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Why is the Michael Kors bag a status symbol in the Pakistani upper middle class?

Why is the Michael Kors bag a status symbol in the Pakistani upper middle class?


Over the past couple of years, the Pakistani upper middle class has regarded the Michael Kors bag as a status symbol. A symbol of increasing wealth, prosperity and more importantly, a symbol that says: we’ve made it, we’re one of you.

An MK tote is to an upper middle class Pakistani what an Hermès Birkin is to the elite. 

Before the iconic studded and monogrammed bag became commonplace due to people buying them in sales abroad and easy access to good quality knockoffs, the MK bag was blazing a hot trail through Pakistan’s upper middle class. 

The surprising fact is, the store didn’t have a store in the country where it was the talk of the town.

While Michael Kors boasts more than 900 stores worldwide, it hadn’t launched officially in Pakistan. But in the 2010s, the number of people carrying MK’s latest bags was quickly surpassing those who were dubbed as the have-nots. 

Handbags have long been a status symbol, and with Michael Kors offering of affordable luxury, owning a bag from the brand almost became a right of passage for entry into the exclusive club of the upper middle class.

Stories have been told about trucks loaded with designer handbags carted off to Faisalabad and Gujranwala, with purchases of more than PKR 2,000,000 reported at a single household. 

In society, people are always on the search for like-minded people, but in Pakistan’s upper middle classes, like-mindedness was swiftly replaced with financial worth. People wanted to be seen with the ‘right‘ crowd, and somehow, the Michael Kors bag ended up embodying what ‘right‘ was: class, sophistication and exclusivity.

Social media fed into this craze, those who had an MK bag made sure the have-nots were well aware of their prosperity: instead of setting their handbags on the floor, they were perched in full view on tabletops, placed centre-stage in photographs and talked about endlessly in social gatherings. 

What started with MK soon rang true for every other brand that denoted money and exclusivity: women of means coveted the latest and most expensive lawn release from Sana Safinaz, brides who wore the most expensive wedding dressed where touted to have achieved the impossible and those who saw more to life than its material aspects were regarded as outcasts. 

But what was the ‘it bag’ of the 2010s is now regarded as ‘commonplace’. The ‘it bags’ of today are much more exclusive, come with a much higher price tag and can still break your bank. But one thing is still the same, handbags still continue to be perceived as a symbol of wealth and prosperity-that is a trend which will not change any time soon.

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