telfar

THE DIZZYING RISE OF TELFAR

THE DIZZYING RISE OF TELFAR

by Stella Hughes
3 min
telfar
Telfar ©

We’ve all seen the famous Telfar bags. Ever since people got to know about the brand, perhaps from Beyoncé or earlier, Telfar have become quite the ‘It’ brand. Telfar Clemens, designer of the eponymous label, started the fashion house that has risen to popularity largely due to one, iconic product: the Telfar shopping bag. 

Clemens and his business partner Babak Radboy created the label in 2005, and since, the duo have been early outliers in fashion’s inner circle. As well as bags, in 2017, the duo crafted a collection of unisex uniforms for the US fast food chain White Castle. Then, in advance of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, Telfar revealed a line of athletic wear for the Liberian team to wear at the Games. In September 2020, they also created a range of luxury durags. Author and academic Carol Tulloch praised this move for referencing inclusivity and promoting black style, saying that the brand releasing a line of durags “magnif(ied) the importance of black style. Telfar Clemens believes in ‘living your fashion life’ – that is, being who you are on a day-to-day basis.”

telfar
Telfar ©

So what actually is the Telfar shopping bag?

Nicknamed as the ‘Bushwick Birkin’ due to its popularity amongst Brooklyn’s fashion crowd and self-proclaimed accessibility for all, the bag has been one of the most popular accessories to get hold of in the fashion space. They have been celebrated for their simple, yet luxury-looking design and relatively affordable prices. They’re also made of vegan leather, and were first released in 2014. Oh, and they sell out within minutes – every time.

Telfar ©

Accessibility and inclusivity are a core tenet of the brand. “In an era where true luxury is having a functioning health and social security system, I think their slogan – ‘Not for you, for everyone’ – rings very true,” Emily King, guest curator at the Design Museum, said of Telfar. As well as not using leather, the bags are also gender neutral and have racked up a cult-following from celebrities and the general public alike. Fans include Solange, Issa Rae and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, truly epitomising their broad appeal. 

Speaking about this ethos, Clemens explained that he has “a vision for fashion that I don’t think anyone else is touching. A lot of people take inspiration from ‘the streets’— and there is this whole language of appropriation — taking something ‘low’ and elevating it. We don’t believe in ‘high’ and ‘low.’ The way I see fashion is totally horizontal.”

Moreover, they’re just great bags: they come in multiple colours, three sizes, and feature both cross-body straps and handles so it can be worn multiple ways. The typical small version retails for US $150 and the large goes for US $257. It’s practical and functional, whilst still being aesthetically and produced at an accessible price point. Coupled with the fact that they’ve committed to not raising their prices, even after Beyoncé’s Instagram post, makes us sure that the brand is here to stay. Set your alarms for next Monday!

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