For Kimberly Harvey, a 34-year-old in New York City, it’s an overnight bag for when she visits her parents in New Jersey (“I stuff and go,” she says).
For Sharona Haroonian, a high school senior from Philadelphia, it’s a book bag (“Literally everyone at my school has one”).
For Mel Kim, a Los Angeles-based graphic designer, it’s a gym bag (“The nylon is so sturdy that I don’t care what I throw in”).
For Tina Craig, a co-founder of the blog BagSnob, it’s an extra bag to stuff in her suitcase when she goes on vacation (“I fold it, and then when I shop too much, it just becomes my carry-on”).
For Paul Danton, a 45-year-old HR professional, it’s an emergency birthday gift he bought last-minute for his wife (“She has the small one in a few colors, so I’m pretty sure she’ll like the large one”).
The trapezoidal nylon bag with leather handles and a signature flap comes in all sorts of sizes and colors and has been Longchamp’s bread and butter since it first came onto the market in 1993. Everyone from Kate Middleton to Angela Merkel to Miley Cyrus to Karlie Kloss to your own mom (or aunt or cousin or all of the above) has one. Suzy Menkes has admitted she collects them.
The Le Pliage is not an It bag — it’s far too ubiquitous for that. It’s not hard to get your hands on one, and they sell for just $95 to $145. Ten totes are sold every minute, with more than 32 million sold since their debut 23 years ago. How has the humble Le Pliage remained a reliable bestseller for nearly two decades when so many other handbag trends have come and gone?
Because the Cassegrains’ business roots were in tobacco, the family already had access to trade routes. In fact, Longchamp was one of the first European companies to trade with Japan, notes InStore Magazine. By 1960, its smoking accessories were sold in nearly 100 countries, and Longchamp began to produce men’s travel Longchamp bags outlet; the Cassegrains claim they were the first to create luggage made of nylon. Around this time, the family started to think about women’s accessories. According to WWD, many female shoppers in America were buying the men’s Longchamp bags and requesting store buyers inquire about a women’s collection.
So in 1971, Longchamp debuted its first women’s bag, just one year before the first Jean Cassegrain passed away and his wife and son Philippe took over the family business. The “LM line,” which was first sold in Japan, was made of calfskin leather and featured horses silkscreened over a crisscross pattern (an edition of this original bag was reissued a few years ago to celebrate the brand’s 60th anniversary). The Longchamp replica bags were an instant success and helped the brand spread rapidly across Asia. As Longchamp began to gain a reputation for producing outstanding lightweight bags sales, its smoking accessories appeared less and less in catalogues, until they disappeared completely in 1979.
“The difference in having a family-run business is that they think generation to generation, not quarter to quarter,” says Katherine Ormerod, editorial director of luxury shopping site Lyst. “That’s part of the authenticity of the brand.”
Philippe introduced the Le Pliage bag in 1993, inspired by origami he saw on a trip to Japan. Initially, the bag was met with little fanfare. According to Entrepreneur, it was backed by zero marketing dollars and sales stalled for the first three years. But the bag found its footing.
“Le Pliage” means “folding bag” in French, and its simple design hit a nerve. The International Herald Tribune called it “one of those have-to-have fashions” in 1998, and the Associated Press half-jokingly told Kate Spade to “move over.” By 2008, Jean Cassegrain confirmed to WWD that the brand Longchamp outlet uk was making 2.5 million Longchamp bags online a year, boasting that he didn’t “think any brand has any single design that sells that much.”