Telfar: “We don’t hate the player – we are more about changing the game”
Babak Radboy and Telfar Clemens’ community-driven “Bag Security Program” is the anti-hype antidote to fashion’s resale quandary.
Ask Telfar’s founder and creative director – Telfar Clemens and Babak Radboy – for the ingredients for what constitutes an “It” item and they’ll reply with one word in unison: “TELFAR!”
And that’s because that one word is the definition of today’s most popular “It” bag (worn by the likes of Solange, Selena Gomez, Real Housewives of New York’s Sonja Morgan and Kelsey Lu), that follows a different blueprint to the “It” bags we once knew.
While the early 2000s “It” bag was all about unaffordable handbags with fancy names – Hermès’ Birkin, Dior’s Saddle, Mulberry’s Alexa, and Chloé’s Paddington – until their appeal started to wane circa 2007, today’s cult accessory is so much more than a “must-have” designer item. Rather than symbolising wealth, the Liberian-American designer’s genderless label favours populism over exclusivity, challenging the stale status quo that implies high-fashion must be inaccessible to the masses. In turn, Telfar’s Shopping Bag has become the paragon of a community of like-minded individuals and fashion outsiders with great taste.
Telfar’s winning formula is simple: a modestly priced bag (less than $300) crafted from 100% vegan leather, with an unpretentious name (Telfar Shopping Bag), available in three sizes (party, everyday, weekend away), served in an array of colours (mustard, lemon, orange, black – the list goes on) and embossed with the Telfar logo.
It’s been six years since the Shopping Bag made its debut at the label’s AW14 show, before gaining momentum in 2017. Telfar’s so-coined “Bushwick Birkin” has since skyrocketed in popularity, with every drop flying straight off the virtual shelves and becoming a trending topic on Twitter.
Despite many of us not needing a bag for the last six months while stuck in lockdown, according to data from Lyst, the global fashion search engine, searches for the Shopping Bag averaged 30,000 a month during Q1 of 2020, while searches for Telfar went through the roof in Europe, increasing by 29 per cent compared to 2019.
The label’s most recent restock sold out in a matter of seconds, thanks to resale bots. However, for those of you who’ve been unlucky in your search for a vegan leather love interest until now, the wait is finally over.
Cue: Telfar’s Bag Security Programme, announced yesterday via the brand’s Instagram account. Every size and colour of Shopping Bag is available for pre-order for 24 hours from Wednesday through until Thursday. Each will be made to order and will be delivered to your doorstep no later than 15th January 2021. Why not invest in a mini Shopping Bag to store your hand sanitiser in, or a large version for your next trip to the corner shop?
For the last 15 years, Telfar has been fueled by a mantra of inclusivity: “It’s not for you, it’s for everyone” – and its Bag Security Programme is by no means an exception.
“It takes time and money to make bags and we are 100% self-financed,” Clemens and Radboy explain. “We feel all the love we are getting – but we feel the frustration, too; we are not about hype and scarcity. We didn’t set out to make an impossible-to-get product. The whole point of our bag is accessibility and community.”
A quick scroll through Telfar’s Instagram account is testament to this. Expect user generated photos, Triller videos and TikTok clips of the Shopper Bag in action submitted by members of the Telfar community from all four corners of the world.
Amongst them, Clemens and Radboy have experienced “so many” proud and memorable moments, whether that’s Andrea Hudson using her large bag to deliver $100,000 in bail out funds on Father’s Day, a video of someone gifting their mom the bag on Mother’s Day, or the moment a customer’s “apartment burned down except for their bag and its contents”.
The Bag Security Programme is sure to bring more joy to the masses, while giving back to the individuals that have shaped the label and the community that Telfar represents. Money-hungry resellers need not apply. Clemens and Radboy’s parting message? “We don’t hate the player – we are more about changing the game.”
Telfar’s Bag Security Programme will run from 9AM EST Wednesday 19th August to 9AM EST Thursday 20th August.