A brown Telfar bag
A brown Telfar bag
A guest wears a crossbody tan-color Telfar bag, outside Wooyoungmi, during Paris Fashion Week - Menswear F/W Fall/Winter 2020-2021 in Paris, France. (Photo Credit: Edward Berthelot/Getty Images)

How the Telfar Shopping Bag Became the Most Popular Black-Owned Accessory on the Internet

How did the Telfar become the most popular accessory of 2020? And what's up with all the memes?  Here’s everything you need to know about the Telfar Shopping Bag.

The Telfar Shopping Bag has been thrust into the mainstream. Thanks to a rise of activism and social awareness due to protests happening around the country, Black businesses have been experiencing an uptick in sales. The Telfar bag has been one of the big winners in the Buy Black boom.

Coined the “Bushwick Birkin” by New York Magazine, the Telfar Bag was originally released in 2014. Six years later, it's the hottest, most talked-about accessory in the market and it swiftly sells out each time a new bag drops. 

So how did this happen? And what do all the memes mean? Here’s everything you need to know about the Telfar’s Shopping Bag — the most popular item of 2020. 

Who is Telfar Clemens?

Telfar Clemens is a queer, self-taught Black designer hailing from Queens, New York who created his eponymous fashion house in 2005. From the very beginning days of the brand, the collections were genderless and unisex. Clemens launched his eponymous, unisex label before androgynous clothing was the norm in the fashion market. In 2017, Clemens famously redesigned White Castle’s uniforms. After this, he released a capsule collection that paid homage to the New York City neighborhoods the chain is found in. All proceeds from the capsule were used to bail minors out of Rikers Island. For a Dazed interview, he said, “After we did White Castle there was this whole trend about ‘downmarket’ collaborations, but I think that really misses the point.” He added, “It’s corny to talk about ‘elevating’ things – we want to make fashion horizontal.”

Clemens has built a dedicated and cult-like following over the years. His previous New York Fashion Week shows were heavily attended, celebrated, and covered. In 2018, Clemens won the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund award which thrust him further into the spotlight. 

What is a Telfar bag?

Though the success for Telfar might appear to have happened overnight, it didn’t. A previous bio on the official site told Clemons' journey:

Become a queer, Liberian-American eighteen year old, travel back to 2004 and establish a 100% unisex fashion line in New York City.” It also read, “Try to make clothes that do not exist on the market – just as you don’t exist in the world.” 

In 2014, the year he introduced the bag at the Autumn/Winter 2014 runway show, Clemens told Dazed his aspiration was to be “Michael Kors, but on purpose.” Telfar used the funds from his CFDA/Vogue Fashion award — $400,000 — to focus on the Shopping Bag. He improved it and re-released it in 2018 with a wider range of colors and sizes. In a Vogue profile on the relaunch, he shared, “It really represents us moving from an idea to a business. It represents everything we are about; like our clothes, it’s completely unisex and every possible kind of person can wear it, but it’s also extremely accessible and practical.” 

Telfar Clemens in white jacket and Ashton Sanders in gray and black suit Telfar Clemens and Ashton Sanders attend The 2019 Met Gala. Photo Credit: Dia Dipasupil / for Getty.

Who is wearing Telfar bags?

For years, creatives and queer Black people in New York City have been omnipresent supporters of Telfar. But now more notable names are starting to catch on. Solange, Selah Marley, Tinashe, A$AP Ferg, Kelsey Lu, and BbyMutha have worn the bag publicly over the years. It also has appeared on Moonlight actor Ashton Sanders who accompanied Clemens to the Met Gala in 2019. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is the latest supporter to join the ranks as she was seen wearing a Shopping Bag in D.C.

How much does a Telfar Bag cost?

The price point for a Telfar Bag ranges from $150 to $257. When compared to luxury brands from other designers, the Telfar is affordable. For example, Jacquemus’ popular mini bag, the Le Chiquito, prices out at $500 while Saint Laurent’s Toy Loulou Bag is currently priced at $1250. 

Why is the Telfar Bag so popular?

Nearly a month ago, Telfar began creating memes out of fans’ social media reactions to the sporadic Shopping Bag drops. The memes were funny and relatable, a few of them went viral on Twitter.

What followed this were questions of whether the bag was actually a luxury item and whether or not the pricing was affordable. Some expressed their excitement over a Black brand receiving support even amid the elitism that is present within the fashion world. This discussion led into the next moments for Clemens which were set off by fans’ reactions yet again.

On July 23, Twitter was set ablaze when a restock of the Shopping Bag crashed the brand’s website for the first time. Some users compared this particular drop to Supreme and Nike’s SNKR releases that are known for being overtaken by bots. Telfar trended on Twitter that same day. Thousands of real orders were coming in and Clemens shared he believed the bags “broke the Internet” in a story for Complex. After this, the accessory was found on resale sites like eBay and Grailed for up to $700.

Not to be lost here is the notion that Telfar has always been for the people. Beyond this, there’s a communal feeling that comes from owning a piece by the fashion house. In an interview with New York Magazine, Clemens shared, “The whole vision was that its accessibility was part of its DNA, and it would grow.”

What is the Telfar Bag Security Program?

The brand’s answer to the site crashing on July 23 was to create the Telfar Bag Security Program which will provide an opportunity for fashion lovers to support and secure a piece safely. 

The Telfar Bag Security Program was a one-day, 24-hour online event that took place on August 19 where shoppers were able to pre-order any bag in any color of their choosing. Guaranteed delivery for these pre-orders will be between December 15 and January 15, 2021. 

In his Complex interview, Clemens shared there was initially no plan to make the bag scarce. “The pandemic shut down our supply chain temporarily at the exact moment that our demand exploded. At this point, we are having a hard time knowing what the demand is because everything sells out in minutes.” The Telfar Bag Security Program was the brand’s way of addressing the bots and resellers who hoped to capitalize on the popularity of the Shopping Bag. 

Where can you purchase the Telfar Shopping Bag now?

The cult favorite handbag is currently sold out. But, Telfar will be releasing drops throughout the rest of the year and the foreseeable future on their official website. (In fact, there's another drop happening on August 26th.) Previous stockists of the Shopping Bag include SSENSE, Slam Jam, and Ooga Booga.

What sizes is the Telfar Shopping Bag available in?

As stated on Telfar’s official website, the piece will be available during separate drops in the coming weeks or months in small, medium and large. If you’re into mini-bags, the small is the perfect size for you. But, if you’re looking for an everyday bag, you should look to the medium as it can carry quite a few essentials like an iPad Air and daily knick-knacks the small can’t quite fit. The large is the perfect carry-on for flights and is also an ideal office carry-all. 

What colors is the Telfar Shopping Bag available in?

At the moment, Telfar’s website displays the following colorways: black, white, tan, oxblood, dark olive, navy, yellow, cream, grey, pool blue, bubblegum pink, orange, red, silver, gold, cobalt, copper and a green/white flag color.