at all wonderluststyle! The beauty of different brands is that they all appeal to different people and different styles! I am the exact opposite in that Chanel bags, especially the novelty bags, have never appealed to me… I can appreciate them on others, but I would never buy one myself. As I’ve gotten older, I find myself going for the really boring, classic bags.
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Hermes is definitely number one for me, but Chanel fills the shopping void whilst I am waiting for Hermes to call!

  • varvara
    This is so witty and honest. You go girl :-)
  • Pursebop
    girl I would not have understood this statement a couple of years ago, but now I totally admit I do ? I cannot buy any more classic flap colors, and now I yearn for the novelty runway pieces but their prices at 15-20K make me question just how many?
  • Stylish Sheba
    I agree Pursebop, the prices for Chanel runway are outrageous, especially seeing as it’s not like you are even getting an exotic leather for it. And it is a lot of money to spend simply to pass the time whilst you are waiting to be given the “chance” to spend $11,000 with another brand!
  • LeOrangeBliss
    LOL so funny!!!! And true!
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I think that, at least for now Hermès still has the 1st position. But it´s true that it has lost it´s exclusiveness…sometimes I even find myself wondering if this is one of the reasons that suddenly Delvaux has become so big (since there is still no Delvaux stores in the US and all). Plus, CC has gone crazy with the prices of limited edition bags which cost twice the price of a Birkin… but still, for me, whenever I see someone sporting an H piece I still go “woooow, an Hermès!!!!!”

  • varvara
    Thank you for your comment on this topic. The loss of exclusivity is, indeed, the biggest problem of Hermés, whether we want to admit it or not. Not many H owners are impressed with the fact that trillions so to speak others are carrying THAT SPECIAL and UNOBTAINABLE bag. When the truth is, you can easily get a Birkin or Kelly these days. Just how many are there only on IG (many are fake, but majority is REAL). The brand did a mistake by doubling the production and with their selling policy (there are many more serious problems there) and now faces some unpleasant facts, which will take some years and a good tactic to overturn. My guess is more players will come into this game, Delvaux, as you mentioned, being just one of them.
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I love the effort Hermes makes towards quality, and they do have more eccentric things in their collections…however something about them for me is a little stale? they are due for a change in my opinion…but I don’t think chanel is rising above it either

  • varvara
    Hi dear “fashionistawearsprada”. Hermés is a true testimony to a brand that strives on quality instead of quantity. Their main problem is the fact that they want to stick to tradition (materials, craftsmanship, cuts and shapes) which works with some of the merchandise (Birkin, Kelly, Constance, the Silks and Shawls, some shoes) and does not with others (some bags, but Prét-a-porter mainly). Their p-a-p has been a hard ball to juggle for them for years now- there were many designers trying to handle this problem in a best possible way: Which is both trying to stick to the core philosophy of the house and at the same time opening it up more to a bigger chunk of consumers. Some attempts were more successful than others, but all basically failed. I personally loved Lemaire the most, but truth is, with his clean and minimalist approach, the collections were no sell-outs and not for everyone. Chanel is a bit of a different story- some of their p-a-p is absolutely “tacky” and unwearable, but a portion of it is irresistible, typical Chanel: timeless, chic and just cool. The advantage here (Chanel vs Hermés) is the quantity of merchandise and number of collections. This speaks in Chanel’s favor..
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The price issue became apparent to me with PurseBops blog features of the prices of bags here in the USA vs. Europe. Here in the US a Birkin or Kelly are still considerably more expensive than a classic flap. In fact last I checked even a Jypsiere was $8,500. As for special edition pieces, Chanel has gone bonkers with pricing. The new brasserie clutches are nearly 20K. I think Hermes has opened up the doors to criticism because now a days it seems everyone that really wants a B can have one. It was not like that when I bought my first one 10 years ago. I miss the exclusivity of it all. Now you can only be exclusive with a Himalayan B :(

  • varvara
    BirkinBabe, yes. You named the problem. I said this in other reply a short while ago and will say it again: The Loss of exclusivity and hard obtainability of those bags is a problem. Production went bonkers (hence the problems with leather-smell and decrease of quality of materials and craftsmanship) and reselling went bonkers too. Very bad scenario. Results we see. Which, saddens me – as I was and still am a Hermés aficionado and has been and still am a client there.
  • pinkblondebrunette
    I agree too. And even the Hima…how many of those have we seen popping up? Still one of my fav bags though
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Regardless the prices they are totally different bags, I love both and they are both needed in any collection, I don’t like Chanel quality lately.

  • varvara
    Hi Mademoiselle. I very much agree. Both brands have different products and both are needed in any good collection. Unfortunately, Hermés has been having quality issues lately too due to a dramatic production increase. Not only with handbags and SLGs but also silks and cashmere.
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It may be my bias, but I feel like Chanel does have a fresher, younger appeal and is more accessible. Hermes is not striving for those things, which is not better or worse. They try to remain loyal to their sophisticated vibe, and so I feel like a more hyped up reputation or position won’t matter to them.

  • varvara
    You know, maybe I am a bit daring right now, but I truly think figures speak. I LOVE Hermés and it is really true, I do. For years and years I was buying the bags and all agenda and not because I HAD TO but because I REALLY WANTED TO. But- I feel, the house is slowly losing its exceptionality, its CORE. And what DEFINED it. They made a few “items” comparing to Chanel and other brands, but yet it was so demure and uber-sophistictated. It is really hard for me to put into words, but for me- Hermés really needs to go back to their roots OR change its philosophy significantly. It is no longer what it used to be, though I (and many, many, maaaaaany fellow aficionados) love it now and forever….
  • pinkblondebrunette
    I agree to a majority of what you say. I too have been with H for quite some time and now find myself definitely more interested in other bags brand options as well. I find that a healthy closet is filled with various brands of various levels and functions. One does not need to limit to one designer. However, while Chanel quality has become questionable, so too has Hermes (recall the skunk issue?) and hence I feel every brand will face its challenges at some time and it was H’s “time” to be tested. Regardless, I still love the items (much like you love it too) but I agree. H is DEFINITELY not EXCLUSIVE at all. It may come across silly what I am going to say but carrying a K or B doesnt account for “much” bag status wise anymore. I think that is why we see an upswing of people at least trying to “step it up a notch” by buying K and B’s in exotic skins.
  • varvara
    Amazing post, PinkBlondeBrunette. I must agree. I recently had a “moment” where I felt almost funny carrying a B or a K, though I love my bags to pieces. I felt I am too “mainstream” too much “in”. May sound silly too, but that is how I felt. That was also the time when I rested my bags for a while, carrying more of Chanel and Lanvin. As per H “exotics”- market flooded with those too. I think I see radio of 50/50 exotic/normal skin H bags lately- maybe it is just that I “move” in certain places, but still….
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I don’t think so . . . To me, Hermes remains the premier brand. Chanel is much more accessible and there’s been a lot of weird stuff lately (cough, cough, girl bag).

  • BoyWithTheBag
    LOL wait.. you’re telling me the girl bag wasn’t an April Fools joke!?
  • varvara
    OMG…. THE girl bag…. But- again, Chanel is a totally different story with the variety of merchandise- let us not forget they have a very successful P-A-P range, which, Hermés, has been struggling with for many years and for many different reasons. Even Hermés’ nag line is very limited compared to Chanel, hence- even THE Girl bag (cough cough LOL) has its place within the specific collection. As per accessibility- even Chanel is changing. Just try to get a Medium boy bag w GHW- or a rectangle mini- or some special limited coll. pieces. Not so easy anymore. Or hidden away for VIP clients or pre-orders. It was not always like it. Like it was not to see resellers market literally FLOODED with H bags….
  • PatiEv
    StyledGuy, your comments are the best hahahaha I also though it was a April´s fools joke
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Great topic! I’m able to give my, almost completely, unbiased thoughts here. :)

Judging from the Chanel bags that Pursebop shares and my IG friends showcase, Chanel is truly branching out in the right direction. Everywhere you look there is lots of fun, unique, sometimes crazy and – obviously – beautifully crafted bags. It even seems like Dior and some other designers are now imitating the formula since it clearly works wonders.

Hermés has pretty much stuck to what they know.. and that’s not a bad thing. Their bags still remain a mystery to the masses. Elegant, mysteries, alluring – like a unicorn. That has worked for many years, but it seems like each year you see more B’s and K’s. So, the concept of not being able to catch a “unicorn” when there are SO many out in the field.. it’s more frustrating than encouraging.

With any business change is crucial. It’s a make or break point. It will be exciting to see how Hermés handles change – which is inevitable, unless they want to become dated. I remember a few years back Chanel’s president said something along the lines of “To wear Chanel, you need to try it on in person.. we won’t sell Chanel online because it will not offer the type of service we want to give.” Now Chanel bags etc. will be available online in the near future.

  • lovexoxo
    I ditto your thoughts StyledGuy. Need I say more?
  • Pursebop
    StyledGuy you share a very thought provoking reply ? I am still contemplating…
  • varvara
    Such a sophisticated response- and objective too! With your comment, we see so many things emerging- Hermés being kind of “stalled” at the moment and Chanel moving forward and exploring itself- taking the advantage of the current market scenario… I think we simply need to look at it sans the personal feelings and attachments to a specific brand and just feel the vibe. I, personally, feel the vibe is changing. Which is not so easy for me, mind you I was STRICTLY a Hermés girl for a longer time… And time again will tell :-)
  • hotsauce
    i agree styledguy! i think the unicorn is the perfect analogy….enigmatic, unattainable, the stuff of dreams. i would bet that they change their distribution channels (online?) before they change their iconic style
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