Skip to main content
BoF Logo

The Business of Fashion

Agenda-setting intelligence, analysis and advice for the global fashion community.

The Row’s Margaux: A Birkin in the Making?

Designers Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen turned their hit bag into one of fashion’s most coveted items through scarcity, constant newness and a little bit of mystique.
Margaux Bag.
The Row's Margaux Bag has reached peak popularity. (The Row)
BoF PROFESSIONAL

Key insights

  • The Row’s Margaux bag, a years-old stealth wealth staple, has reached peak virality: magazines are calling it the next Birkin Bag, TikTokkers are racing to buy it and retailers can’t seem to keep it in stock.
  • The Row designers Mary Kate and Ashley turned the shape into a cult sensation by constantly introducing fresh tweaks to the style by season, limiting distribution and driving intrigue through understated marketing.
  • Something about the classic-meets-slouchy shape is resonating right now, but whether the Margaux — or any bag — can replicate the success of the Birkin, which has become its own asset class, remains to be seen.

Throughout the 2010s, The Row founders Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen were routinely photographed carrying Hermès’ famed Birkin bag. Now, they seem to have created their own version.

Kendall Jenner carrying The Margaux in September in New York City.
Kendall Jenner carrying The Margaux in September in New York City. (Getty Images)

The ultra-quiet luxury label is usually best exemplified by the phrase “if you know, you know” — and thanks to its smash hit Margaux bag, a lot more people are in the know. The Margaux has become a celebrity status symbol — Zoe Kravitz, Jennifer Lawrence and Kendall Jenner have been snapped carrying The Margaux — and more recently, a TikTok phenomenon. On the app, the hashtag #Margauxbag has nearly 2 million views and users are dubbing it the “new Birkin.” In December, Vogue called it an “heirloom in the making.”

Demand for the carryall tote, which starts at $3,490 and is sold in a number of sizes and materials including suede, leather and even alligator skin, is surging. In January, fashion search platform Lyst named the Margaux fashion’s hottest product.

An ‘It’ bag is the latest win for the Olsens, who launched the brand in 2006. Known for its sleek virgin wool coats, precisely tailored blazers, plush cashmere loungewear and leather thong sandals, The Row has long been beloved by wealthy shoppers and fashion insiders. In the past year, however, it’s reached another level in the cultural conversation, thanks to the quiet luxury craze that dominated fashion in 2023.

ADVERTISEMENT

Wearing The Row has come to signal a degree of savvy — and bags are the best way to telegraph a wearer’s allegiance to a brand. Leather goods are famously the foundation of the luxury fashion business — and a breakout bag is the holy grail. The Margaux’s exclusionary starting price, especially from an independent brand, makes its widespread popularity all the more impressive.

“It’s rare. You can count on one hand how many times a bag becomes a major success, especially one coming out of what is considered a small brand,” said Robert Burke, New York-based fashion consultant.

Beyond an identifiable design and emphasis on quality materials, The Row pulled a few strategic levers, including controlled distribution and steady release of new colours, shapes and materials by season to make the bag a success.

The Mystique of the Margaux

While its use of quality materials puts it in league with Loro Piana and Brunello Cucinelli, The Row’s design speaks to an edgier client, said Neelam Ahooja, a stylist who runs an Instagram and YouTube channel dedicated to The Row. She compares the label to the likes of Dries Van Noten, Comme des Garçons, and Maison Margiela, which developed cult followings for distinct visual language of the brands’ designs.

The Row is discounted less than competitors.
(BoF Team)

“For me [The Row] is a way of life, I want my life to have richness, I don’t want it to be overcomplicated, I want it to be comfortable,” said Ahooja, who currently owns seven Margaux bags.

Legacy luxury labels, meanwhile, are increasingly relying on re-editions of tried-and-true shapes, said Burke, making a new silhouette feel especially fresh. As well, there’s something about the utilitarian, slouchy but classic shape that’s resonating with consumers right now.

“There hasn’t been as much newness with some of the more iconic brands, [The Row’s] timing was especially good for introducing this,” said Burke.

Due to its high price point, it took a few seasons to catch on, said Mytheresa chief buying officer Tiffany Hsu, but the e-tailer is now seeing an influx of requests for the bag.

ADVERTISEMENT

Still, it’s hard to get a hold of the Margaux: 85 percent of bags introduced to online retailers including Bergdorf Goodman and Mytheresa in 2023 sold out, according to retail analytics firm Edited, only adding to the lore surrounding it, as TikTok users create videos with tips on how to score one. Ahooja gets a few unsolicited offers to buy her bags per week on Instagram.

The role of Millennial women, who came of age watching the Olsens on screen and now have “grown-up money” shouldn’t be discounted, said Jessica Graves, who writes the shopping newsletter The Love List. At a time when consumers are especially conscious about what fashion projects about their socioeconomic status, the bag has taken on a new meaning.

“Before, it was a customer who wanted a bag that was very unknown, but beautiful quality,” said Hsu. “Now, it’s a statement.”

Building a Leather Goods Business

Strategically, The Row has done a few key things right to make The Margaux a breakout hit.

Each season, The Row refreshes the Margaux, introducing new materials, colours and riffs, but sticking to the same signature shape. The bags come in suede and pebbled and smooth leather; some are made with canvas rather than leather lining. It also sells versions with new design elements, such as clipped corners, a belt and unfinished, raw seams.

Retailers have been stocking more Margaux styles.
(BoF Team)

In addition to its handbag-sized 10-inch and larger tote formats at 15 and 17-inches, the range now includes a mid-sized 12-inch with a functional crossbody strap, built to appeal to a wider range of customers. At the other end of the spectrum, the limited-edition alligator Margaux sells for around $50,000 — if they hit retail at all. Regular reiterations like these creates a sense of newness, helping to bring new customers into the fold, encouraging existing ones to buy more.

Outside The Row’s three stores and e-commerce site, The Margaux is sold at Mytheresa, Saks Fifth Avenue, Net-a-Porter and Bergdorf Goodman. Though the bags often sell out, the brands’ best customers are kept in the loop on new drops. The Row’s selective approach to distribution is reflected in its understated marketing. Its Instagram is more of a moodboard, with clothes posted between objects and art like a Marc du Plantier table lamp from the 1960s and Salvador Dalí's “Room with a Sofa.” Some rare, full-page ads solely feature just the brand name, with no products in sight. Shows feel like they’re created especially for buyers and press, said Hsu, not for viral social media moments.

“Creating scarcity is one thing they do really well … it makes it quite special when you discover something from The Row, it’s like an insider thing,” said Hsu.

ADVERTISEMENT

As the brand increases the amount of bags it puts on the market, retailers have cut back on discounting, according to Edited. As of Feb. 1, just 1.9 percent of Margauxs available on sites analysed by Edited were discounted, compared to 5.7 percent in 2021. Searches on resale platform Vestiaire Collective were up 170 percent in January 2024 vs. December 2023. On The RealReal, the Margaux now resells for over 80 percent of its original retail price on average, up from 62 percent in 2019, Kelly McSweeney, senior merchandising manager told BoF in an email. Still, it’s a far cry from the Birkin, which can more than double in value on the secondary market.

Will the Margaux reach Birkin status? That remains to be seen — but The Row seems to be on the right track.

Further Reading

Wardrobe Dreams at The Row

Shown amongst the galvanised steel and cast iron of Isamu Noguchi sculptures, these were sumptuous, stunning clothes.

At the Row, a Surgical Precision

The label is an extravagance only a privileged few can enjoy, and yet there is something paradoxically economical about Ashley and Mary Kate Olsen’s approach.

About the author
Joan Kennedy
Joan Kennedy

Joan Kennedy is Editorial Associate at The Business of Fashion. She is based in New York and covers beauty and marketing.

In This Article

© 2024 The Business of Fashion. All rights reserved. For more information read our Terms & Conditions

More from Luxury
How rapid change is reshaping the tradition-soaked luxury sector in Europe and beyond.

Fashion and Design Collide at Salone Del Mobile

Fashion’s presence at Milan Design Week grew even bigger this year. Savvy activations by brands including Hermès, Gucci, Bottega Veneta, Loewe and Prada showed how Salone has become a ‘critical petri dish for dalliances between design and fashion,’ Dan Thawley reports.


view more

Subscribe to the BoF Daily Digest

The essential daily round-up of fashion news, analysis, and breaking news alerts.

The Business of Fashion

Agenda-setting intelligence, analysis and advice for the global fashion community.
CONNECT WITH US ON
The Business of Beauty Global Awards - Deadline 30 April 2024
© 2024 The Business of Fashion. All rights reserved. For more information read our Terms & Conditions, Privacy Policy, Cookie Policy and Accessibility Statement.
The Business of Beauty Global Awards - Deadline 30 April 2024