From the rise of soft pouches to the death of minuscule accessories, Drapers assesses the main trends shaping the new directions in the bags market.
Cradled in the nook of every street style star’s arm at last month’s New York and London fashion weeks was this season’s must-have accessory: Bottega Veneta’s “Pouch” bag. Super-soft and unstructured, this fashion crowd favourite has quickly acquired cult status as part of designer Daniel Lee’s reboot of the Italian heritage label. Shoppers with a spare few thousand pounds can choose to buy the bag in cracked electric blue leather (£1,685), in the signature Bottega Veneta woven finish (£2,095) or covered in loops of hair-like leather (£5,915).
Bottega Veneta’s Pouch ticks off two key trends that are set to shape the accessories market into spring 20 and beyond: it has an unusual, eye-catching shape and is available in an array of hues and textures. These are what customers are demanding, alongside more affordable price points, sustainable materials and practically sized bags, following the microscopic trend of recent seasons.
Minimalist shapes and pouches are some of the key trends we’re seeing in the bags market at the moment
Tiffany Hsu, fashion buying director, Mytheresa
Tiffany Hsu, fashion buying director at German etailer Mytheresa, says softer, unstructured shapes in the vein of the Pouch are a trend retailers should be watching out for, as the luxury favourite looks set to trickle down from the catwalk to the mainstream.
“Minimalist shapes and pouches are some of the key trends we’re seeing in the bags market at the moment, as well as neutral shades and bright primary colours,” Hsu tells Drapers. “There is definitely a move towards softer bags, like a pouch, a soft cross-body style or a tote.”
Demand for unusual shapes and textures is feeding into the trend for contemporary handbags – pieces that are design driven but come at more affordable price points than their luxury counterparts.
Jingjing Fan is the founder co-founder and designer of French contemporary handbag label Elleme, which retails from £230 to £420, and counts Harvey Nichols and Mytheresa among its stockists.
New materials are really proving a hit. We have a shearling bag that has been a bestseller for the brand
Jingjing Fan, founder and designer, Elleme
She argues that out-there shapes and textures are creeping to the top of customer’s wishlists and are set to be enduring trends over the coming seasons: “New materials are really proving a hit. We have a shearling bag that has been a bestseller for the brand. Over the summer, we started experimenting with styles made from raffia, canvas and other woven materials, which were mixed with leather trimmings.
“Those textures are still performing very strongly for us as we head into autumn, and we’ll continue to play with new materials. We expect this trend to continue.
“Our baguette-shaped bag has also proved very popular, because shoppers are looking for something different when it comes to shapes and silhouettes.”
Haya Al Abdulkareem, founder of Kuwait-based bag brand Folklore, which retails from £179 to £532, agrees: “We find that customers are really looking for shapes that stand out from the crowd and that can be worn in interesting ways.
“They’re often looking for styles that can take them from day to night and to update outfits with a stand-out piece. Our Loop bag, for example, has been performing strongly because it can be worn in a variety of different ways. Depending on how you tie [the strap], it can be either cross-body or worn as a waist bag.”
Stée founder Estelle Orilland, who launched her brand in 2017 having previously worked at Saint Laurent, Chloé and Marni, also argues that shapes are important as the contemporary accessory trend matures. The label retails from £390 to £610, and will be stocked at Selfridges from November.
Customers are really looking for shapes that stand out from the crowd and that can be worn in interesting ways
Haya Al Abdulkareem, founder, Folklore
“Unique, interesting hardware is very important to my brand because that can be hard to find at an affordable price point,” she tells Drapers. “Our bags are inspired by furniture or architecture: having something very visual that immediately draws the eye is the key to standing out in this competitive market. Our Neo bag, for example, which has an oversized silver ring handle, has been really popular.”
Another catwalk trend – the tiny bag craze that was kick-started by luxury French label Jacquemus – is reaching its zenith, brands tell Drapers. The trend reached its slightly ridiculous peak with Jacquemus’s diminutive Le Chiquito (£360) and mini Le Petit Chiquito bags (£180), the latter of which is smaller than a credit card. Microscopic bags are set to be replaced with more practical counterparts.
“We believe that more functional bags will make a return for spring 20 and beyond, after a few seasons dominated by very tiny styles,” argues Elleme co-founder Stéphane Tieu. “When we were presenting our spring collection to buyers, they were going crazy for the bigger styles, like totes. The market is definitely heading in that direction.”
Like much of the fashion industry, the accessories market is increasingly waking up to its sustainable responsibilities. Ioanna Topouzoglou, founder of sustainable accessory brand Mashu, which is stocked by Harvey Nichols, says she has seen an uptick in buyers asking about “greener” accessories. The vegan brand uses recycled polyester and plastic, as well as sustainable leather alternatives like Piñatex, which is made from cellulose fibres extracted from pineapple leaves. It retails from £200 to £400.
Having something very visual that immediately draws the eye is the key to standing out in this competitive market
Estelle Orilland, founder, Stée
“When we first launched in 2017, buyers weren’t sure that customers were that interested in sustainability. That has really changed. Now we hear from lots of buyers and large retailers that it is something that customers are really asking about. They want information about how and where products are made.”
Innovation in the accessories market is not limited to women’s collections. Once dominated by classic shapes – such as satchels, rucksacks and briefcases – the men’s bag market is becoming an increasingly exciting place. Male shoppers are experimenting with a range of different shapes and styles, driven in part by the ongoing dominance of the streetwear trend, where once again trends are migrating from the catwalk to the mainstream.
“We’ve seen a clear move towards fashion choices, as well as function,” explains Claire Foster, director of accessories and footwear at trend forecaster WGSN. “Not only are men buying an everyday workwear bag – whether that is a backpack or briefcase – but we are also seeing more casual, fashion bags being offered to consumers and early adopters buying into those.
“The cross-body or waist-pack trend – [an evolution of the bumbag] – is a great example of this. We’re also seeing the rise of the more sartorial pochette or portfolio being held under the arm or in the hand – like a clutch bag. The men’s accessory market is taking a much more directional turn and a younger, hype-fashion-focused consumer is buying more into bags.”
The men’s accessory market is taking a much more directional turn and a younger, hype-fashion-focused consumer is buying more into bags
Claire Foster, director of accessories and footwear, WGSN
Waist or bumbags have performed particularly strongly in the menswear market. A bumbag known as Springer, available in an array of different colours and finishes has proved a bestseller at accessories label Eastpak over recent seasons.
“There’s been a major boom in cross-body and bumbags styles, and we see this trend stabilising,” explains the brand’s product director, Domitille Parent. “This trend came from high fashion, where designers were using these functional mini-bags in their collections and catwalks. The trend has now hit the global market, and it has become a wardrobe essential.
“Looking ahead to spring 20 and beyond, we expect to see messenger bags coming back.”
“This trend is derived from the street-fashion cross-over and the huge impact that casual street looks have had on men’s fashion,” WGSN’s Foster adds. “Some of the success of this trend is down to the practicality of this item, especially for summer. This trend will evolve into a smarter look, using more structured constructions and premium materials. For the more adventurous and fashion-savvy consumer, this item will take on more of a body-harness look, with more straps, pockets and design elements that take inspiration from utility.”
Dynamic and ever-changing, brands and retailers need to keep an eye on rapidly evolving trends if they are to stay ahead in the accessories market. Those looking to keep customers excited should bolster their offer with stand-out shapes, interesting textures and ensure their menswear offer has bags of appeal.