Accessories designer Anya Hindmarch found herself in the eye of the "green" movement's storm Wednesday.
Hundreds of customers lined up at her New York and Los Angeles stores to buy the "I'm not a plastic bag" white canvas shopping tote. Hindmarch replicated a formula she perfected in her native U.K. in March to whip up interest, and about 10,000 bags sold out within hours. She priced them affordably ($15 in the U.S.), kept the distribution narrow and produced a limited run.
"We had to make it a desirable bag that people wanted to wear," said Hindmarch, who was in Los Angeles for the launch. "To make it cool, there had to be a sense of exclusivity and excitement."
The bags, with cursive navy blue lettering and trim and rope straps, were available at Hindmarch's namesake boutiques in New York, Los Angeles and Short Hills, N.J., as well as at Ron Herman, Post 26 and Fred Segal Flair in the Los Angeles area and Holt Renfrew in Canada. In a month, 20,000 more bags will be released to Whole Foods locations in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.
The line outside the SoHo store wrapped around the city block. Its supply of 850 totes sold out in less than three hours.
In Los Angeles, lines started forming in front of Hindmarch's Robertson Boulevard boutique at 4 a.m. — the bags didn't go on sale until seven hours later.
Courtney Jaravata, 21, a student at Santa Monica College, arrived at 5:30 a.m. even though she had already bought two of the totes for $100 total, including shipping, on eBay from the U.K. She saw the British version, which has brown lettering and trim, reach $350 on the auction Web site.
Although Hindmarch professes she isn't a green guru, she said making consumers ponder their consumption choices was the point of the "I'm not a plastic bag" campaign.
"It makes people think about the message of not using a plastic bag," she said.
Along with the bag's popularity, however, Hindmarch has experienced some backlash. She's been criticized for manufacturing the totes in China and with nonsustainable materials, and has been accused of using the phenomenon as a marketing ploy."It genuinely wasn't a marketing thing when we started out," said Hindmarch, who added that the bags were made in China without organic cotton to keep prices down. "I hope, though, that it ends up being good for us. That way, people won't be afraid of doing something like this."
Hindmarch's totes will be unveiled in Southeast Asia on July 6 and in Japan on July 14. The bags at those launches will feature, respectively, charcoal gray and dark green lettering and trim, and production runs for each will be capped at 30,000 units.
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