The next time you visit a department store, head over to the luxury-goods section, stop in front of a leather bag by Louis Vuitton or Gucci, and just reach out and touch it.

That's right. Don't be bashful -- fondle it. Run your fingers over the gently textured surface, through the alphabetic landscape of L's interlocking with V's or entwined G's. Pick the bag up. You'll sense that firmness that comes with careful stitching and top-quality materials, and yet discover that the bag is remarkably light to carry.

Now (and here you may want to check that the shop clerk isn't watching) open the bag wide, hold it to your face and, yes, inhale the scent of authentic animal hide. Bask in the luxury, because there's nothing quite like the feel of a superbly crafted fashion accessory designed at a world-famous studio in Paris, London, New York or Milan.