The tastes of women concerning handbags and purses have changed tremendously over the years (Huey, 2009). The uses of handbags and purses have also changed with time in society. The emergence of bags dates back to ancient Egypt in which people carried pouches around their waists. These pouches were decorated with embroidery and were used to carry personal items such as jewelry. They also served as a status symbol among the elite of the society (Steele, 1999). Handbags became more popular in the 16th century in which they were mainly used as travelers’ companions (Cox, 2007). They had little use for fashion or symbols of status. In the 17th century the use of bags as travelers’ companions became more popular. However, in this period the bags were more decorated with embroidery. Consequently they were also used as fashion artifacts among women.
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In the 18th century, the fashion focus shifted to clothes (Cox, 2007). In this period women used bigger purses to accessorize their clothes in order to look fashionable. The purse was also used for carrying personal items. The purse became handbags in the 1990s when designers included a hand-held handle on them. This analysis shows how women’s preferences for hand bags change over time. Previous research work on fashion trends with handbags shows that changes in women’s taste on handbags are likely to continue in the foreseeable future (Cox, 2007). These changes are informed by the perceived role of handbags in the lifestyle of women. Toady, hand bags are considered as the friendliest aids to women.
These rapid changes in women’s preferences on handbags have necessitated innovation in terms of design and manufacture of handbags and purses (Steele, 1999). This means that the designers and manufacturers of handbags must understand the needs of the women in order to produce products that are relevant in the market. This will not only help in satisfying the demands of the bag users but will also help in keeping the bag designers in business. An investigation on various fashion and design databases and the internet has revealed a lack of information in the following areas.
- Information on the specific likes and dislikes of women concerning handbags and purses.
- Recommendation of potential designs of handbags that can meet the expectation of women.
- The strategies of incorporating the preferences of women concerning handbags in the design and manufacturing process.
Therefore it is important to conduct a research study to address the above issues. The findings of the research will help the designers to produce the ideal bag that meets the expectation of women, despite the continuous changes in their preferences. This research proposal seeks to highlight the strategies, methods, theoretical perspective and the methodology that can be used to facilitate research work on the above issues.
In order to achieve the above objective, the research will answer the following questions.
- What do women consider to be an ideal bag?
In order to answer this question fully and to widen the scope of the research, the following sub-questions will be answered.
- What factors determine the selection of a handbag or purse?
- What is the inter-relationship between handbags and women in society?
- To what extent are designers able to produce handbags that meet the expectation of women?
These questions will be addressed by adopting the theory of fast fashion in the research due to the commercial perspective of the research problem.
Cultural changes in various parts of the world will continue to influence consumer purchases in the fashion industry especially in relation to handbags and purses (Huey, 2009). Traditionally, the consumer choices such as the purchase of handbags have mainly been determined by peer influence. In the modern world efficient communication technologies have made it possible to share information concerning latest trends in fashion. This means that the changes in women’s preferences are likely to be more rapid than in the previous centuries. For example, an advert showing a celebrity carrying a particular handbag would instantly change the preferences of most women. This is because they will consider the bag in the advert to be the best and most fashionable (Huey, 2009).
It is thus apparent that a research study should be carried out to not only help in describing what women consider as ideal handbags, but also explains the factors that inform their choice of such ideal handbags. A research study that investigates the relationship between handbags and women will help in developing a theoretical framework that helps the designers to understand the expectation of women on what a good handbag should be. The research also investigates the extent to which designers are able to meet the expectations of women. This analysis will help in restructuring the design process by incorporating the views of women concerning handbags. This is achieved through feedback obtained from the handbag users.
Preliminary investigations on various databases, RMIT library and Google searches shows that very little research work has been done on the above topics. Previous academic research work conducted on the above topics appears to be broad. Most of the studies address the fashion industry as a whole rather than focusing on handbags and purses. Besides, most of the studies were done as early as 30 years ago and thus cannot provide insights on current trends in fashions. The books that contain information relating to strategies that can be used by designers to incorporate the needs of women in their designs are mainly based on opinion. The recommend strategies in these books are therefore personal suggestions that are not backed with empirical evidence through research.
Investigations on earlier research works also identified fashion journals that had information on fashion trends on handbags and purses. The journals indicate the various handbags that are highly preferred by women and the uses of such handbags. However, these sources do not explain the factors that inform the preferences of women when buying or selecting handbags. They fail to give a link between the type of a bag and the user’s preference (Steele, 1999). The journals also give details on the various functions or roles that are played by handbags and how they shape the lifestyle of women. However, they fail to explain the social and psychological perspective of the relationship of handbags and their users. Finally, several books were found to have been published on the strategies that can be adopted by designers and manufacturers to improve the quality of their designs in order to meet the expectations of consumers (Cox, 2007). The main problem associated with these books is that most of them are broad. They mainly address the fashion industry as whole. Besides, none of their research works were done in the context of handbags.
The information to be collected in this research will help in making innovations in the fashion industry with emphasis on handbags and purses. It will help the designers realize the importance of incorporating women’s views on handbags in their designs. Consequently, the designers will be able to produce the ideal handbag that is fashionable, and affordable to majority of women. The research findings will also help the designers to understand the relationship between women and their handbags. Understanding this relationship will help them in designing quality handbags despite the rapid changes in customer tastes over time. The women on the other hand will be able to get value for their money spent on handbags since the designers shall have taken into account their views while designing the handbags. It is for these reasons that an academic research on this topic will be valuable as a current source of information that is not biased and can be used by the handbag designers to improve their designs.
Fast fashion theory is a business concept that seeks to minimize the various process involved in buying (Gaynor, 2006). This theoretical perspective is adapted in this research due to the commercial perspective of the research problem. In the fashion industry this concept helps in linking the needs of the customers to the production units to ensure timely availability of latest fashions. This theoretical perspective will guide the research in several ways. First, this theory considers individuality as the main factor that influences consumers’ choices on various fashion designs especially handbag (Gaynor, 2006). This means that the consumers are aiming at being the trend setters rather than followers of trends. The increased exposure to media information has increased the consumer’s demands in relation to new or latest fashion. This theory will therefore help the researcher to understand the factors that inform the rapid changes in women’s tastes or preferences on handbags.
Second, this theory will be valuable in guiding the research due to the researcher’s connection and experience in the fashion industry. Thus the researcher has an in-depth knowledge of how the concept of fast fashion is used to explain the trends in fashion in the society. This can be applied in the context of women and their choice of handbags in order to determine the relationship between them and their handbags. Third, this theory will help the researcher to grasp the experience of manufacturers, retailers and designers of handbags in responding to fashion trends (Gaynor, 2006). Fashion trends are mainly shaped by culture, especially what is observed on television, lifestyle hotspots and what is happening on the streets. These cultures can change at any time in the society (Gaynor, 2006). When the culture change, the influence it has on the population also changes. This means that a culture change will cause a change in preferences of handbags and purses. However, the changes in culture cannot be easily predicted with accuracy. This means that the emerging trends in handbags cannot be predicted with ease (Gaynor, 2006). Consequently, the only option available to the manufacturers and retailers in meeting the demands of consumers is to reduce the lead time. This basically explains the role of the concept of fast fashion.
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Therefore the concept of fast fashion will help the researcher to develop questions or hypotheses that would be used to evaluate the ability of the designers to design handbags that meet the expectation of women. The suitability of fast fashion is also based on the fact that the topic has sociological and historical perspective (Gaynor, 2006). This will make it necessary to examine how the previous changes in fashion trend on bags were handled by the retailers and the designers. An investigation of these case studies help in understanding possible options of responding to women’s demands on new fashions especial on handbags. Interpretivism will be used as a secondary theoretical perspective. It deals with the interpretation of meanings. In complementing fast fashion, interpretivism will be used to relate the findings of the above case studies to the future handbag fashion trends. While fast fashion enhances understanding of the relationship between handbags, their users and their designers, interpretavism helps in explaining the findings of the research.
There are two methodologies that would be used in this research study namely content analysis and reflective approach. These two methodologies will complement each other and will be used consistently throughout the research study. They will thus be applied in all stages of the research including data collection and interpretation of the research findings. Additional methodologies will be applied in the research if need be. The application of additional methodologies will be meant to complement the above two. The application of additional methodologies will thus be informed by the availability of resources and unforeseeable risks that may render the above methodologies less productive.
Content analysis will form the major part of the research study. This is because the study seeks to use secondary sources of information to answer the research questions. This means that the researcher will identify the relevant material such as journals, books and databases with information on the research topic. A careful analysis of the content of these materials will help in answering the sub-questions that relate to the factors that determine the selection of handbags. The information gathered form the secondary sources will be used in formulating questions that are to be answered while verifying the validity of the information gathered from the secondary sources.
Reflective approach will be sued since this is an action research. It is an actions-research on the ground that it aims at changing the fashion industry by providing information that will help the designers to meet consumers’ expectations. It also helps in enhancing the understanding of women’s perspective of a good handbag. Reflection refers to the series of activities involved in the process of thinking which include doubting of facts and need for evidence. This thus calls for verification of facts in order to address the doubt. Reflection generally relates to understanding how things or events occur and the causes of such events. It is thus an important approach that will be used in this study to investigate how the designers of handbags cope with rapid changes in customer preferences.
Data Collection Methods
The data need for the research will be collected through content analysis, and surveys (Gouri, 2009). Content analysis will involve evaluation of the relevant text concerning fashion and handbags. These will be both print and electronic texts which include books, journals, WebPages and fashion databases. The information from these sources will be used to answer the research questions as discussed above. The complexity of the research topic makes it necessary to conduct interviews in order to obtain fast hand information on various aspects of the research topic. Such information will include personal preferences in the choice of bags which might not be readily available in the above texts.
The data to be collected are conceptualized in three categories or variables that are measurable (Gouri, 2009). The data on the designers’ ability to meet handbag user’s expectation will be conceptualized as competence. The data on the relationship between women and their handbags will be conceptualized as relationships. The data on factors that influence the choice of handbags among women will be conceptualized as determinants. The specific indicators to be measured for each category are as follows. Indicators of competence to be measured include, mechanisms used by designers to incorporate women’s views in their designs, time taken to unveil new designs and the skills of the designers used in designing. Measurements for relationship will include roles of handbags and women’s perspective on handbags. For determinants the measures will include characteristics of a good bag, individual preferences, prices of handbags and sociological perspective on handbags. The secondary data sources will include journals, books, reports on previous research studies and internet sources. The primary sources of data will include designers’ sales inventories, designers’ resumes and completed surveys.
The participants in this study include designers and women who use handbags and their participation will be varied. A random approach will be used to select the designers and women who will participate in the study (Gouri, 2009). This is meant to give all of the equal opportunity to be selected to participate in the study. The number of participants per region will depend on the population size. Other factors that will determine the sampling criteria include availability of resources and timeline.
The surveys will be administered directly to the participants to collect the needed information. In cases whereby the participants cannot complete the surveys, the researcher will use oral interviews to gather data. The interview will consist of both structured and unstructured questions. The data collected in the surveys and interviews will answer the questions raised during content analysis (Gouri, 2009). In evaluating the competence of the designers, two case studies will be presented in the research. Resumes of participating designers will be collected and assessed by the researcher based on predetermined benchmarks. A follow up will then be done after one and a half years to keep track of their skills as designers. The analysis of the data will involve the use of statistical methods such as ANOVAs and Chi squares (Gouri, 2009). The results of the analysis will be presented with the aid of statistical tools such as graphs, charts and averages.
The research study will be conducted in a period of two and a half years. While a much longer period seems to be ideal in designing the research, conducting it and evaluating its findings, the changes in the fashion industry are so rapid. Thus the relatively shorter period of two and a half years would be best in conducting the study in the context of the same fashion trends in handbags. The research activities are scheduled as follows:
- Content analysis of secondary sources- 2 months
- Conducting interviews and surveys- 3 months
- Conducting case studies- 4 months
- Follow up on designers’ skills- 1 year
- Evaluation and analysis- 2 months
The validity of the research will be determined by following the case studies on the skills of the designers. It will also be validated by the comparisons of information obtained through interviews and those obtained during content analysis. Bias in sampling will be avoided by using random selection approach. The surveys will be reviewed to ensure that no lead questions are included. Only key informants will be interviewed to ensure that the data gathered is reliable and reflects the true position of the fashion industry.
The preferences of women on handbags change rapidly in society. These changes began with the emergence of early porches and continue to be witnessed in modern society. The handbag designers have had to adjust their designs from time to time in order to match the constantly changing preferences on handbags. This challenge has necessitated an academic research work on the topic of handbags. The main research question relates to what women consider to be a good handbag. The aim of the research is to change the handbag industry by helping the designers to understand the needs of women in relation to handbags. This will help in the production of the ideal handbag that not only meets the expectation of women, but is also affordable. The research study is guided by the theory of fast fashion. Reflective practice and content analysis are used as the research’s methodology. Data collection methods include interviews and surveys.
Cox, C. (2007). Bags:an illustrated history. London: Aurum.
Gaynor, L.-G. (2006). Fast fashion. New York: Emerald Group Publishing.
Gouri, B. (2009). Statistics: principles and Methods. New York: John Wiley and Sons.
Huey, S. (2009). Bag. London: Laurence King Editions.
Steele, V. (1999). Bags. London: Scripture Editions.