In the last couple of years, these soft colourful tote bag embossed with the Telfar logo have graced both the streets and the virtual playground of Instagram making it the IT bag of the moment.
What is an IT Bag ?
The term first appeared in the nineties to characterize a luxury designer bag with high selling power, worn on the shoulder of influential women of the time.
Because of it’s high popularity, the IT bag regularly sells out and is regarded as an exclusive good. To stand out in the accessory market, the IT bag has to have a fresh elevated design who will seduce the fashion girls.
The Majority of IT bags are coming from big heritage brands (FENDI,CHANEL and HERMÈS). Telfar is one of few rising brands who produced their own IT bag, the Shopper.
Such accessory is an opportunity for consumers with thick wallets to buy into a very exclusive group of stylish people, to share space with their favorite models and actresses. But for others, it is to remain relevant in the fashion sphere, to show they are in the loop of the forever changing trends. And for all, it is a Status symbol.
2020 IT Bag : The Shopper (Telfar)
Made with synthetic materials and embossed with the sleek Telfar logo, the Shopper bag is designed for everyday use. If the shape is familiar, it’s because it is modeled directly after retail shopping bags (more precisely Bloomingdales). The designer Telfar Clemens wished to reenact the warm exciting feeling one has after shopping.
“The Shopping Bag first dropped in 2014 — meaning: our bag ain’t new — it’s the world that changes. Let’s keep changing.”Telfar Clemens
Contrary to popular belief, the Telfar bag did not become the hottest accessory overnight. Understandibly so, since the rising brand didn’t have the traditional support of retail stores or the deep pockets of heritage brands. Over the course of three years, the bag slowly won the interest and hearts of its consumers. And when Clemens won the CFDA Fashion Fund in 2017, the bag’s future was secured… with new sizes and colors.
The price point of $150 to $300 makes it one of the most affordable IT bags in history. It’s a clear move by Clemens to make the good accessible to all. Only the bag would sell out in mere minutes at each drop, and as it often the case with exclusive items, it ended up on resale website selling for twice its retail price.
(Photo Credit : Andrew Morales/ WWD)
On August 19 2020, Telfar broke the unwritten fashion rule of exclusivity with the Bag Security Program.
In a historic 1 day sale, customers were given the opportunity to buy any Telfar bags with the guarantee to receive it by Jan 2021. Just like that, Clemens removed the exclusivity long associated with IT bags.
But why reject a business strategy which worked so successfully for heritage brands like Hermès or Chanel? Because Telfar is all about accessibility, about breaking the link between luxury and exclusivity. When Clemens founded his brand in 2009, he had to carve his own space in the still predominantly White Industry. His work is directly inspired by Black Culture and his middle class New York upbringing. It features reimagined every day items such as denim jackets or sport uniforms. It wouldn’t make sense for him to cater to the Elite and exlude the very own marginalized black community he draw inspiration from.
Additionally, Telfar designs unisex clothing making their bag truly inclusive of all genders. What other IT bag on the market do that ?
Telfar is about fostering a fashion community and giving all access to luxury goods. All of these elements couldn’t be more on par with the brand’s message: It’s not for you, it’s for everyone.
Luxury without scarcity — you could just call that freedom.CLEMENS in PAPERMAG INTERVIEW
You might be wondering : Can the Telfar bag retain it’s IT factor with the loss of exclusitivity ?
Essentially, an IT Bag selling power is limited. But for Telfar, the public love for the Bushwick Birkin is still going strong. Remember the bag security program we mentionned earlier ? The revenue in that 24 hours sale alone surpassed the previous year bag revenue. For small independant brands that often live from the revenue of the previous season, having a pre-order is a smart move that will help them secure funds for production and invest in new creative venues.
As matter of fact, Telfar recently announced their upcoming 2021 Ugg collaboration. Along with several products, they teased the reimagined version of the IT bag in wool sherling last available for preorder on November 2020. And yes, the precious item is sold out.
(Photo Credit: Torso/ Courtesy of Telfar)
If it’s accessible to everyone, what motivates consumers to buy the Bushwick Birkin ?
Remember when we said that the appeal of IT Bag was its Status Symbol?Well, the Telfar customer buys into a community of diverse individuals who dress free of labels be it genders or “sartorial rules”. For a lot of black consumers, the connection to the brand runs deeper. For one, the number of black owned luxury brand is scarce. Perhaps, it’s also due to the fact that while black men and woman have been for decades the Muses of designers and culture trendsetter , they have not felt seen by the luxury brands. And that will always keep Telfar relevant to marginalized communities, specifically black consumers.
“Fashion is really about a monopoly on beauty and the weaponization of beauty by those who hold power. I think the same night we won the CFDA Fashion Fund in 2017 we started to plot a kind of escape. In fact we used the money to start our bag program.“Telfar Clemens
By striping away the elitism of Fashion, Telfar has opened doors to a wider consumer demographic. His recent invitation to host his Fashion Show in Paris, the numerous celebrities endorsements and his recent title of 2020 Accessory Designer awarded by CFDA are all proof that Clemens is doing things right. While being authenticly himself. If anything, the pandemic and civil right movements this year have accelerated the wind of change that is shaking the Industry. New talent is settling, inclusivity isn’t a trend but a must.