Would you buy a luxury bag without the designer name? If the style and quality stayed the same? In other words, would an Hermès Birkin, Chanel Classic Flap, or Gucci Marmont without its label still be desirable to you?
With the rise of “brandless luxury,” this isn’t a question we can avoid any longer. While we’ve already explored minimalism in the luxury fashion industry, such as the popularity of Monsieur Gavriel handbags, this is a different—though related—trend. Logomania ebbs and flows throughout the seasons, but lately there’s been a shift away from both flashy branding and branding altogether. As early as 2014, Forbes ran an article titled, “Label Free Is the New Luxury.”
As much as we adore interlocking Chanel CCs and Hermès’ comforting capital letters, we can’t help but recognize the changing trends of consumerism. Branding is here to stay, but it’s fair to say it’s waning—especially among millennial consumers. Are you also turning to the alternative?
Status vs. Style
Traditionally, luxury brands have been associated with status. Your Kelly and Cartier Love bracelet convey, among other things, high social status. While status markers still appeal to luxury buyers, consumer values are unquestionably changing.
Now, consumers are beginning to find more meaning in their purchases’ singularity, in both luxury and high street fashion. As WWD has discussed, social media has sparked a turn toward the individual and a desire for trendsetting over trend-following. Instead of carrying the same Chanel Classic Flap as everyone else on Instagram, younger consumers especially are looking for newer brands and fresh styles.
In short, individual style has begun to trump status. “For me, fashion is much more about style than brand; it’s why I get more compliments on my Zara boots than my Isabel Marant ones,” Lia Avellino, a therapist and director of a wellness club in New York City, told Glamour. “Wearing a luxury brand like Gucci conveys more ‘status’ than ‘unique style’ to me.”
Ultimately, style is something that’s more unique—a trait that many traditional luxury brands, in their logos and ubiquity, can’t lay claim to.
With new brands popping up left and right and then finding momentum on Instagram, the list of alternatives could go on and on. Generally, brandless alternatives emphasize transparency in terms of price and/or sourcing materials, in an effort to be part of the “ethical consumption” movement. There is a growing focus on luxury markups in particular and how to determine the value of fashion items. Now, it’s easier than ever to assess “worth” without a brand’s name as a sticker of approval, since reviews can be found all over the internet.
One brand that is gaining steam, which Glamour recently wrote about, is direct-to-consumer brand Italic that uses the same factories as numerous designer brands. Italic launched in November and has a $120 annual membership fee, with bags generally less than $300. The quality, the brand claims, is designer-grade, and the primary difference between their totes and, say, a Prada one, is complete lack of branding.
Would you be enticed to try out Italic, or are you skeptical?
Sticking with Traditional Brands
So why do we stick with traditional brands after all? Well, the quality is generally undeniable (though we know a few of our readers will likely have some objections to that). And even when bags are crafted in the same factories, luxury brands sometimes use the nicer leathers and materials, while the newer and less expensive brands fashion bags from the scraps.
We can only speak for ourselves, but we think one of the main reasons to stick with tradition is the simple fact that when you carry a Birkin, Chanel Flap, Dior Saddle Bag, etc., the legacy of a fashion house rests just beneath your arm. You carry the fashion history—along with all of its recognizable symbols—with you wherever you go. If it’s the Birkin, that’s the most iconic bag in the world. If it’s the Classic Flap, that’s the first bag designed with a shoulder strap, by one of the most pioneering designers of the modern world.
And we have to stay, there’s a reason luxury bags are as popular as they are—they’re gorgeous. But what do you think?