top of page
  • Writer's pictureShenead Poroosotum

From Bags To Riches: How Telfar Became The Most Sought After Handbag Brand

What makes an ‘It Bag’? Artisanal craftmanship or a certain exterior design? Or perhaps the functionality and practicality of a handbag which makes it perfect for any occasion? In fact, an ‘It Bag’ takes all of these characteristics into account in becoming efficient for everyday use and having you feel just as luxurious whilst doing it. So, what is the next new It Bag? It can only be the increasingly popular Telfar Shopping Bag which has been selling out within minutes time and time again.

Although the term ‘It bag’ was coined in the 1990s, It Bags have long been around before we even realised it. With the designer Giuliana Camerino creating an easily identifiable “status bag”, the 1945-founded Venetian fashion house Roberta di Camerino was one of the first to create a bag that was instantly recognisable due to its artisan-made form and its distinctive use of fabrics that were formerly reserved for clothing. As trends passed through society and we advanced in fashion, there have been a number of It Bags that have bled through celebrities, influencers and other designers alike who all own these handbags that we appreciate today and are still just as recognisable such as the 2.55 Chanel bag, the Dior Saddle bag or even the Louis Vuitton speedy bag. Described as a handbag that is fashionable, high-priced and best-selling, these It bags show that these brands have produced a timeless product where its sometimes eye-watering price can be justified because of its everyday use and functionality.

Described as affordable luxury, Telfar is a newer unisex line established in New York City by Telfar Clemens and sold internationally. With the base for the label being in Bushwick, Brooklyn, Telfar Clemens is a Liberian-American fashion designer and DJ who won the 2017 CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund, making him the first black designer to win the grant, and used the money to relaunch his shopping bag. With its tagline “It’s not for you – it’s for everyone”, since Clemens noted many times that he wanted his products to be affordable, Telfar brings all characteristics of being a functional, artisanal made handbag without the hefty price tag. With its range of colours and only three sizes ranging from $150 - $257, Telfar draws upon the idea that you don’t have to spend so much on a good, versatile bag.

As his Telfar brand was founded in 2005, Telfar Clemens had met Babak Radboy who went on to become the creative director and business partner for Telfar who described the brand as “a genuinely unique perspective and approach”. Following this, they then went on to work together for an installation at the Berlin Beinnale. As Telfar began to grow as a brand, in 2017 Clemens was chosen to design the outfits for Solange Knowles and her dancers for “An Ode To”, an interdisciplinary performance in NYC. After his colossal win from the Vogue Fashion Fund, he then went on to design the uniforms for 400 White Castle franchises and released a special line in collaboration for White Castle that year, with all the proceeds going towards the bail funds for teenagers that were arrested on Rikers Island. In 2019, Telfar exhibited his F/W 2019 collection with live music on stage and in the form of a moshpit to celebrate black futures month. In early 2020, a collaboration with Gap was announced but postponed due to the pandemic but then a line of durags was launched in September 2020, along with the announcement of an UGG collaboration that would launch in the Autumn of 2021.

From perfecting the design and wanting to make a vast quantity available as even a few years ago his bags were selling out immediately, Telfar grew increasingly popular through social media within the last year or so and is now being endorsed by many rappers and singers such as Saweetie sporting a bright red carrier, Dua Lipa with a canary yellow carryall and A$AP Ferg with a beige tote. Telfar bags are very simplistic in their design with the Telfar logo embossed on the exterior; they are also vegan and unisex. The small size bag is perfect to get-up-and-go or a party bag as well as for the after party, the medium can fit a 13” laptop and the large being perfect for a weekend trip or shopping spree, with the strap length on each bag being 21”. After being adorned by so many popular figures, the Telfar shopping bag has even been dubbed as the Bushwick Birkin.

So what makes the Telfar Shopping Bag so desirable? The foolproof combination of being affordable, high quality and rare to get your hands on, leaving us counting down the seconds for when a restock goes live on the website. Aside from being famously difficult to secure, Telfar has made its way into the hands of so many people who really appreciate its craftmanship and the hunger for them remains strong. From being featured on HBO’s Insecure for it to then become a quintessential item that’s part a character’s closet, it is to be noted that the costume designer for the show makes it a priority to support black designers that are not only established in the industry but also up-and-coming emerging brands who might luckily score their big hit from being featured on television.

As Telfar’s success bloomed as more consumers were looking to support more black-owned businesses, the brand’s ethos breaks into an industry that has largely been retained for the rich and white by being as inclusive as they possibly can by allowing the regular people like ourselves to represent the brand. As its social media highlights how diverse our community really is, it challenges other brands who have customers feeling like they don’t fit into the mould that the brand represents. With the announcement of the durags, it encapsulates the idea that anybody can and should represent Telfar, but also give people the chance to own luxury without breaking the bank. The durag is described “to be a kind of luxury, and our goal, as always, is even more accessibility and ubiquity…We want to be in every braiding spot, barbershop, and bodega in America.”

Staying true to their tagline, Telfar has redefined what luxury means, and we can’t wait to see what’s more to come from the brand. Subscribe to their mailing list to get the latest updates on their bag drops.


bottom of page