Like many of you, I have been seduced by the plethora of logos and labels and often I feel like I'm carrying a billboard under my arm rather than a beautiful, functional accessory piece. That's why I'm relieved to see a movement (as small as it may be) towards minimalism in handbag design but with superior craftsmanship. Often the problem, however, still remains in its commanding, unattainable price tag.
A company out of San Francisco decided to disrupt the fashion industry and change the way we think, feel, see and purchase clothing and accessories. Nearly five years ago, a young Michael Preysman left the venture capital world to, er, venture out on his own. He wanted to build a company that challenged the status quo of the retail industry and push boundaries beyond the conventional paths to market. The result of his efforts launched Everlane, an online-only retail space that designs and manufactures high quality, basic apparel and accessories (handbags, wallets) at an affordable price. The affordability is one thing; but Everlane's philosophy goes well beyond that. They believe in full transparency with their customer: with each product, the customer is fully aware of where the item was manufactured, the precise manufacturing cost (including materials and labour) that goes into each item, the markup (gross margin) of each one, and the final taxes, duties and shipping costs. This type of full disclosure is unprecedented and you have to admire Everlane for that. There's no bullshitting here - what you see is what you get and that's refreshing, and disruptive in the best way possible.
I decided to take the Everlane purchasing experience for a spin. I had my eye on their Petra Magazine Handbag for quite some time as I wanted a durable, simple leather tote that would last forever. I needed it to be big enough to fit my 13" Macbook, camera, notebook, pens, etc. As you can see in the picture, it's certainly not fancy. No logos, no diecuts, just a clean face all around the bag and two sturdy straps. The only noticeable feature is the polished chrome hardware at the straps and feet. Purchasing the bag online was easy as pie and I got follow-up mails by Everlane customer support staff immediately as I had a couple of questions about the bag. The bag was delivered to my US mailbox in less than a week and it came boxed and protected with a soft cover drawstring pouch.
The quality of the bag was amazing as it was made of 100% Italian leather just outside of Venice, Italy. My Macbook and assorted accouterments fit nicely inside and I appreciated having two deep canvas pockets to put my smartphone, keys and other small items. All in all, I was getting big bang for my buck at a $325 price tag. For Italian leather, made in Italy, with comparable form and function, I have paid three to four times that amount for similar bags by other designers. Before you press 'Add to Cart,' they'll also inform you of your total cost (including duties and taxes) depending on shipping destination - so you'll never get caught off guard (and your wallet will thank you).
Just a side note though, if there's one thing that does bother me about this bag, it's that the bottom of the handle (where the polished chrome hardware secures it) seems to always catch on my pockets, door handles and other things that seem to make it stick out. I can, however, overlook it based on all the other positives.
All in all, I'm quite happy with the design, look and feel of this handbag and look forward to seeing what other products Everlane will create. If it's anything like what they currently have, they're off to a great start.