Friday, April 29, 2011

China - the country of designer bags

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Living in Canberra, a small town trapped in the body of a city, I've always been grateful for the opportunity to be inspired by the ever more stylish Chinese international students that make up a sizable percentage of the 360,000 population. Only in the space of the past 5 years, China has spawned a new bourgeoisie, who, having succeeded in making bucket loads of money on the backs of get rich quick schemes that worked, now turned their attention to spending it. Everywhere I looked, girls were wearing designer bags. A few years ago, the default position was, it comes from China - it's fake.

Not so these days. The tables have turned. While western girls are travelling to Asia to pick up their fake Gucci's, Chinese girls are out in the west buying the real thing directly from the boutique.

I couldn't help but look back to the the China I knew: the rundown country where no one owned an automobile, three bedroom apartments were leased out on a one family per room basis, and milk was only available by delivery in little plastic satchels - the China that my parents escaped so that they had a chance to build a better life. Now, those people who couldn't get out of China have the last laugh. This is new China, and no one is thinking of leaving - that is, with the exception of university students being sent abroad on their parent's wealth.

On a visit to my hairdresser last month, I was looking at pictures in a Chinese tabloid and an article caught my eye. All I could see were picture after picture of women carrying Hermes Birkin's. The captions listed who these women were and just how much the Birkins cost them. My hairdresser explained, every girl in China has a designer bag now. The designer of choice was of course, Louis Vuitton. At first I didn't believe him. Come on, every girl?? He insisted that even the poor girls were living for months on instant noodles just to save up for a bag, and not just one bag - a girl had to keep her wardrobe up to date.

Discussing this with my house mate, a (way too) pretty and trendy Chinese international student, she explained that all her friends were multi-Louis-Vuitton-ares. She said it's not about fashion, but status. While in China, the parents were buying luxury cars to peeve off their peers, they are sending money to their kids overseas to buy designer bags. These girls can get up to 5 new Louis Vuitton bags a year. And it's like nothing to them, my house mate explained. When a friend of theirs bought a new LV bag, her friend would complaint to her parents and get one too. Such a culture seemed even more outlandish considering that the Chinese Yuen is 6 to an Australian dollar.

I wondered if this phenomenon had been noticed by anyone else. One Google search on 'Chinese girl LV bag' turned up this article.

Female Chinese Soldiers were snapped while travelling with complete sets of LV luggage and handbags. They look so cute too! I never knew that soldiers were paid enough to buy designer bags, but then again, I would be the first to admit, it's really not about can or should when it comes to a girl's wardrobe.


  1. Great post Jay! I agree that the rise of China as an economic powerhouse has developed a new generation of wealthy families, where status and power are highly regarded. This has lead to an influx of consumerism, where we see international students arriving in Australia with much more money than their peers. Meanwhile the fakes are now being produced in Vietnam and Thailand now...

  2. This is a great article! It was a really interesting read. I have always thought of China as you did - as a somewhat poorer country when compared to the US. But I guess now that the US economy is declining and the strength of the dollar has weakened, China is slowly starting to catch up. I haven't been to China in more than 11 years, but I wouldn't be surprised to see designer bags everywhere if I took a trip there right now. It seems like many women in Asia put a lot of importance on owning high end bags - I see a lot of this in Japan and Korea as well, or at least from what I've seen in photos and dramas.

  3. I would like to think that the wealthy international students are in the minority, but what I see out on the streets doesn't support this inference >.<.


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