Lest anyone think the $500 Dunhill clutch with dual bronze zippers belonged to his wife, he proudly explained how his business cards, cash and two cellphones fit neatly into its buttery leather interior. "It's crucial for business," said Zhang, who chose the chocolate-colored bag because he thought it was stylish without being flashy. "It shows I have good taste."That's debatable, considering Zhang wore his hair in a cotton candy pouf. What's clear is that the designer handbag, long a fashion staple for stylish women worldwide, has become a status symbol for upwardly mobile men in China.At business meetings and social events across China these days, many of the Prada, Louis Vuitton and Burberry bags are being toted by the fellows in the crowd.
Wang Zhongzhu, a 42-year-old insurance executive, wouldn't dream of networking without his $1,000 leather Dunhill slung over his shoulder. He said the creamy brown mini-messenger bag sends a message that he appreciates — and can afford — fine accessories."It's a way of representing where you stand," Wang said. "It makes people think you could potentially work for a big company."
Designed for men, many of these guy purses often known as shou bao in Mandarin would be right at home in the women's handbag section of an upscale department store. Popular styles include the oversize wallet with wraparound zippers like Zhang's and the embossed leather Coach handbag with the slinky shoulder strap and handles. Colors trend toward solid brown, black and gray. But some fashion-forward gents don't mind showing a little flash: Burberry plaid, Gucci's interlocking GG pattern or Louis Vuitton's distinct LV monogram.
Luxury leather goods makers can't believe their luck: Both sexes in the world's most populous country adore purses.Men represent 45% of the $1.2-billion market for all luxury handbags in China, according to Victor Luis, president of Coach Retail International. That figure is just 7% in the U.S. "China is a...
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