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Bag Men

It looks like men are emptying their pockets to buy handbags — for themselves.

Appeared In
Special Issue
WWD A issue 10/20/2008

It looks like men are emptying their pockets to buy handbags — for themselves.

Bags are fast filling men’s wardrobes, evidenced by the last round of men’s shows in Europe, where the runways were chockablock with luxury handheld accessories, from sporty bags at Maison Martin Margiela and totes at Prada to new takes on the traditional briefcase at Bottega Veneta, laptop cases at Louis Vuitton and messenger bags at Dolce & Gabbana.

Claudia D’Arpizio, a Milan-based partner specializing in luxury and fashion at consulting firm Bain & Co., says men’s bags are a growth category, telling WWD in January that men’s accessories were considered a medium-term prospect.

Leading department stores are clearing floor space for dedicated men’s bags departments. Tancrède de Lalun, men’s and women’s fashion director for Printemps, says Printemps’ was the first department store to do so, dedicating its entire ground floor to men’s accessories in 2005. Printemps Homme carries brands such as Christian Dior, Dolce & Gabbana, Yves Saint Laurent, Mulberry and Florian Denicourt, along with bags mixed into the designer offerings at Maison Martin Margiela, Balenciaga and Giorgio Armani, among others.

“The more prominent the presentation, the more the business grows,” says Tom Kalenderian, executive vice president and general merchandise manager of men’s wear for Barneys New York, adding the men’s bag department is a “calling card” for Barneys men’s stores. For fall, new lines at Barneys include the Eastpak by Rick Owens Collaboration collection as well as a debut line by New York-based Common Projects, who borrowed the aesthetic from their footwear collection.

Bergdorf Goodman set up its first dedicated men’s bags section a year ago, says Tommy Fazio, fashion director of Bergdorf Goodman Men.

For fall, the store offers a gamut of styles, from classic bags at Brioni and Brunello Cucinelli to more fashion-forward satchels at Bottega Veneta, as well as the Bergdorf’s signature tote.

Retailers say men are buying for specific purposes.

“Most men now have bags for business, bags for the gym and a city bag for the weekend,” Kalenderian says.

“You have to find the balance between a bag which is functional and a bag which is stylish,” adds Massimiliano Giornetti, men’s wear designer for Salvatore Ferragamo. For fall, Ferragamo will offer soft “but not deconstructed” lightweight bags in chic styles for work and sport.

But in some cases, form is still more important than function.

“When there is a compelling shape, men will buy it,” says Sam Lobban, men’s wear buyer for Selfridges, adding that messenger bags and satchels were bestsellers. For fall, Selfridges will offer bags by U.K. brand Billingham, Belgian designer Natalia Brilli and London-based Ally Capellino.

“Men like a bit of fantasy, but nothing too ostentatious,” says French designer Pierre Hardy. For
fall, Hardy expects his leather “cartable” with a cubic print to be a favorite among style-savvy Parisians.