A new definition
As the founder of Jenna White and Jenna White Kids boutiques in South Miami and owner of a large collection of designer handbags, Jenna Kaplan observes the broader interpretation on both sides. When it comes to her own bags, she only has eyes for the latest and greatest from haute houses. Clothes are another story.
“Women want ready-to-wear pieces that transition from travel to the workplace to being a mom to going out,” she said. “I have to find that thing that can be ‘it’ for all of the above.” There’s a bit more to why an item is deemed a keeper in her book. “Being in Miami, it has to be seasonless and have longevity. People also don’t want to look the same anymore. They want to look special,” she said.
Kristen Cole has built her entire business model around that notion. As the president and chief creative officer of Forty Five Ten, a Dallas-based specialty store chain with a location in Miami’s edgy Little River neighborhood, she’s on the hunt for exclusive product through capsule collections, artist collaborations, runway looks, drops, custom fabrics and colors, and one-of-a-kind, upcycled vintage.
The last niche addresses a void in the market with the recent shuttering of some of Miami’s legendary vintage shops, in addition to sustainability, one of fashion’s major initiatives across the board. Her slow approach to curating a timeless wardrobe of conversation pieces counters every facet of fast fashion.
“The current digital overload makes it all feel so fast and flat and over distributed,” said Cole, who’s never cared for the It label regardless. “It’s way too disposable.”
Rather than specific items that come and go, she buys based on macro trends and personality types.
“For example, our store isn’t about one bag but beautiful investment pieces like Celine for the minimalist, Balenciaga for the forward and sexy woman, and Bottega [Veneta] for the chic and unexpected type,” said Cole, who also invested in the movement toward mini bags purely for the sake of fun — basically, fanny packs 2.0. “They’re these ridiculously wonderful, teeny bags that just keep getting smaller and smaller. You wear them on a belt and even on the neck. Some fit around the ankle.”
Bagging an “It” or an icon
Down with “It” or not, there’s a reason the term is generally associated with bags. These pricey prizes can be worn daily, last a long time, and are instantly recognizable as status symbols as opposed to clothing, according to Ariele Elia, co-curator of “Trend-ology,” an exhibition at the Museum of FIT in New York. She adds bag hype is a relatively new phenomenon.
“For Dior’s Spring/Summer 2000 collection, John Galliano was one of the first designers ever to put a bag on the runway,” said Elia, of the house’s iconic Saddle style.
The exhibit devoted a section to bags, several of which have graduated from It to iconic. Louis Vuitton’s Speedy, which debuted in the 1930s in response to the advent of modern transportation, is still a best seller and source for endless collaborations with famous artists like Takashi Murakami.
Elia lists the Hermès’ Birkin, named for jet-setting model actress Jane Birkin and dating to the 1980s, and Chanel’s 2.55, whose number references the month and year Gabrielle Chanel released the quilted style with its Mademoiselle rectangular lock, later updated by Karl Lagerfeld with an interlocked, gold-toned metal CC logo lock, as other icons with 21st-century staying power.
Her research concluded that trends spread far worldwide but tend to fizzle faster with the Internet and social media. It left off before big data and artificial intelligence created an accurate read of a trend’s arc in real time. Trend forecasters are watching your every move now.
“Trend forecasters and brands use these new tools to see where the market is going and analyze trends, like they can see how many people repost a look on Instagram,” said Elia.
The clear advantage hasn’t been lost on Melissa Lowenkron, Neiman Marcus’ senior vice president and general merchandise manager for handbags, accessories, ladies shoes, jewelry and beauty. Social media channels gave her an early read on fall, such as handbags’ top three trends: modern minimalism, animalia, and faux and real exotic leathers. They’ll be carried at Neiman’s stores in Bal Harbour and Coral Gables.
“Social media allows people to watch streamed runway shows and vote through likes and shares about which items are their favorites. It also gives our clients an opportunity to directly send their stylists pictures of what they want to buy,” said Lowenkron, who keeps it fresh with pop ups and other activations, since most product has been viewed before it’s available for purchase. “We still like to have a few surprises throughout the season to excite our customers.”
A Miami story
An early adapter to brick-and-mortar retail’s wake-up call since founding the original Webster flagship in South Beach a decade ago, Laure Hériard Dubreuil constantly invents clever ways to tear her customers away from their screens and shop a physical space. Among her many tactics are irresistible merchandising and limited-edition exclusives like in-house LHD label’s new Big Sur collection. Inspired by its namesake locale’s spellbinding nature and spirituality, 30 silk, cotton and mohair knit pieces as well as accessory collaborations with Barrineau and Pierre Hardy hit stores in October.
“Capsule collections and exclusives are the next level of an It product. Unlike an It bag that everyone can get, their limited quantities make people want them 10 times more when they can’t get them,” said Hériard Dubreuil, who was introduced to acquisition lust at an early age. “My first memory connected to an It product was when I helped my father pick out a Cartier Baignoire watch for my mom. It truly captured that feeling of a must-have in my mind.”
While women have moved on from getting caught up in the It moment, men are diving in. Sneakers are the new It bags.
The Webster and its brands can barely keep up with the men’s sneaker cult following according to Hériard Dubreuil. “We can’t produce these products fast enough for the modern-day consumer, especially this sneaker world. It’s like nothing I have ever seen, the need and support for these brands,” she said.
Die-hard followers of fashion’s latest creations are left to conclusion that the modern-day “It” factor for accessories has less to do with style and is instead about more speed, in seeing up with trends and grabbing them before the next big “it” comes along.