Ugly Purse, $52,500. . .and, as Cartman would say, ‘You Can’t Have It!’

The today’s Washington Post carries an interesting story about the Louis Vuitton Tribute Patchwork bag. As you see from the picture, the bag is ugly, and at $52,500 (yes, really) it’s one of the most expensive in the world. Nonetheless, there’s a lot of buzz about the bag and only 25 will be sold in the entire world.

The Post article, implicitly, makes an important point: when everybody has the luxury goods that Michael Silverstein and Neil Fiske call “masstige” products (i.e. luxury goods that enormous numbers of people can afford), then a certain segment of the very rich or very brand obsessed wants even more expensive stuff that’s truly exclusive. Japanese marketers have practiced this for years in their brand and novelty-obsessed home market but only recently does it seem to be spreading to North America. The lack of large discount retailers, extreme cultural brand awareness, and continued reliance on traditional service-heavy department stores, however, means that only limited channels and opportunities exist for knockoffs. Here, however, how long will it be before a pretty good copy of this bag shows up at Target for $40.00? My guess, except for products that can’t really be copied, this trend isn’t going to catch on all that big in the U.S.