While most consumers aren't returning to their pre-recession shopping patterns, there has been a rebound in luxury spending lately. Ultra affluent shoppers, who were never really affected by the downturn to begin with, have started to come out of hiding. Other well-heeled shoppers have started to gain confidence because of their rebounding stock portfolios and the return of the fat bonus check.
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According to a MasterCard Advisors' SpendingPulse, a monthly report that tracks consumer spending, the luxury category saw a 15 percent increase in sales in February over the same period in 2009. This built on the momentum from January when there was an 8 percent increase on luxury spending over January 2009. Buyers are coming back, albeit with the battle scars of the recession and perhaps, a little more subdued than before: Today's luxury shopper is discreet, expects her purchases to be unique and is only splurging on particularly special items. And the price tags? Think big. Think really big!
The It Bag
The ladylike Miss Viv by Roger Vivier is the surprise "it" bag of the season. Surprising because it's devoid of logos and it looks more like an heirloom than a showy, must-have item. Bruno Frisoni, the artistic director for the accessories house was inspired by French first lady Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, who carried the bag for France's official Bastille Day celebrations last year.
Roger Vivier Miss Viv in lime, $13,000, rogervivier.com
For aspirational consumers there are $400 sunglasses from brands like Chanel and Tom Ford. That investment can be a hard enough pill to swallow considering how easy it is to lose sunglasses. But for the true luxury consumer there are Sama's diamond-encrusted sunglasses. Two pairs were sold last month at Ilori's Las Vegas CityCenter store, proving that affluent shoppers are once again indulging. Let's just hope whoever bought them doesn't lose them right away.
Limited edition Sama Pyramid of Diamonds sunglasses, $25,000, Ilori.com
The "Chandelier" Shoe
Prada's Lucite shoes with crystal detailing, dubbed the "chandelier" shoe, made waves on the runway at the spring 2010 show in Milan last September. Many of its incarnations, with price tags from $800 to $1,800, sold out before they hit the sales floor.
Prada Lucite mules, $1,200, prada.com
The Ear Candy
Heiress turned mogul Ivanka Trump's fine jewelry collection, which launched in 2006, is classic with modern twists. Pieces range $450 to $2 million. She's found success appealing to the self-purchaser--women who buy for themselves.
Ivanka Trump Fine Jewelry 18K white gold medium signature oval pave diamond drop earrings, $10,500, ivankatrumpcollection.com
Christophe Decarnin, who designs $1,500 T-shirts and $3,000 jeans for the storied French fashion house Balmain, is the surprise success story of the recession. Ultra affluent shoppers from Tokyo to London are clamoring for his clothes, with no concern for price.
Balmain cotton canvas studded military blazer, $6,225, balmain.com