When Beyoncé says she’s putting her Birkin bags in storage, you listen. “This imported Telfar bag, Birkins, this shit tucked away,” she repeats on “Summer Renaissance,” the last song on her dance album. Rebirth (2022). The notoriously hard to come by Hermès Birkin and one of the world’s most expensive handbags has become a symbol of a certain level of wealth that charters private jets with a money manager on speed dial.
As most things Beyoncé-related tend to do, such a strong stance on the Birkin bag has divided the internet, with some agreeing that they’ve overcome Birkins idolatry and oversaturation, while others insist on its timeless credibility. But it’s also worth noting that in the lyrics, it’s not another flashy designer that supposedly supplanted the $10,000 Birkin, but rather a $200 Telfar bag.
While the lyrics may be meant as a joke, it signals something bigger going on in the world of luxury: a growing acceptance of the obscenely exorbitant for a more “modest” form of luxury. And leading the charge is a growing circuit of brands designing bags that embody the quality construction of their higher-priced counterparts, but at about half the cost. Thoughtfully designed, this class of mid-range luxury bags differs from the affordable leather bags that propelled predecessors like the Coach decades ago. With whimsical shapes and lofty designs, these bags almost feel custom-made – the quality virtually indistinguishable from those emblazoned with a glittering big-name logo.
While the luxury segment is still a booming business – conglomerates such as LVMH and Kering boast strong profits each year, on the order of $86 billion in LVMH’s case, according to research 2022 report– the aspirational It exchange is moving to the bottom market. Spending the equivalent of a rent check is not the point here, and the great success of designs like Staud’s Moon Bag It is ByFar’s Billy Bag showed that a $400 purse can be as coveted as a $4,000 purse. “These brands are trendsetters and make it easier to diversify and perfect my wardrobe more often than if I invested in an expensive, luxurious accessory,” says Shopbop Fashion Director Caroline Maguire. “They are making luxury more accessible.”
TikTok, in part, fueled the fire. After a series of viral videos Endorsing its quality over other well-known luxury handbags, French accessories brand Polène went from an unknown to an it brand almost overnight. But Polène is just one of several names taking that “get more for less” path to mainstream relevance. The brands below are dismantling the luxury status quo as unattainable. From Paris to London and Seoul, get to know the names that glamorize the mid-range bag: