The interlocking "L" and "V" imprinted on the leather of Louis Vuitton bags are instantly recognizable both to those who can afford to spend thousands of dollars on a handbag and to those who wish they could. For many, that recognition is the reason a Louis Vuitton handbag — or a Fendi or a Gucci or a Henri Bendel — is desirable. For years, it has been an assertion of status, achievement and wealth.
With their bespoke handbag start-up 1 Atelier, two fashion industry veterans, Stephanie Sarka and Frank Zambrelli, are betting that the definition of luxury is evolving, especially for the younger generation.
"When you walk into a room and seven women are wearing your $3,000 handbag, what's rare about that? What's luxurious about something that everyone has? It's not luxurious anymore," says co-founder and creative director Zambrelli.
"[The bag] might be beautifully made and expensive, but it's no longer luxurious. You've ruined it. And I think we've ruined it, as an industry."