I am often fascinated with the “value” of a brand. I think brands do have value, but it’s really just a question of what premium one is willing to pay for the brand and what you get in return. In a tangible sense, some brands do use better quality materials, professional and artistic craftsmanship, careful attention to detail, leading edge creativity, etc. Then add on the acquisition experience of the shop, staff, packaging, etc. and that adds on a bit more. But more often that not, what people are consciously or unconsciously acquiring is something intangible and harder to value — it is bragging rights, exclusivity and exclusion of others who don’t have it, and “keeping up with the Joneses” or Ramoses, or whomever. I do have some favorite brands, amongst them Apple (since I used their FIRST EVER computer while it was being tested in colleges back in the mid-1980’s), Coca-Cola (since childhood a family favorite, and NEVER Pepsi, thank you), Singapore Airlines (a vestige of business travel eons ago, and now I just can’t afford them in comparison to other carriers), Loro Piana (fantasy more than reality) and Hermès for leather goods, silk scarves and ties (of which some 30+ still hang in my closet untouched for years now)…
So that’s a longwinded way of saying that on a recent jaunt through airport duty free shops, I spotted this bright red leather envelope in the window of Hermès. I like to organize receipts, notes, papers, bills in leather envelopes so this caught my eye. A quick inquiry inside led to the jaw-dropping price quoted at $1,200 or so. At least that’s what I think it was, I was doing currency conversion with severe jet lag. At any rate, I suspect it was definitely over $1,000. Yipes.
Back outside the store, I reached into my bag, pulled one of my leather envelopes and put it up against the window. Not bad for $16, no? Does exactly the same thing, is handcrafted in nice real leather, was actually made by Filipino artisans, and the leather envelopes are monogrammed to boot. These are the colors I happen to use now but I also gave away bright orange ones for Christmas once, though I don’t recall seeing red ones when I purchased these. They were from S.C. Vizcarra, and I have had them for a couple of years now. So yes, I do like brands, but I wouldn’t pay a premium of nearly 80x for something that does exactly the same thing… Did your Lola ever organize her bills in white envelopes that she folded and put in her stiff leather handbag? Mine did. And these envelopes are just the upscale version in leather. She wouldn’t approve of the “waste” of money compared to her white paper envelopes. :)