Why are handmade bags so expensive?

Posted by David Money on

Why are handmade bags so expensive?


People often wonder why handmade goods are so expensive.

When the question is asked, I’m sure several more questions come to mind in self-response.

Are the expensive designer bags the result of greedy companies looking to price gouge unsuspecting customers who’ve been taught to associate high price with quality?

Are the luxury bags the same as the cheap bags with just a higher price slapped on them?

These are all fair questions inseparably linked to a topic that deserves thorough examination and explanation.

In this article, we will look at the primary factors that drive up the cost of handmade bags. After reading this article you will be a bit more informed, and hopefully considerably more comfortable as you consider your next bag purchase.


The materials used.

With American Layers, the materials used aren’t always plentiful and readily available.

We start with full grain leather hides, dyed and finished to our specifications. It can take between six and ten weeks to receive our leather from the tannery. Because leather is a natural product, harvested directly from an animal, with all its imperfections, most times the entire hide is not usable.

Crafters must strategically work their way around skin blemishes, cattle brands, and bellies and wrinkles. The bellies are often too soft to work with or the texture and look vary too greatly from the best parts of the hide. They’d make a bad match, so we are forced to scrap those pieces or use them to construct smaller accessories, where possible.


In most cases American Layers seeks to use as much natural material as possible. Surprisingly, it isn’t always easy to find the textiles we want, at the desired quantity, for a low price. Some of the tweeds and wools are closeouts. We’ve also ordered the perfect tartans from the UK.

For this reason, we are happy to pay a premium for textiles, if it means we get to construct a handmade bag that someone will love.


The time it takes to construct the bag.

Because of the intricate and unique bag designs we produce; a bag could take from four to ten hours to construct. However, because quality is so important, the bags aren’t usually made in one sitting. It’s sometimes better to take a break and resume bag construction the following day. While this stop and go method helps us construct bags of the highest integrity, it simply does not allow us to sell said items at what some would consider moderate or discount prices. If you’re familiar with the mantra “time is money” I want to inform you that it certainly applies in instances such as ours. If it takes a while to construct a bag sound business practice dictates that we charge appropriately for the time under construction.


The limited availability

When it comes to handmade bags and totes, exclusivity and luxury are quickly associated with Established world-renowned heritage brands, who employ large teams of artisans and have budgets and resources to easily construct anything they dream of.

Now, think of a small one- or two-person shop, with an artisan who in addition to wearing several other hats could very well also be the owner.

There is no doubt that such a team could create and construct wonderful bags, but production volume would be limited to the capabilities of those four gifted hands.

Because the bags are all small batch handmade items. The production numbers are extremely low compared to mainstream high end bag makers and fashion houses you’re probably familiar with. So, by the very nature of our small business, the bags are actually more exclusive than Mass produced bags and bags made by companies such as Gucci, Luis Vuitton etc. Because of the scarcity, the bags must be sold at a premium price to ensure that all company expenses are covered.


The time and thought that goes into design and planning.

Even though the production runs are small and sometimes one-of-a-kind, the same design and planning phase dedicated to larger runs is still necessary to ensure that the actual construction with go smoothly.

This means that sometimes sample or test bags are made before the actual production run.

We use lower cost materials during these test builds, when possible, but there is still time and material cost associated with this phase of pre-production.

Great care is also taken to make sure the bag has balanced, well thought out design. This aspect doesn’t necessarily carry an excessive material cost, but there again is the time component. We have literally constructed test and production pieces and then watched and studied them for a few days to make sure that the composition really made sense.

Large companies have the benefit of spreading the cost of research and development over thousands of production pieces.  While a small company such as American Layers must present with the same refinement with fewer design iterations spread over a much smaller production run, micro runs if you will.


Marketing and advertising

And of course, we must consider the marketing costs associated with high end products. It takes money to craft marketing materials such as photographs and commercials. Once the marketing materials are prepared, we must pay to get our handmade bags in front of people who will find them useful and interesting. Such placements could include traditional television, radio, and print advertisements, or video commercials, delivered via social media.

Companies like ours might even participate in live events providing people and opportunity to see the bags in person and meet the artisans, owners, and company representatives behind it all.

The cost of event participation might include travel, shipping inventory, lodging, and participation fees. Yes, even this sort of off-site activity must be factored into the retail price of a handmade bag.


These were some of the things I thought of when considering why hand made bags are sold at a high price in comparison to mass produced bags. In short, it’s the materials used, specialized construction processes, scarcity, design and planning, and marketing costs. When these things are done with integrity and care, you wind with a bag that truly is special, not a run of the mill item with a high price slapped on it.

As you consider your next purchase or ask yourself if your past bag purchases were worth it, I hope you’re able to consider a few of the points listed in this article and feel confident about your decision.