I’ve been working in the handbag world for long enough to witness the rise and fall of brands. The fall doesn’t necessarily mean the brand has to close shop – the fall can simply mean that a brand that was once far more popular became less popular. Today I want to focus on Botkier, a brand I adore that’s been very near and dear to my heart.
When we started PurseBlog well over 10 years ago, one of the first new brands that I discovered was Botkier. Founded in 2003 by Monica Botkier, the brand quickly made its way into the arms of handbag lovers around the world. Her first bag that customers swooned over was the Trigger Bag, and after that came many other cult favorites. Celebrities carried Monica’s designs, popular TV shows placed the bags on characters, and we at the PurseBlog team loved the bags ourselves. Monica was one of the first designers Vlad and I met and she was also one of the kindest. We went to her studio to see her bags, we interviewed her, and we stayed in touch. The relationship grew over the years, with us featuring many Botkier bags not only because we loved the bags we were seeing but also because our readers loved them too.
In a very exciting project that came well before influencer collaborations were all the rage, we teamed up with Botkier to create an exclusive bag in 2010. The really cool factor about this was we had you our readers vote on each aspect of the design. The bag’s success lead to Saks carrying it and even styling on a mannequin in the window of the Saks NYC flagship.
The brand was so popular that it had its own sub-forum on PurseForum. If a brand is talked about often enough and tPFers start ample threads to foster discussion, we add a dedicated sub-forum. Botkier had a steady home nestled on tPF among other big names and in the early days, it was mighty busy. Collectors and fans of the brand would show their new purchases and ask for help picking their next bag. Over time, the discussion dwindled, and it slowed so much that we folded the sub-forum down into our general bag area. Our website and forum remain the top places to visit as a handbag lover, so we can tell the trends in the bag world based on our readers and members. So when a subforum has to be folded into a broader area, it means that brand has lost its popularity.
What made Botkier bags do so well? First off, the style of course. The bags had a very edgy yet casual design that lead to easy carrying for everyone. On top of that, the quality was impeccable. The leather was gloriously lush, the bags held up well, and not only was the quality great but also the prices were always really reasonable. The overall vibe matched my laid back style and so many others as well.
Botkier continued to gain traction and stayed in the limelight by tapping influencer Aimee Song for its S/S 2013 campaign, creating a collaboration with Coco Rocha and hiring Bella Hadid to star in a campaign as well. Botkier expanded into shoes and other accessories which seemed to do well.
The accessories brand was acquired by New York based Showroom35 in 2013 and in July of 2018, Monica Botkier left her namesake brand after a 15 year stint. In a three part post on Instagram, Monica shared that she would be stepping away from Botkier to pursue new endeavors. The CEO of Showroom35 said “the business has experienced tremendous growth since our partnership with Monica five years ago”. While I do not have access to the financials of the brand, I do have access to the largest handbag loving base in the world and from that standpoint the discussions really slowed down.
So what happened? That laid back slouchy bag that we used to all love became less popular as buyers sought out a more sleek and structured design. New contemporary bag brands emerged that took over in popularity from the original group of early 2000s brands and seemed to replace them overnight (think Kooba, Linea Pelle, Treesje, Linea Pelle and many more). For example, Mansur Gavriel was able to recreate the waitlist phenomenon that had not been seen in ages, followed by other emerging European brands that had the right style for the growing influencer driven market. Think clean European designs that photograph well for bustling Instagram feeds.
Personal preference of bag styles varies by every single person. Some start off purchasing more affordable contemporary bags, but we yearn to move on to more storied fashion houses and their bags. Others of us want the next new brand so we follow the vast amount of influencers to see what they are carrying and follow suit. These factors certainly lead to Botkier becoming less popular over time.
Can a contemporary brand that made a name for itself before the social media craze continue to be as popular in today’s Instagram-crazed society? Sure, but it didn’t happened for Botkier. However, the brand still has beautiful bags sold at major retailers including ShopBop, Nordstrom, Bloomingdales and Saks.
Though the height of discussion for Botkier is not at the level it once was, the designs remain really solid. Under the new leadership there are hints of classic Botkier (they still sell the Trigger bag and other staples) and the design of the shoes are strong as well. Coming back to revisit these designs and my old Botkier bags left me with a sense of nostalgia. In the early 2000s the handbag world was booming with “it bags” and the group of new contemporary designers were taking off. We launched when Botkier was brand new and witnessed the growth first hand. Botkier will forever hold a special place in my heart and I’d love to see more bags from them that I’d love to cover. The brand is still alive and well, and though it may not be where it once was, it is worth revisiting.