Telfar has been taking the luxury world by storm. The last few years have seen the brand grow exponentially in popularity. All his bags are handmade out of vegan leather and they sell out within minutes of every drop. A Telfar tote is THE bag to have right now.
Luxury fashion has been dominated by the same names for decades. Chanel, Hermes, Prada, YSL…The brands in this space of exclusivity and extreme desirability have definitely earned their spot at the top, but competition is long overdue. Typically, classic luxury bags sell for anywhere between £1k to like £400k (for an Hermes, anyway). Hermes buyers even have hoops to jump through before being eligible to buy a bag. The desire to declare wealth and financial status in this way has people doing absolutely outlandish things just to get their hands on whatever bag is the latest and most exclusive.
Telfar has managed luxury, exclusivity and accessibility all for an average of $250 or less. Fashion does not need to cost the price of a small house to be considered a luxury item. In my opinion, as Telfar makes all products in-house, to order this makes them worthy of a much higher price tag, yet he hasn’t done that. His tagline ‘Not for you- for everyone’ suggests the purpose of his business model is to rebel against common practices in the luxury fashion space. Telfar’s success shows that perhaps selling luxury, exclusivity and inane desire is not about the price tag or materials of the product at all.
So, who is Telfar Clemens? Born in Queens, New York 1985, Telfar Clemens is a DJ, fashion designer and the founder of TELFAR the label. TELFAR is based in Bushwick, Brooklyn, which is why the bags have been labelled the ‘Bushwick Birkin’- due to both its status and its accessibility. The TELFAR logo actually comes from a monogram Telfar’s teacher wrote on the board while he was a student. The monogram stuck. TELFAR was founded while Clemens was a student at Pace University in 2005.
In 2019, Clemens showcased his F/W19 TELFAR collection at living Plaza in NYC in an event celebrating Black futures month. 2020 was a highly successful year for Clemens and TELFAR. He announced a (later delayed due to COVID) collaboration with GAP, and later with UGG, which was released in June of this year. August 2020 saw the first of the brands ‘Bag Security Programme’ which allowed customers full access to preorder their bag for one day only and guarantee they secured the piece they wanted. The bags would be made and shipped for up to 6 months after this day and everyone would eventually get their bag. 2020 was also the year Clemens won the CFDA as ‘American Designer of the Year’. As a Liberian himself, Telfar was also awarded the opportunity to design the official uniforms for the Liberian Tokyo 2020 Olympic team.
In the last few years, the signature bags have been labelled as ‘the decades most important accessory’ by the most important names in fashion. The sell out-rate of the bags caused major concern about bots buying for resale which would cause the site to crash. The actual issue was just honest demand by real people. I for one am dying to get hold of a bubblegum pink mini tote…and a baby blue one. I love a success story like this and I can’t wait to see how much higher Clemens and TELFAR can go. Maybe this is just the start of the end of luxury fashion as we know it. As said by Telfar, fashion is not for you, it’s for everyone.