So let’s say you want a bag without a manufacturer’s monogram. Otherwise known as a logo. Logos and other branding tchotchkes (Yiddish word of the day) are ubiquitous these days. Hard to avoid. When I bought my new purse, it was displayed with charms attached to the handles. I refrained.
But I digress. Let’s assume you want a bag without branding, and that you also want to send High WASP social signals. (It is possible that’s not something you want. I do understand.) Here are some options.
First of all, let us take a moment of silence for a brand with history. Consider the bag in the center. Coach, and few say otherwise, is floundering at the moment. They think their logo can stand in for the quality of design, materials, and construction that built the value of their brand. We can only hope they return to their senses. I still have a drawstring Coach bag that I might take off its hook and unretire.
Now where was I? Oh yes. There are some general principles at play here. When manufacturers put logos and copycat brand elements on bargain items, they are hoping for reflected glory via mimicry. I will not make a blanket statement on the rightness or wrongness of that choice. It’s just not mine. So if you don’t want logos, but do want some style, some cachet, what then? You have to substitute design for logos. It’s easiest to do this with limitless funds. What commercial enterprise isn’t easier with limitless funds? But it’s possible on a budget.
Start in the upper right on the circle above with how not to do this. (Clinton? Stacy?) Knockoffs, time-honored though they may be, are rarely up to the task at hand. They ape key design strokes of genius of brands that have won luxury status. But the strokes of genius often turn out to be nothing without faithful execution. Chanel’s quilting, for example. To which Marc Jacobs pays lovely homage. However, this kind of quilting does not translate well to bargain brands. The beauty of Chanel and Jacobs’ quilting is in the feather-soft leather, the perfect stitching. So unless knockoffs are done with irony, clearly imitation, this strategy is a non-starter.
Moving on. The green bag looks great in pictures. The design is classic. However, it’s made of plastic. So quite risky, in that the material might negate the design, leaving the bag only shabby. How about nautical? Pacman? The anchor and the hungry ghosts substitute for logos. They are well-loved symbols that say something about the person carrying the bag. Something you brought home from a souk in Morocco, or the San Blas islands off the coast of Panama would serve as well. These aren’t bags for a corporate job, perhaps, unless you work for a yachting company, or as a software designer, but they are bags that say who you are with a clean design sensibility at a low price.
Finally, in my opinion the blue and orange envelope, and the straw from J. Crew are the closest to what I would advise for anyone looking to get High WASP, no logo style with an inexpensive bag. The blue bag has great colors and a classic, simple shape. The straw is made of seagrass, great color and texture, again in a classic, simple shape. In the end, something about the bag you choose, in the High WASP paradigm, and possibly others, ought to make you feel, “Oh, good job you. Good job.” As others have said, ideally it’s not about the money. Ideally.