When Beyoncé tells you that she’s exiling her Birkin bags to storage, you listen. “This Telfar bag imported, Birkins, them shits in storage,” she repeats on “Summer Renaissance,” the final song from her dance-infused album Renaissance (2022). The Hermès Birkin, which is notoriously hard to get, and is infamously one of the most expensive bags in the world, has become a symbol of a certain level of wealth that charters private jets with a money manager on speed dial.
As most Beyoncé-related things tend to do, such a strong stance on the Birkin bag split the internet, with some agreeing that they’re over the idolization and oversaturation of Birkins while others insist on its timeless credibility. But it’s also worth noting that in the lyrics, it’s not another glitzy designer that’s supposedly supplanted the $10,000 Birkin but rather, a $200 Telfar bag.
Though the lyrics may be in jest, it signals something larger happening in the world of luxury: a growing embrace from the obscenely exorbitant to a more “modest” form of luxury. And leading the charge, a burgeoning circuit of brands designing bags that embody the quality construction of its higher priced counterparts but at roughly half the cost. Thoughtfully designed, this class of mid-range luxury bags differs from the affordable leather totes that propelled its predecessors like Coach decades ago. With whimsical shapes and elevated designs, these bags almost feel bespoke—the quality virtually indistinguishable from ones emblazoned with a shiny big-name logo.
While the higher end of luxury is still a booming business—conglomerates like LVMH and Kering boast strong profits each year, to the tune of $86bn in LVMH’s case according to a 2022 report—the aspirational It bag is shifting downmarket. Spending the equivalent of a rent check isn’t the point here, and the runaway success of designs like Staud’s Moon bag and ByFar’s Billy bag has shown that a $400 bag can be every inch as covetable and can galvanize a clan of A-list celebrities just as well a $4,000 one. “These brands are nailing trends and make it easy to diversify and perfect my wardrobe more often than if I were to invest in a pricey, luxury accessory,” says Shopbop Fashion Director Caroline Maguire. “They’re making luxury more attainable.”
TikTok has, in part, fueled the fire. After a series of viral videos endorsing its quality over other well-known luxury bags, French accessories label Polène has gone from an unknown to an It brand almost overnight. But Polène is just one of several names to follow this “getting more for less” pathway to mainstream relevance. The brands below are dismantling the status quo of luxury as unattainable. From Paris to London and Seoul, meet the names glamourizing the mid-range bag: