I’ve been a long time fan of what I like to call ‘stealth’ handbags. By that, I mean bags that aren’t plastered with logos all over them, but which have the quality and design cues I’m looking for. And it seems, I’m certainly not alone.
Last year, this became very apparent when a little known bag label started to break the internet (and hearts at the same time). Mansur Gavriel’s signature bucket bag was sold out for months. Twitter went crazy whilst bag enthusiasts waited for the relaunch. And then, when the bags finally arrived back in stock, they sold out within 15 minutes, even with a one bag per customer limit imposed.
Mansur Gavriel Bucket Bag
There’s no conspicuous branding on Mansur Gavriel’s bags, just a discrete gold-embossed label; though you can customize the lining with fun, bright colors. The fact that all the bags in the brand’s initial collection were only available in three basic colors (black, tan, and brick red) could hint at the idea that fashion-minded women are suffering from spot-it-a-mile-away bag fatigue. But don’t be mistaken, these are quality pieces, made in Italy with Tuscan leather. And of course, the irony is, Mansur Gavriel’s bucket bag is a status bag, even if the founders didn’t intend for it to be that way. It’s sold out everywhere, it’s listed on eBay for close to double the original price, it’s been the subject of stories on how to get your hands on the bags on sites like Fashionista; and of course, it’s been spotted on the arm of many a celeb including Miranda Kerr and Eva Chen.
Clearly, this start up brand had pressed all the right buttons. They captured the kind of magic that most designers can only dream of. The brand from New York, started by Rachel Mansur and Floriana Gavriel, offered beautifully crafted bags in quality materials for under $1,000. Though not cheap, still considerably less that other luxury equivalents which would normally range from $2,000 to $5,000. The rise of Mansur Gavriel heralded the coming of a new phenomenon: the ‘affordable luxury’ bag. Now labels across the globe are trying to tap into this phenomenon, and appeal to a growing customer base tired of paying big bucks for luxury good (and seeing everyone else carrying that same things).
Vincent Wu of Sydney’s Incu stores explains: “With luxury being everywhere, there are a lot of customers who want to be a little bit different, not be suckered into the big budget advertising and celebrity endorsements”. (Source: Life Magazine, 3 August 2016).
It seems the appeal is in the lack of logos and the clean, simple lines. We’re becoming more interested in design, functionality and style as opposed to branding. A welcome change I say. Whilst many of us desire a gorgeous branded bag; it’s hard to endorse anyone shelling out thousands of dollars, only to discover just months later that it’s now passé.
This idea that fashion followers might be looking to move away from being conspicuous has been getting a lot of attention lately. New York Magazine recently ran a story on "normcore", which basically means deliberately embracing sameness as a new way of being cool, instead of striving for “authenticity” or “difference” when it comes to clothing. This movement is driven predominantly by Western Millenials and digital natives. It fits well with their ‘world’ – the internet and globalisation have of course seriously challenged the myth of individuality, while making it easier than ever to connect with others. “Normcore is a blank slate and open mind – it’s a look designed to play well with others”. (Source: New York Magazine).
It’ll be interesting to see how long this trend lasts, and what the big fashion brands do to fight back; but my feeling is, they’re already getting on board. Gucci’s Swing Leather Tote is certainly embracing this new ‘stealth’ phenomenon; I’m just not sure how (or if) they’re going to compete on price… they probably won’t. There are plenty of people who'll always be prepared to pay big bucks for status brands.
My advice is, if you're spending big on a bag try to go for a classic or iconic bag, like the ones in my article from July 29, 2016 (5 Iconic Bags: Any of these are a Good Bet), rather than something that's very now and of the moment. A bag like that may quickly date, or you could easily get bored with it and regret the purchase. As with any big ticket item you buy, just make sure love it. And of course, whatever you buy, just be sure to always take great care of it and enjoy it!
Gucci Swing Leather Tote. Photo: Gucci