Goyard and Tory Burch: 5th Avenue Styletribe, New York

It is cliche to say that New Yorkers dress in uniform, but as with most cliches, there is a kernel of truth to this one that can’t be denied.

There is also no denying that New Yorkers are stylish, they just tend to be stylish in easily identifiable groups often associated with the areas in which they live and work, ie. Williamsburg hipsters in skinny jeans and hoodies, Wall Street bankers in Brooks Brothers and 5th Avenue ladies who lunch in Chanel. Sure, you could say the same is true for Londoners as there are trends that seem to capture the imagination of Notting Hillbillies, Sloane Rangers and Hoxtonites alike, but somehow these are executed with individual panache that makes the trend their own.

In New York this past week I was staying near 5th Avenue and everywhere I looked – Starbucks, Abercrombie, crossing the street – I saw women wearing the same things:  Goyard bags and Tory Burch ballet shoes. It’s no accident that both of these items are available nearby at 5th Avenue establishment Bergdorf Goodman and trendsetting Barney’s New York, but still the sheer volume of women toting those bags and sporting those shoes was mindboggling.

Tory_2 Goyard is a 150+ year old French luggage company that has captured the interest of 5th Avenue status seekers with its coated canvas bags which, according to people I spoke to, last forever. Tory Burch, a New York socialite whose very successful label does not have the same history as Goyard, has still managed to do the same with her Reva ballet shoe, emblazened with the Tory Burch logo.

The question I have is how smart it is from a business standpoint to allow consumers to buy into a core item like Goyard’s tote as an "it bag". It’s one thing for a Fendi fashion bag to become the season’s "it bag", because those bags are usually only around for a season or two and Fendi has a whole foundation of core bag designs and silhouettes that are available season after season. These bags speak to the history of the brand and are not marketed as being ‘of the moment’. These never go out of style. Once the moment has passed for the Goyard tote, Goyard will have to reinvent its basic bag to compel more people to buy their bags in the future.  It’s much smarter to market a fashion bag as an "it bag", and allow the core items of your collection to act as the solid base from which other more seasonal bags can be developed. Goyard has done this, consciously or unconsciously, the other way around. 

Turns out I wasn’t the first to notice the Goyard trend as Bill Cunningham (aka the original Sartorialist) captured Goyard totes on countless women in his regular On The Street feature for the New York Times entitled "The Trophy" (see above). He also did an article onthe more seasonal Fendi double buckle bags and Chanel carry-alls, underlining how these experts in the fashion game have got the it bag business sorted out.

Goyard street photo courtesy of the New York Times, 10 December 2006.

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1 comment

  1. Oh my, you don’t know much about Goyard, do you ? The very notion of “it bag” is actually in total contradiction with the Maison’s actual values and history and heritage, which you seem to ignore through and through. The St Louis tote, as pretty much all creations by Goyard, is inspired by an historic bag from the House’s archives (in this case, a beach bag from the 1920s), and is the exact opposite of a seasonal, trend-oriented item. To use your own words, it is totally part of a whole foundation of core bag and luggage designs that are available season after season, this “perennial” quality is actually one of the core values of Goyard. The Saint Louis was “reinvented in the late 1990s, has remained exactly the same ever since, and has enjoyed unwavering success for nearly 20 years. So not only it is not an “it” bag (such bags last 2 to 5 years at best, and then fade away), rather a classic staple, but it also speaks directly, as all other bags by Goyard, to the history of the Maison, and is only produced in very limited quantity, as a consequence of Goyard’s strictly artisanal mode of production. I am a big fan of “BOF” and your pieces are usually well-informed, but this time around you obviously didn’t do your homework properly, and you are passing a totally inaccurate judgement on one of the very few luxury houses in the world that has not sold its soul to mass market. Comparing a storied Maison like Goyard (the official foundation date is 1853, but the actual birth of the Maison dates back to 1792, making it the oldest trunk-maker still in business) to a brand like Tory Burch like you do is not only plain wrong ( a bit like comparing Juicy Couture and Hermès, or Codognato and Swatch), it is actually an insult to the generations of crafstmen that have been working in the Maison’s workshops, and have developped a unique wealth of savoir-faire, and a non-sense in regards to the core values of a Maison that has always refused to advertise, be loud and vulgar in its approach to customers, or capitalize on trends and fashion fads. You also seem to ignore (Have you actually contacted Goyard at all before writing this?) that they do everything they can to downplay the global success of the St Louis, as they fear it might give people a totally inaccurate vision of what they’re all about (craftsmanship, exclusivity, tradition, and most of all trunk-making, bags being just side products for Goyard), precisely the very vision your piece conveys. You have to remember that most of the zillions of supposedly Goyard tote bags you can spot in NYC are fake, as a consequence again of Goyard’s deliberate limited production policy: there are simply not enough St Louis bags being produced by Goyard each year for them to be all genuine. You know what, here’s what I suggest: speak to the people of Goyard, and learn a bit about this Maison’s incredible story and identity. Ask them for instance, why they chose to remain niche, confidential, independant and family-owned in a luxury world dominated by giant conglomerates. It could be a very interesting, and this time around, informed piece of journalism.

    JEROME FARSSAC from Paris, Île-de-France, France