February 25 2011
Lucia van der Post
Once upon a time, when the word “luxury” wasn’t much bandied about, the concept was nevertheless there, fully formed, and what luxury really stood for, back in the early days, was the bespoke, the personal, the one-off. And so it seems that today, when the word “luxury” is so often attached to wannabe brands, the sophisticated customer is looking more and more for something that’s not only precious but also personal.
All the big brands know it – it’s why Hermès has a special department at its flagship store in Paris to handle requests from customers to have bags made in different colours and skins, why Louis Vuitton offers a personalisation service, why Anya Hindmarch long ago offered to put customers’ favourite photographs on the sides of their bags. For women, for whom the handbag is probably their most meaningful accessory, the appeal is obvious.
But there are two niche brands which not all readers will know about – Lana Marks and Analeena – who make some very classic, rather ladylike handbags (which attentive readers will note are very much the mood du jour) and who will customise any of their handbags very easily and simply by each offering more than 100 different skins and colours.
Lana Marks operates rather swishly out of Palm Beach, Florida, while Analeena is a relatively new European brand that is just becoming a little better known. Both specialise in very fine exotic skins – python, crocodile, alligator, ostrich, lizard, as well as calf – and both have them made in fine ateliers in Italy and line them quite beautifully. Lana Marks has more than 150 styles to choose from, while Analeena also has plenty of clutches, pouches, boxy and rectangular shapes (from £4,100).
If I had to define the difference between them, I’d say that the bags I like best from Lana Marks are elegant and classic, while Analeena’s USP could be said to be glamour. Behind the Analeena range is a former buyer at Hermès and it will come as no surprise to learn that Dita von Teese, among many others, is an ardent admirer.
Lana Marks has been a sought-after name by the Palm Beach set for a long time and famously worked with Diana, Princess of Wales, to come up with an extremely elegant vertical alligator handbag in indigo which is now called – of course – the Princess Diana handbag (£10,770). She has her own niche at Harvey Nichols where anybody wanting one of her bags can see a big selection of designs for themselves, ask for the brand manager and then discuss what skins and colours she’d like. It can also all be done online, where a much bigger range of designs can be seen; once you’ve registered your interest, you’ll get a personal call from mission control who will sort you out, although it will take some six to eight weeks before you’re clutching your own. (First picture: Jet tote in green alligator, £12,245.)
Analeena’s bags, famously lined in fine pink lambskin, can be seen, bought and customised at Harrods. I love her sexy, pouchy clutches best of all and they come in gorgeous colours (grass green, for instance) and her bigger ones have eye-popping coloured handles, such as orange lizard skin. Some come with torches (so you can see what’s lurking in them), others have a little compartment for an umbrella. Clutches start at £5,099. (Second picture: Analeena Shopping bag, £9,220.)
And if those aren’t sums you’re accustomed to spending on handbags, take a look at Carolina Herrera’s Andy bag (third picture); named after Andy Warhol, it’s a very useful sort of mini holdall – you can only have it in calfskin but you can choose from 25 colours and have it with or without the leather embossed with CH initials. The smaller size is £335, the larger one £350.