Surf and action sports apparel manufacturers are introducing leather to their handbags.
Although the costlier material isn't likely to make a significant dent in King Cotton's reign over the sector's accessories, it is evidence of select brands' efforts to reach customers who are getting older and wealthier and covet designer labels.
Fox, which trailblazed into the premium action sports accessory niche with a fake leather $40 Gold Digga style three years ago, is testing the real deal for holiday with a studded crinkled lambskin bag that retails at $200. Fox was encouraged to elevate its prices by the success of the Gold Digga and a purse called Deluxe that sold at surf clothing chain Pacific Sunwear for around $88.
"We are just trying to push things and see how far they go," said Janelle Corpuz, design director for accessories and footwear at Fox, which houses its women's design team in Newport Beach, Calif. "Bags are a status symbol. Obviously, the girl who is going to wear it [Fox's $200 style] wants it to look like a luxury piece. I look to people who maybe would buy L.A.M.B. bags."
Hurley, based in Costa Mesa, Calif., is delving into calfskin for fall, when it will launch genuine leather accessories produced by licensee Wheat and priced from $50 for a wallet to $120 for the roomiest bag. The brand believes its target 19-year-old customer, old for a surf apparel industry in which tweens and teens are the core consumers, is accustomed to mixing expensive merchandise with its cheaper counterparts.
"She is young enough that she doesn't necessarily take herself too seriously, but she wants some of her wardrobe to be pretty sophisticated," said Jenna Wilson, a design director at Hurley. "You have a great spectrum to work with. I see our girl carrying a really cool tote bag and then a really cool leather handbag the next day."
Even many brands that haven't yet tried leather bags have been upping the fashion quotient and raising their prices as a result. Billabong, for example, unveiled a patchwork fake leather clutch in its summer designer's closet collection retailing for $78. None of its other bags for the season cross the $50 retail mark. For fall, Alpinestars is offering a spacious $70 fake leather bag with large cargo pockets and satin lining.Wilson said Hurley has seen "no sticker shock," and its early experience has given the brand confidence to continue with leather in future seasons. She acknowledged, however, that the pricy bags are not likely to be a volume driver in a segment where the average accessories retail price point remains less than $50.
"People have been incredibly receptive, and they haven't blinked when they heard the price," Wilson said. "It is not for everybody, but the reaction has been much greater [than expected]."
Some surf and action sports brands speculate that the troubled economy creates a good environment for them to experiment with higher-end accessories. The argument is that, with consumers thinking twice about designer bags that run into the hundreds and thousands, they might be searching for alternatives that are less expensive, but still chic.
"There is not really a niche in between our [surf and action sports] brands and then the Marc by Marc Jacobs tier," Corpuz said. "We wanted to fall in the middle and be cool with crinkled lamb leather and a lot of hardware."
“Azzedine has been one of the biggest influences in my life. He has always been such a strong, loving, fatherly figure to me. I call him Papa. His designs are indescribably unique, they are pieces of art. He knew how to make the female form look its loveliest. I have so many memories of him; my favorite might be during my first show with him in Paris. He liked me and he wanted to help me get more work. He called all his friends at Kenzo and Comme des Garcons, and asked them to book me. They said, ‘But she can’t walk!’ And he said, ‘but she has such a great ass!' His friendship and support has been the great privilege of my career. I can't imagine life without him. Repose en paix mon Papa.” - @stephanieseymour tells @wwd. #wwdfashion (📷: @steveeichner) #alaia #azzedinealaia
Azzedine Alaïa, flanked by two of his closest friends, models Stephanie Seymour and Naomi Campbell.
He designed Seymour’s dress for her 1995 wedding to Peter Brant, and treated Campbell (who famously called him Papa), like a daughter. For more on the legendary designer, tap the link in bio. #wwdfashion #alaia #azzedinealaia
Azzedine Alaïa's “I-did-it-my-way” ethos stood out starkly at a time when brands are experimenting with consumer-facing fashion shows, coed formats and trans-seasonal collections – anything to perk up lackluster sales of ready-to-wear in an age of Insta-everything. “It’s not creation anymore. This becomes a purely industrial approach,” the late designer told WWD in an interview last year. “But anyway, the rhythm of collections is so stupid. It’s unsustainable. There are too many collections.” Read more about the iconic designer’s life and work on wwd.com, link in bio. #wwdfashion #azzedinealaia (📷: @WWD Archive, 1986) #alaia
Sneaker reselling app @goat’s latest exhibit, "The Greatest: New York," tells the story of New York's sneaker culture. To celebrate the exhibit, an intimate crowd gathered on Thursday night at the pop-up gallery space, located at Platform in Culver City, to hear guest speaker and illustrator @esymai talk about her own rise in streetwear and women in the business. "For me I'm just someone who is creative. I like to create things," said Chang. #wwdfashion
Azzedine Alaïa, one of the most iconic couturiers of the modern era whose body-con designs defined Eighties fashion, has died in Paris. The diminutive Tunisian-born designer, known for his structured knitted dresses with fitted waists and impeccably cut, figure-hugging second skin silhouettes was deeply admired by his peers, and counted supermodel Naomi Campbell - his adoptive daughter - among his inner circle, one of a gang of glamazons including Farida Khelfa, Carla Bruni and Stephanie Seymour who became ambassadors of his style. (📷: Alexandre Guirkinger) #wwdblast