On man bags, Mr Porter and fashion versus function

A while ago I read a statistic that stayed in my head. It predicted that sales of man bags (in the US) would increase by 23% by 2013. Well here you go, with the launch of Mr Porter, the menswear market has stepped up a gear and as with womenswear, accessories are looking to account for rather a large portion of market share.

It’s widely understood that men don’t shop like women; they don’t do trends and they certainly don’t do It bags. But in emerging markets like China, a stylish bag for a businessman is crucial, suggesting he is worth taking seriously.

Elsewhere, as the arsenal of kit hauled by the average working man increases – smart phone, iPad, laptop – something handsome and practical is called upon to transport it, and so the opportunity has arisen for retailers and designers to take advantage. Bill Amberg knows this. He recently teamed up with Business of Fashion’s Imran Amed to create the ultimate unisex smart tote bag. Anya Hindmarch knows it too. As a designer famous for putting functionality first (she is obsessed with compartments and pockets), Hindmarch has tapped GQ’s Dylan Jones to co-create his dream man bag. And Mr Porter knows it. Its current roster of bag labels include Mulberry, Jil Sander, YSL and (my favourite) Valextra, with not a dud between them.

Is it any wonder that I find myself drawn more to the muted, streamlined bags on Mr Porter than their overdesigned female counterparts on other sites? From a day-to-day utility point of view, these bags address the issues of size and function that women’s bags often neglect. As fashion encourages a culture of chopping and changing bags according to trend-led whim, women’s bags tend towards decoration, seasonal colours and all sorts of other unnecessariness whereas men’s bag are so much more straightforward. “What we are doing for men is really quite understated and the opposite of being tricky,” says Mulberry’s Emma Hill, which for me hits the nail on the head. Here are some of my favourite men’s bags (with a gratuitous iPad case chucked in for good measure)…

Valextra briefcase


Mulberry tote


YSL tote


Valextra iPad case

PS, on the subject of Valextra, don’t miss this interview on Business of Fashion…

[Main image: Bill Amberg/Business of Fashion Calgary bag]

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2 Responses to On man bags, Mr Porter and fashion versus function

  1. Anna says:

    I agree with you on preferring these simpler bags to the ones designed for women. With the exception of sachels no bag that has been in the shops for quite a while now has appealed to me. A couple of months ago I needed a new bag to replace my old one (I don’t change between bags so I only need one), I couldn’t find anything and in the end went for a unisex tweed backpack.

    Your description of how men and women shop has got me thinking, I certainly shop like a man and I wonder will fashion ever have a place for people like me who shop in a slightly different manner and look for different things in clothes from what we’re being offered, and who put practicality, quality, simplicity and longevity first. Or maybe it has already started doing so, what with all the photos of women dressed “like men” in simple trousers and shirts out there (but then again that’s not really fashion is it, it’s just people on street style websites who are not necessarily part of the industry).

    This is a very interesting article.

  2. That YSL tote NEEDS to be mine! Great article love, finally got it up then :)

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