A Statement Piece Here to Stay: The Telfar Bag

The Longchamp “Le Pliage” is a country club favorite, the Louis Vuitton speedy fits comfortably under one’s arm, and the Hermès Birkin bag is a collector’s favorite. But there’s a new statement bag in town that has redefined what it means to be an “it” fashion item. Meet the Telfar Shopping tote. 

Years before the Telfar Shopping Bag became the favorite of Solange, Kelela, and basically, everyone with taste in Brooklyn, Telfar Clemens in 2003 began selling his collection of reworked vintage NYC boutiques. Two years later, the young Liberian-American designer launched his self-titled brand, and since it’s advent, Tefar has spun everyday clothing and accessories to a new, stylish audience. 


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🖤 🗣 @queenandslim 🗣🖤 @msmelina 🖤 @lenawaithe 🖤 nov• 27• 19

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Telfar can be described as a unisex clothing and accessories brand based in New York City. Via the brand’s website, telfar.net; “It’s not for you — it’s for everyone.” The queer, Black designer, is at the forefront of designers creating inclusive and accessible fashions. The typical labels of womenswear and menswear aren’t relevant to the brand; gender doesn’t matter, but accessibility does. From a pop-up in the discount store, Century 21, to concert-like runway shoes and even re-designing uniforms for staff at White Castle (which Opening Ceremony wanted to sell for $200); Clemens and his team are consistently finding ways to recontextualize everyday items and silhouettes to an ultramodern audience. 

The widely popular collection of shoppers was designed initially for Telfar’s FW2014 collection and was only being released in small quantities, selling out in awe-inspiring time. And after snagging a $400,000 from as the 2017 CFDA / Vogue Fashion Fund winner, the bag’s offerings expanded in more colorways and sizes through e-commerce and placement in significant retail outlets, including Opening Ceremony, Farfetch, and Ssense.


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They’re the high-quality, double-strapped, vegan leather version of your everyday reusable shopping tote. The shopper is as simple as a bag can get with the Telfar logo-stamped on the exterior, and its smallest-version is on-trend mini-bags seen from the likes of Jacquemus and Gucci. 


Despite its simplicity, there’s no other bag like it. 


The bag has redefined what it means to be a symbol of “cool” or “it.” In its largest size, it’s priced just under $300, and its mini version priced at $150. Essence Magazine called it “The Millenials’ Birkin,” but the descriptor missies the mark. The bag and the overall brand don’t aim to be an “exclusive” to the rich and famous, and one can witness their wide-ranging customer segment through their Instagram. 


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To be queer, of color and stylish, is the visual culture that the page, @telfarglobal, reflects in the streets of NYC and beyond. No brand could duplicate it’s aesthetic through guerrilla marketing or paid influencer ad’s. It’s the intersection of an iconic accessory with the everyday consumer⁠. 

“It’s affordable, it goes with everything, there’s a color and size for every situation, and everyone looks good in it,” said Avena Gallagher, Telfar runway stylist to DAZED. The face of Telfar not only includes his celebrity friends like Dev Hynes, Selah Marley, Fat Femme, and Va$htie herself, but most importantly, you, reading this article. 


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⛰@vashtie SMALL TAN SHOPPING BAG – SHOP.TELFAR.NET [linkinbio] @voguemagazine 📸: @june_canedo

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Outside of its cultural impact, The Wall Street Journal reported sales from the bag alone had boosted the brand’s revenue by $1 million since 2017.

In an interview with T Magazine, singer Kelela dished on her relationship with the designer and the bag⁠—which she donned as her favorite possession. “Even if he wasn’t my friend, it would be important to support a black designer who has been grinding for a long time, and who is killing it. I love that using this bag — which is grounding and a constant as I carry my life around with me — is a functional way to do that.”

Telfar has successfully transcended gender, socioeconomic status, and clout with his bag and IG feed celebrating his consumers. And in a world where labels and identities are being ripped apart and redefined, Telfar identifies with everyone. 

If not entirely sold, listen to SoundCloud rapper Jah X’s ode to the piece on his track “Telfar Bag,” or visit shop.telfar.net for all the colorways.

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