Predicting the future is hard, and almost no one does it well. The more information you have, the more educated your guess becomes, but in fashion, divining the potential aesthetic whims of the public at large will never be an exact science. All you can do is look at past successes and trying to figure out what they tell you about what might happen next, which is why I’m more than a little doubtful about The Cut’s assertion that the Saint Laurent Paris Classic Duffel will be the industry’s next It Bag; the bag simply doesn’t fit the pattern.
Over at The Cut, writer Stella Bugbee lays out her case for the Classic Duffel’s future world domination as approximately the following: She felt the same feeling when she first saw this bag as when she first saw the Celine Luggage Tote, which makes her pretty sure that this bag is going to be the next Celine Luggage Tote. If I sound dismissive in saying that, I certainly don’t intend to; those kinds of intuitive moments from someone who’s built a career in fashion can mean quite a lot. In fact, I agree with Bugbee that the bag will sell quite well, in all likelihood. It’s a marquee piece from a well-known, controversial designer who just very publicly took the helm of one of the largest fashion houses in the world – it would have to be an abomination against god to sell poorly, and it’s not.
The problem, though, is that it’s not much of anything. In the short history of It Bags from the Fendi Baguette to the Celine Luggage Tote, they’ve all had some sort of can’t-miss detail, whether it was a distinctive closure or a giant padlock or defiantly flared gussets. The Classic Duffel’s defining design characteristic might be that it has no defining design characteristics, and while that was likely done purposefully and might even be a bit clever, it’s not something that’s likely to reach out and grab enough customers to become a runaway, wait-listed hit.
As Bugbee mentions in her piece, bags occupy a particularly profitable spot in the fashion industry that makes them of utmost importance to the financial success of a brand. What she doesn’t mention, though, is how that affects what a bag must be in order to be successful. To move enough units to reach “It Bag” status, a design must appeal to customers who have a more limited interest in fashion than the hardcore fanatics who have followed Slimane’s antics since his arrival at Saint Laurent. That means it needs to be recognizable, distinct and memorable; this bag arguably fails at all three.
When I look at this design, I see a Louis Vuitton shape that’s had a Celine makeover, which is not necessarily a criticism. This bag feels very current in its minimalism and lack of ostentatious branding, and the shape and structure will make it a good functional choice for everyday. Those attributes won’t turn the Classic Duffel into an It Bag, but they do make for a very strong foundation on which to build a new accessories aesthetic at Saint Laurent. We may get an It Bag out of Slimane and Saint Laurent in the next couple of seasons, but I’d be very surprised if this one is it.
Another contraindication of nascent “It Bag” status: The bag is ready available for pre-order in all four colors via YSL.com for $2650. (Wonder if they’re going to keep that domain?)