Is the Longchamp Tote the Definitive Professional Woman’s Bag?
4:09 pm, April 10th | by Meredith Lepore
There comes a time in every woman’s life when you realize that everyone around you has the same purse and you are on the verge of looking like a behind-the-times outcast or a unique and original person with their own style. Depends on how you look at it. The thing with bag trends though, is that most of them are fleeting. The little black Prada backpack (so cute but what could it actually fit?), the black Kate Spade purse (another tiny bag, as were reminded in that infamous Sex & the City episode) the Louis Vuitton speedy ( I mean the white one with colors), that weird see-through plastic bag people were into for a hot second, etc.,
But one bag that I feel hasn’t gotten enough attention over the years even though it has become a fixture of every professional woman’s wardrobe, from age 18 to 80 is the Herve Longchamp Le Pilage bag. I think of Rachel McAdams as the young, scarily driven and frazzled morning news show producer toting two black Longchamps as she chased after Harrison Ford in Morning Glory. I dare say it could even be put on the classic purse level (I am not ashamed to say I have four currently.) Perhaps on the periphery of the Chanels, Birkins and Louis Vuitton’s circle of staple purses that will be fashionable FOREVER (even in post-apocalyptic Hunger Games society when we’re all depending on goats for food, everyone will still want a goddamn quilted Chanel bag.)
So why is the Longchamp bag so popular? Well first of all it comes in a variety of sizes and colors. Yes you can get ones with interesting designs but the popular ones that really carry the brand are actually very bland. It is also a very durable bag. One woman told The Observer, for New Yorkers, Longchamps were comparable to a car, because you could throw so much essential junk in it. I say if anyone ever tries to call women and their bags frivolous point to this trend as it shows that women overwhelmingly have chosen practicality over glamor.
I recall my first Longchamp bag, which I got junior year of college, to be able to handle my neuroscience books, wet, dirty Uggs if I felt moved enough to change shoes, a half-drunk bottle of Diet Dr.Pepper, various assortments of candy, my laptop sometimes, seven pens without their caps, a few magazines and a large wallet. That bag took several beatings as it was carried around in the freezing snow and rain, beer-drenched frat houses and often my daily skim chai. But even after three years it still looked pretty good!
And let’s not forget that if you emptied it out you could also fold it up! Women love things that fit into other things!
“Thirteen years after it was introduced to the American market, the eminently collapsible Le Pliage—which means “folding” in French—has saturated the streets of New York City as the practical shoulder bag of the moment: to be stuffed with gym clothes, schoolbooks, groceries, Evian bottles, Self magazines, important briefs, novels, four-inch heels, and whatever else it is women carry around all day. At some point in the past five years, it mysteriously overtook the Hervé Chapelier nylon tote, which served a similar purpose. Both are French. Both are available in a constantly changing seasonal variety of solid colors. Both are durable, and, at around $100 dollars, reasonably inexpensive—at least for the department stores that stock them.”
But this was a college bag? Surely, this style was not going to last into my professional life. I’m sure my first journalism job would provide me with the means to buy a giant Prada bag (I blame every romantic comedy for that school of thought.) But yet, I saw even more women carrying the Longchamp in every season , in every color. Some would even carry two at a time!
Now I am in the fashion epicenter that is Manhattan (and the bag was first sold on Madison Avenue) but I have seen this bag everywhere. Every college campus, every city, every airport? Dare I say, it is the bag of ambitious women? A Longchamp bag just screams over-achiever (it should be noted, I have never seen any of the Kardashians carrying one. It is an anti-Kardashian bag.)
Perhaps it could even be called the starter bag for ambitious women? Carly Heitlinger, creator of The College Prepster, told The Jane Dough, “It’s like a nice bag without being ridiculously pretentious. Like you don’t want to go into your first job with a Prada bag. It looks like you are too entitled. But the Longchamp is a nice, well-crafted bag that you clearly didn’t just grab at H&M. And the $145 price point is just perfect.”
She does make a good point with the price. A month ago a different bag I had was just not cutting it and for a minute I considered straying from the safety of the Longchamp. I was veering into Tory Burch territory, another excellent brand, but decided (surprisingly) that eating three regular meals a day was worth it to me more than toting around a fabulous TB bag. Plus, with my Longchamp, which is in a stunning cerulean blue, I know once again that it will carry my two extra pairs of shoes, my iPad, magazines, my Chipotle salad and still persevere. It’s more than a bag, it’s a support system.
A statement purse like a Chanel or a Louis Vuitton or a Celine bag (that purse literally haunts my dreams) is many young women’s goal for when they make enough money in their careers. Purses work in two ways. They are awesome and look really good but they can also be a status symbol that show, “Hey, I worked for this!”
I’ll even see women with the really fancy purse also carrying a Longchamp as a second bag. It’s as if they want to remind themselves that they still need the steady, dependable purse that has gotten them through all those years. The Longchamp almost acts as a security blanket for grownup women.
So next time you see a woman toting a Longchamp don’t think of her as just a sheep following the trend. Think of her as someone looking to climb the career ladder and probably toting her comfy flats, and gym clothes, and Nook, magazines and chapstick she can never find.
Then again, maybe we just like them because they are French and they are easier than trying to figure out how to tie those little scarves.