When the New Yorker takes on handbags, the storied publication is sure to produce some interesting bits of wisdom from around the fashion world. The magazine’s profile of Bottega Veneta’s Thomas Maier is only available subscribers (both online and old skool), but a few choice words on the designer’s success at the once nearly-dead Italian brand have leaked out to us plebes, and they’re mostly about the role of the handbag in Maier’s oeuvre.

What I found most interesting, though, was Tom Ford’s declaration concerning the inherent it-ness of the anti-it bag trend. We’ve talked about the sea change in bag trends in these parts before, but It Bag fatigue has created It Bags of its own, whose it-ness isn’t negated by the fact that they aren’t logo-covered or overwrought. Maier’s handmade Bottega Veneta Cabat totes are credited by the magazine with pulling the anti-trend into mainstream favor, and they certainly had a hand in it, but I’m of the personal belief that Phoebe Philo’s sleek, minimal bags for Celine are what broke the trend to its current, wide audience. And that entire thought just proves that Ford is right, as he so often is – people who love It Bags and those who hate them have far more in common than either group would probably like to admit. Where do you sit on this debate, which is clearly the most important issue of our times? I mean, it’s getting coverage in the New Yorker, y’all.

  • 19yearslater

    I agree. I think that anti-It bag is the It-Bag nowadays. There are several examples of this bag, the two mentioned above as well as ps1 and others. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with loving It Bags or loving simple bags, so its more of an interesting debate than a personal one for me.

  • Vitta

    Amanda, what’s the point, again? These days, the “it-ness” is being literally generated by the subjective opinion of a handful of popular bloggers with wide exposure, who often promote brands and trends not on their merit, but just because they are paid to advertise them. Am I right?

    19yearslater, the It bag by definition is a status bag, nothing to do with being “simple” or not.

    • http://www.purseblog.com/ Amanda Mull

      There’s no point, except that I kind of wanted to see if I could write those two paragraphs without going cross-eyed. Success!

      I totally agree that the It Bag is almost entirely a cynical marketing concept. Sometimes it shines its light on beautiful things, sometimes not. Its success rate doesn’t seem to be much better than that of simple chance.

      • Vitta

        Amanda, nothing is left to chance in shrewd marketing of a multi-billion dollar industry such as designer handbags. Especially at this time of blogging when the audience could include millions of people worldwide in a day.

      • http://www.purseblog.com/ Amanda Mull

        Oh I know, Vitta. I’m just saying that the title of It Bag demonstrably has nought to do with a bag’s actual attractiveness.

    • 19yearslater

      I know what an It Bag is, I was merely referring to the heyday of the It Bag, most of which were blingy or dramatic, were they not? In addition, the designers who say they are turning away from the It Bag accomplish their goals with simple bags.

      • Vitta

        No, a classic It bag has never been “blingy” or “dramatic”. The ultimate It bag of all times has been an Hermes handbag, a true status symbol.

        Here’s a bit of info regarding the definition of an It bag:

        “As fashion historians have established, the idea of a classic It bag, an important handbag that conveys luxury and status, can be traced back to the 19th century. The idea was ultimately perfected in the 20th century by a handful of leading European fashion houses with long-standing traditions – such as Hermes, Louis Vuitton, Gucci and Chanel – whose designs became distinct classics as a result of their established commercial success. The concept behind each trademark was a brilliant interpretation of old traditions. Their handbags were practical in application and initially has nothing to do with status, luxury or glamor.”

        Source: New book “Exotic Skin: Alligator and Crocodile Handbags”

    • 19yearslater

      Okay. I don’t consider a Hermes bag It because it is lasting fashion, to my mind an It Bag lasts a season or two. As I said though I have no personal investment in this debate so I’m really just going off of what the general opinion toward a bag seemed to be.

      • Vitta

        The original concept of the ‘classic It bag’ defines the timeless status symbol (e.g. Hermes Kelly), “the bag to have” (the best quality). Not to be confused with the concept of an ‘It girl’ (e.g. Paris Hilton), which lasts a season or two: “the girl of the moment” (most popular). Unfortunately, it often happens that “most popular” does not equate to “the best quality”.

  • elinasofia

    The anti-it bags are recognizable to only fashion insiders: their it-bagness is limited to a smaller group of people. Most of my friends don’t know what Proenza Schouler is and to them Celine is the Canadian singer, not a French fashion house.

  • DB

    i agree with vitta for the most part. the ‘it bag’ was always associated with status, exclusivity, rarity. the concept has been over-saturated to the point where it has reversed itself, hence the ‘anti-it bag’. some of this could be a result of the recession and a conscious move away from the original frivolity of the ‘it bag’ and more towards classic ‘staples’ that help women justify their personal spending habits. regardless, it is always interesting to see how this phenomenon evolves.

  • Miriam

    This is “the most important issue of our times”…seriously???

    • http://www.purseblog.com/ Amanda Mull

      That was sarcasm. I find it kind of ridiculous that a publication with as much erudition as the New Yorker would take the It Bag seriously.

      • Vitta

        Well, the It bag phenomenon has become important because it represents the multi-billion dollar industry. That’s why it deserves to be analyzed by reputable publications, including the New Yorker.

      • http://www.purseblog.com/ Amanda Mull

        I would expect them to make some sort of mention of it as a marketing concept, though. No such luck. The discussion was unfortunately surface-level for a magazine that does such good work.

  • Vitta

    I’d say it is one of the subjective opinions that is a part of the discussion. The good thing is that the issue is being discussed on different levels, including the reputable ones.

  • Kanika

    I think ‘it bags’ are no longer the it bags. If you move in a circle where everyone can afford an Louis Vuitton or an Hermes, a thrift shop satchel will attract more attention. For common people, an Hermes and not a thrift shop satchel is obviously the it bag. Pretty much like Einstein’s theory of relativity!

    As to genuine handbag designs becoming the iconic bags, we all know its the editors, critics and bloggers who control our perception of the handbags and all things designer. Isnt it said about Anna Wintour that she can control it all the way from Vogue fashion shoots to actual markets.

    And the monogram trend is getting a bit over now, just like gladiators did last season. I literally feel like a walking billboard carrying a bag with LV smothered all over it or a big shiny ‘G’ hanging from it. Now Hermes is a classic, so minimalistic and elegant….. but I wonder if you would still be the coveted it bag in a Sex and the City type of circle.

  • whit

    i think it is like when people try not to be “cool” or “pop” and go very into another direction that is opposite of that..that itself becomes a thing that eventually others might catch on..making it popular, kind of ironic.

    but that is the way it is. people are always after the next thing when the next thing wasn’t trying……and its those that try that ends up on the sale rack. imho.

  • incerx

    Many messages. It makes me think this is a very good blog, where there will be many like-minded friends.

  • Kyle

    I get what you’re trying to say here Amanda, keep up the great work!

  • chloehandbags

    To a certain extent, I’m with Tom, because by trying too hard to not produce something, you can often end up going full circle and producing it (or its equivalent), anyway.

    I read that Phoebe Philo held some sort of event in a restaurant, where (in a spooky analogy with her super-simple but, often, hugely pricey, designs), you have to pay through the nose for the privilege of shelling your own peas!

    So, if you pare-back to the point where your customers are paying through the nose for next to nothing, who’s the real fool? The girl with all the logos, or them?

    OK, so I realise that these bags are often of very good quality, but so were the peas…..probably…

    I do agree that most people don’t really know who Bottega Veneta and Celine are, though – so, whether something can be considered an ‘it’ bag, when the vast majority of people don’t know about it, or its designer, I’m really not sure?

    What I am sure of, though, is that pretention comes in many forms.

    To my knowledge, the first ‘it’ bag (or the first to be called an ‘it’ bag, anyway) was the Fendi Baguette.

    I definitely wouldn’t consider the Hermes Birkin, or the Kelly, to be ‘it’ bags, as they weren’t designed to be particularly of the moment and I think that is an important part of the criteria of being an ‘it’ bag.

    To qualify as an ‘it’ bag (in my book, anyway!), a bag’s design has to be unashamedly of the moment and its designer has to have been utterly unconcerned with the notion of it being overly practical, or becoming a classic, while they were designing it.

  • Mario

    I’m utterly confused by the article and preceeding comments? Who looks to Celine for “It bags”? Let’s be adults and not stupid little trendy girls talking out of our anusses. She has 1 or 2 decent seasons of handbags compared to several other seasons of shenanigans where Celine is completely off the radar, [Meh].

    Secondly, the It bag is usually some overly popular bag, whether trendy or classic. And for all you novices out there, Hermes, Chanel, & LV all have “It” bags. The same bags you all call classics, are “It” bags you jackwagons. Hermes has many other styles in their line up (horrible nontheless) but we all only know the Birkin and Kelly, why? Because they are “It” bags. There is nothing wrong with an “It” bag, however, there is a problem with bad taste and awful design…..sheesh!

    • chloehandbags

      Well, Mario is a rather rude and angry young (I’m assuming?) man, isn’t he? LOL!

      For the record, Mario, I’m no ‘stupid little trendy girl’, no particular fan (or owner) of Hermes bags and in fact, have always been extremely dubious about the entire concept of ‘classics’, as I tend to think that nothing is truly classic (i.e. no design is always popular, or appropriate-looking with the fashions of the day, at all times).

      I am fully aware that even so called ‘classics’, such as Birkins and Chanel Flaps and so on, rise and fall in popularity, over the years and that, during some decades, they are often left out in the cold, style-wise.

      However, it also has to be noted that there are certain, steadfast, devotees of these bags, who will continue to buy and carry them, whether they are currently popular with the rest of us, or not.

      Therefore, from that point of view at least, they are perennials, or ‘classics’, if you like, compared with other bags; most of which are produced for a season, or so and then disappear from view, never to be seen again (except, perhaps, in the form of inspiration for the designs of later designers).

      Incidentally, I hate to say this, as I used to be one of Phoebe’s biggest fans, but it has to be said that the ‘decent seasons’ she has had at Celine are largely due to her name.

      As, regrettably, so far, she has certainly not exhibited the depth of talent I believed her to have when she was at Chloe and I very much doubt that these bags would have sold at all well, had they not been directly attributed to her.

  • Nicole

    LOL, I love Mario’s comment!

    Kudos to Tom Ford and the posters here for blowing my mind regarding what’s “It” and what’s “anti-It!” Mind. Blown.

    (ipad)

  • Vanessa

    The Proenza Schouler PS1 is a perfect example of this quote – the founders were trying to create the anti-It-Bag but in doing so, they created another It-Bag.

    On a separate, but related note, I’m so excited that Tom Ford is releasing a womenswear collection! I can’t wait to see what he comes up with – it will be, no doubt, fabulous!

  • CL

    why the new yorker?!?!?! (ipad)

  • Smith

    tom ford is sessy (ipad)

  • DTKC

    Forget trying to figure out what “It bag” or “Anti-It bag” to carry and just carry what suits your style. (ipad)

  • Lilac

    I think certain classic bags go through periods of being the It bag. But over time, it’s the quality of the leather and craftsmanship that keeps people coming back.

    (Ipad)

  • Ivana

    There is always going to be one IT bag of the moment
    it’s simple-it’s seen on celebrities and bloggers and then everybody wants it (ipad)

  • Chic ‘n Cheap Living

    IT bags and anti-it-bags are all clever results of marketing in one form or another. Regardless, the “it” factor is in the eye of the beholder and if lasts for a few years in that person’s wardrobe, it’s a keeper!
    (ipad)

  • Nadia Segers

    Great article! (ipad)

  • florencia

    an it bag would be grat for carrying an (ipad)

  • heather

    interesting article, interesting comments…as others have mentioned, wether “it” or “anti~”… the end purpose has been met… marketing

    (ipad)

  • Shana

    I totally agree. After all, who’s more classic: the understated Grace Kelly or the over the top Paris Hilton? (iPad)

  • J. Is A Bird

    This!

    I’ve learned a lot during this down economy and one lesson that stands out is to buy quality and classics. While “It” bags come and go it’s the classic lines that really show their worth. (ipad)

    Cheers!
    J.

  • kathleen

    Hmmmm. the IT bag. Like an IT girl. here today, forgotten tomorrow. But I do love the name Tom Ford, so masculine,, and, let me think, succinctly abrupt. Sounds like someone who should ride a horse out of town into the sunset. with the IT saddlebags, no doubt. (IPAD)

  • ninjaninja

    I think the anti it bag is really just a sign of how poorly the economy is doing. Who has money to spend on a luxury bag that’s going to be fashionable for a couple of seasons? (ipad)

  • Barb

    For every trend there is backlash. It bags are no different. life tends to run in circles. Ipad

  • cat

    I think Tom makes a good point.

    I think today, with so many seasons and in-between seasons, it’s only an “it” bag if the person wearing it bought it to prove something instead of loving a bag and the way it suits one’s lifestyle, shape etc. (ipad)

  • Mimie

    Trends are cyclical. Bags are no different. There’s always something behind the IT bag i.e. comping celebs so to boost sales. (iPad)

  • Jen

    I think I’m on the side of hate… And yes… This is an INCREDIBLY important issue. Ha. (ipad)

  • Lianne

    I have never looked at anything in terms of whether or not it is the *It* item. Bag or other. My criteria are does it look good to *me* (my tastes are very different from, say, my sister’s), does it do what I need, and is it in my budget.

    In fact, if a purse is labeled the ‘it bag’, it would probably put me off even thinking about buying it. I hate trends. (ipad)

  • Jazz

    I hope I win! (ipad)

  • kmroboto

    i prefer to not own any “it” bags but if i do then it’s simply because i love the style and decided to buy one. (ipad)

  • patricia treml

    I agree with Barb.. trends run in circles. But I am sorta of confused by the article. (ipad)

  • Raventress

    Tom Ford’s point is contentious and would need time to see if an Anti-It bag becomes the It bag, simply because It bags are timeless and remain popular for decades. An Anti-It bag with a good design could attract a following for a couple of seasons but it remains to be seen if it can raise to become the It bag. (ipad)

  • spanish moss

    right on, brother ford! this was such an enjoyable discussion. thanks, amanda. (ipad)

  • Ken Vien

    Great article! (ipad)

  • Sue E

    If that is Tom Ford in that pic I want to marry him. He is handsome..(ipad)

  • nini

    I prefer quality and design over popularity. (ipad)

  • coachwife6

    Something has to be the It Bag…don’t see the problem with it. (ipad)

  • SHERRY

    I AGREE (ipad)

  • SHERRY

    INTERESTING (ipad)

  • ariancita

    I’ve always been a classic bag girl myself and I admit my absolute favorite is the Hermes Kelly. I agree with a lot of Vitta is saying: if you look at the history of fashion and how it has evolved, the earlier It bags were about exclusivity and understated quality (understated being equivalent to old money which was important in very rigidly classed societies) and now they are more so than ever a product of marketing for a multi-billion dollar industry. And in there somewhere through all of it, there is the art… the design, vision of the artist, the creativity and expression. And that too has shifted throughout history: not the designs themselves but how art is actually defined.. from being an object constructed wholly by the artist and imbued with artist’s meaning to being a process through which interpretation is created at the moment of encounter between the object (and artist/designer) and the buyer/wearer. And this is especially where you see marketing and billion dollar industry coming into play. It’s actually a very interesting topic because it is embedded with all sorts of social and political-economic theory that others here have alluded to with comments about how the economy has played into this. (ipad)

  • ariancita

    Also, I love Mario’s comment. :)

  • Ellen

    I’m on the fence with this discussion. I think that Tom Ford makes a valid point as far as designer bags like Proenza Schouler and Bottega Veneta, but there are some people who really don’t follow trends. (ipad)

  • Wendy

    You may have written without going cross eyed, but I am cross eyed after trying to digest it…. (grins) (ipad)

  • prettybird

    I’m not sure what to think about It-bags. I would never buy a bag just because it’s popular, and no amount of hype can make an ugly bag desirable for me. (ipad)

  • PrincessGarnet

    I personally don’t care about it bags either, nor do I get into the hype of carrying a particular bag because so-and-so celebrity is carrying it (like the Olsen twins carrying the AW Rocco). I only buy bags that look good on me and that I’m happy with. To buy a thosuand dollar bag because some celeb that I don’t care about is carrying it, and then to regret it later is a huge waste of money for me. I buy bags that look good on me. I dont like to follow trends. (iPad)

  • Rae

    I much rather a classic bag than a trendy one. (ipad)

  • Mousse

    I buy only the bags and shoes I like. I’m not driven to buy because a celeb is wearing a certain brand or style. (ipad)

  • Paul

    Who is Tom Ford again? (ipad)

  • Pearl

    I buy what I like, not what I should like (ipad)

  • Elizabeth

    people seem to like to distance themselves from the idea that they were influenced by something other than their own taste when purchasing a bag. my guess is that most of these people own “it” bags. myself included. and this isn’t a bad thing! (ipad)

  • Jelita78

    hmm.. somewhat correct in certain ways i believe..
    well, not all, but there are bags that i have bought due to seen it on celebs.. shuckkss.. guilty as charged.. (ipad)

  • Jelita78

    Yup.. bought the Coach Black Leather Parker Hippie as seen on Katie Holmes! (ipad)

  • Joshia

    People who try to buck the trend tend to just make another. IT bags are inherently mainstream and have broad appeal; it’s not a bad thing at all.(ipad)

  • Debnme

    Designers will never give up the “it bag” marketing potential which represents billions of dollars in reveneu. No matter how they try to spin it.

  • Lisa

    Tom for has an ipad

  • Cindy

    Nice soundbite, Mr. Ford. *claps* (ipad)

  • nick

    People are too easily influenced by celebrities… (ipad)

  • felicia

    i agree with nick, celebrity plays huge part in it (ipad)

  • Nikki

    I think what celebrities wear/carry/use, often has some impact (+/-), as they usually get the goods before the rest of us!(ipad)

  • Oliana

    Admit it or not but we are all influenced by what the people we admire wear. Handbag business is a huge business and as I often say in my line of business: it’s business and pleasure.

  • Tiffany

    I usually buy what I like as well, but celebrities definitely affect my decisions sometimes. I guess it’s inevitable to be influenced by those you admire. (ipad)

  • PhotoGirl

    Bought the magazine just for this article, and I found it fascinating. I think Maier’s aesthetic as a way of life would drive me insane, but I certainly do love that Cabat tote.

    I don’t understand buying something just because a celebrity has it, but then celebrities don’t interest me very much, so there’s that. If I like something, I like it, and if not, that’s the end of it.

    I wonder what all of these design houses would do if people really began to think seriously about clutter (visual and physical)and having more than they needed. Cool to talk the talk, but what if people actually listened? Hmmm. .. (ipad)

  • FashionIsMyHobby

    I bought a Botkier Bryant bag (named after Joy Bryant) because I really liked the bag. (ipad)

  • ninjaninja

    Your Holy Grail bag will be your IT bag (ipad)

  • Beth

    I can’t wait to see his handbags in the store! (ipad)

  • jillybean307

    I always forget that Tom Ford exists. (ipad)

  • helen

    I don’t have many bags. My bag is my IT bag. (ipad)

  • Emma G

    I buy what I like but every season there is going to be an IT bag, like it or not. I try to go for classic styles that will last me forever (ipad)

  • martiniandlace

    Late to this post, but Tom Ford should go away!!! Now he’s trying to sell his own handbag line and probably knew this all along when he said the nonsense above. Go away!!!! Please go away Tom Ford..please! You are beyond annoying!