By  on April 11, 2007

Action sports and surf accessories are not all about floral canvas totes anymore.

As contemporary and young contemporary brands elevated the fashion bar for clothing in the surf sector, they have prodded manufacturers to reconsider what girls carry to the beach.

The trend is epitomized by Gold Digga, Fox Head's boxy fake leather handbag. It became the top seller across all categories for the Morgan Hill, Calif.-based motocross apparel company after a chilly reception from surf and action sports store buyers last year.

"It was a big surprise," said Tiana Becker, juniors merchandising manager for Fox. "We are offering products that are actually fashionable and getting customers that we never thought we had....The industry as a whole has come a long way. It is no longer a boardshorts business. The same goes for accessories."

For fall and next spring, surf and action sports firms are producing chic handbags with decorative hardware, sharp accents and costlier materials to set them apart from traditional surf bags. But the real change can be summed up by the look: an edgier aesthetic is creeping into handbag shelves at surf stores.

Although handbags in the surf and action sports sector are bargains by designer handbag standards, the new bags may cost as much as $100 in stores in an accessories market dominated by bags in the $10 and $20 retail range.

Encouraged by the Gold Digga, which retails for around $40, Fox is developing a limited edition $100 handbag for spring 2008. The company expects to produce six styles retailing for more than $40 for spring, double the amount it typically releases above that price tag.

Retailer PacSun's customers will get a taste of the pricier bags in fall with an $88 snakeskin purse dubbed the Platinum Deluxe. Another key Fox entry for fall is the Paparazzi, a round bag that retails for $46 and has custom logo snaps and rivets.

Dakine, known for its practical packs and luggage, is putting its toes in the higher-end market as well. The Bond Street Collection of the Hood River, Ore.-based company features a roomy shoulder bag called the Jessica that has antique brass hardware, heavy zippers, vinyl trim and cotton lining. Retailing for $50, double Dakine's average price for girls' bags, the Jessica has been picked up by skate and snowboard retailer Zumiez.

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