Words by Amy De Klerk
Experts weigh in on what it takes for a hit handbag reach icon status
Being able to create an accessory which goes on to be defined as an ‘It’ bag is the fantasy of most designers at the major fashion houses. Not only is becoming part of the fashion conversation in such a way great publicity for the brand more generally, but the bag itself can become a key money-maker for, quite literally, decades.
Although some of the most well-known ‘It’ bags were first designed back in the 1950s, the concept actually only started to be talked about in the Nineties, when fashion brands were being bought up, huge luxury conglomerates were formed, and these now creative directors were suddenly tasked with making much, much more money. For many fashion houses, handbags became the answer to great profits. Not only are accessories the great unifier – in that bags, shoes and jewellery are less limiting compared with the sizing of most ready-to-wear collections – but the mark up on designer handbags is huge. Creating one that becomes an absolute must-have item has brands laughing all the way to the bank.
But, when does a well-selling handbag become an ‘It’ bag? Today, what do we actually mean when we refer to this? Has it just become another dramatically overused term? Is it enough to have captured our attention for just a few seasons? Is it enough to be an era-defining cult accessory or, do they really need to have transcended trends for decades? How do we know when a bag hits that status?
“Defining an ‘It’ bag is a little like finding love, it’s something that you just feel in your gut,” Libby Page, market director at Net-a-Porter tells me. “There is no one size fits all, it is not something you can intentionally set out to create, a designer might have a feeling that they’ve made an ‘It’ bag but you really don’t know until you get it in front of the customer. The main idea is that is has a strong design feature that makes it instantly recognisable – it could be something obvious like a logo, or something more subtle, like a clasp or its shape and size.”
This article originally appeared in harpersbazaar.com