STILL GOT ‘IT’?
WHAT was 2O18’s MUST-HAVE BAG? WITH new LABELS BECOMING JUST as COVETED as ESTABLISHED NAMES, the BUSINESS of BAGS is BIGGER THAN EVER, finds CAROLINE LEAPER
Find out what makes an ‘It’ bag in 2018
LOOKING BACK over the past two decades of handbag history, it’s been easy to identify one or two hits each year as ‘It’ bags – the styles that defined a moment. In 1999, it was Prada’s Bowling bag. In 2OO3, Louis Vuitton’s monogram Multicolor. Chloé’s Paddington dominated in 2OO5, while Mulberry’s Alexa, much like the woman it was named after, was suddenly everywhere in 2OO9. Yet there is no clear winner this year. So, what makes an ‘It’ bag in 2O18?
We’ve welcomed dozens of new bag brands on to the market, each with their own distinctive shape – Staud’s Bissett, for instance: a unique cylinder; and Cult Gaia’s semi-circle Ark basket (of which every high-street store has produced its own knock-off). In order to compete with the luxury behemoths, young designers are developing original styles, subsequently flooding our Instagram feeds with a growing fan base of digital denizens.
‘It’s difficult to define one style as being an “It” bag anymore,’ says Cassie Smart, buying manager of shoes and handbags at Matches Fashion. She says that, yes, its best-selling bags are by household names. But sales of styles by newer brands have sky-rocketed: Cult Gaia’s Luna Bamboo and Wandler’s Hortensia are in the top-ten performers, alongside Loewe’s Gate and Gucci’s Cestino.
When it comes to established luxury labels, Fendi is widely recognised as having produced the first ‘It’ bag with its Baguette, launched for spring 1998. The hype around it began after a legendary sample sale in December 1997, when Fendi invited fashion editors to buy up first editions of the prototype for £25 (can you imagine?), and anyone who was anyone took their fresh Baguette to the fashion week front row that February. It was quickly dubbed the ‘It’ girls’ bag, and its appeal has endured, with prices these days hitting the £6,OOO mark.
Since then, the global handbag market has exploded (thought to be worth over £46 billion
in 2O17), and retail empires have been built on the back of a winning tote or carryall. Case in point: Longchamp sells ten of its iconic Le Pliage bags every minute worldwide. ‘It has been our absolute “It” bag for 25 years now,’ says creative director Sophie Delafontaine, with fashion and art’s biggest names partnering with the brand to reinterpret the classic, from Mary Katrantzou to Tracey Emin. The success of Kering, the parent company for Givenchy, Gucci and Saint Laurent, is also attributed to its leather goods, accounting for 52 per cent of its €1O.8 billion revenue in 2O17, compared with ready-towear at 16 per cent. Here’s the kicker, though: those heavyweights no longer own the market.
‘Historically, bags have been driven by a well-known name,’ says Smart. ‘But over the past couple of seasons, we’ve seen a demand for lesser-known brands creating desirable, interesting shapes with a competitive price tag.’ Which is another obvious attraction. Styles matter, of course, but a number of these new labels are priced in the sweet spot between £16O and £35O. The market has diversified, making space for brands both lesser-known and established, and now labels such as Staud, Boyy and Manu Atelier are as covetable as the classics.
Danse Lente is among those brands. The name means ‘slow dance’ in French, but it’s been anything but a slow-burner, picking up 9O stockists, including Selfridges and Net-a-Porter, in little over a year. Youngwon Kim, the London College of Fashion graduate who founded the line in April 2O17, credits Instagram for its speedy growth, with its graphic shapes and unmissable hardware cropping up all over the social media platform. Net-a-Porter’s retail fashion director Lisa Aiken spotted Kim there, and snapped up the debut collection exclusively for the site.
Broadly speaking, there’s a bag in every colour and fabric imaginable, for every occasion, and we are happy to hand over £1,OOO or more for one. Plenty of women shop on the high street for all other aspects of their wardrobe, yet when it comes to a bag, they buy only designer.
‘When I was younger, I would save up for months for a branded bag,’ admits Camille Charrière, a fashion blogger and podcast host with more than 677,OOO Instagram followers. ‘Then I learnt the quiet power of labels that use less visible branding.’ These days, it seems an ‘It’ bag is not defined by a recognisable logo, but by its shape. In 2O18, basket bags and small geometric styles dominated our feeds, whatever brand they came from.
So, what does this mean for old-school ‘It’ bags – the Baguettes and Speedy bags that historically bore the weight of our social and economic status, beloved by 2k-era icons? They’re no longer gathering dust in the back of Carrie Bradshaw’s closet, that’s for sure. Because traditional luxury brands are now employing the same tactics as the start-ups, upping their game when it comes to engaging followers online. Dior’s 2O18 revival of the Saddle bag saw the brand undertake a huge social media campaign, with 1OO global influencers – from Chiara Ferragni to Susie Lau – posting images of themselves carrying the distinctive saddle-shaped satchel at the same time. ‘I consider this an icon of the house’s recent history,’ creative director Maria Grazia Chiuri says of the reason she chose to revamp the classic, originally designed by John Galliano in 2OOO.
The thing that both old and new styles have in common is their visual impact; they speak to the screen with their graphic simplicity. You could ID a chic squiggly Danse Lente handle and saddle bag by shadow alone (you might need to, as those influencers are always running, by the looks of their street-style photos).
Luxury second-hand e-tailer Vestiaire Collective says that searches for now-vintage classics are on the rise: Louis Vuitton’s Neverfull and Speedy and Dior’s Lady Dior are among the top-ten vintage bags bought on the site this year (Chanel’s Timeless takes the top spot). The greatest allure of these classics is their guaranteed longevity, with Prada’s nylon rucksack and Gucci Soho messenger revered as much now as in their heyday. So these bags are proven to hold their value like few other investments, whereas we don’t know how the newer styles will fare in a few decades.
If all these observations on the market have left you scratching your head, wondering ‘what bag should I buy this Christmas?’, rest assured, there’s no right or wrong answer. Net-a-Porter currently has over 1,7OO designer bags in stock, and Matchesfashion.com has more than 2,OOO. Pick whichever one makes your pulse quicken and your heart sing. Oh, and pick the one that actually fits your stuff. That’s probably quite important.
“WE’VE SEEN A DEMAND for LESSERKNOWN BRANDS with A COMPETITIVE PRICE TAG”
THE THING THAT BOTH OLD and NEW STYLES HAVE IN COMMON is THEIR VISUAL IMPACT
Balenciaga, £1,315Dior, £2,O5OTHE COMEBACKThese early Noughties styles are now 2O18 hits
Danse Lente, £375
THE NEWCOMERSMeet the Insta-famous brands Boyy and StaudBoyy, £72O
THE CLASSICLouis Vuitton’s Speedy (below) is a perennialfavouriteLouis Vuitton, £73ODanse Lente, £295 THE INVESTMENT Monogrammedbags are proven to holdtheir valueHunting Season, £55OFendi, £1,95OStaud, £29O
THE OLD…These classics endure, and often command apremium AND THE NEW Brands such as Wandler and Staud are havingan impact