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Telfar bag named best Fashion Design of 2020

By Danielle Wightman-Stone

Jan 19, 2021

Fashion

Black-owned fashion brand Telfar has won Fashion Design of 2020 by the Design Museum for its vegan leather gender-neutral Telfar shopping bag which became a hot commodity last year.

The Telfar Shopping Bag, dubbed “The Bushwick Birkin”, first dropped in 2014, and has been coined by many as one the accessory of the decade.

The simple, boxy carryall with double shoulder straps, top handles and statement logo, is available in an array of colours and comes in three sizes that correspond to those of Bloomingdale’s disposable shopping bags.

Telfar, with its “not for you - for everyone” ethos that luxury should be both practical and financially accessible, has priced its coveted bag between 150 and 257 US dollars, which has resulted in stock selling out online in minutes.

The bag’s popularity spread rapidly after founder, New York-born Telfar Clemens was awarded the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund in 2017. The Liberian-American designer was the first Black designer to win the 400,000 US dollar top prize and he invested his winnings into revamping the bag, adding additional sizing and colour options.

Not long after the bag become a celebrity favourite, spotted on the arms of stars including Solange Knowles, Selena Gomez, and Dua Lipa.

To cater to the increased demand, Telfar launched a bag security programme in August 2020 to allow people to pre-order the shopping totes for a limited period with guaranteed delivery at a later date. The initiative was a success and the brand reportedly generated 10 times the sales it had in all of 2019.

Design Museum crowns the Telfar Shopping Bag as Fashion Design of 2020

Emily King, guest curator at the Design Museum, said of Telfar’s win in a statement: “Telfar is a firm who have managed to really redefine the relationship between themselves and their customers, so much so that owning a Telfar bag is not just owning a brilliant product, it’s about making a vote for things to be done differently.

“Telfar have redefined what luxury means and, in an era where true luxury is having a functioning health and social security system, I think their slogan – ‘Not for you, for everyone’ – rings very true.”

The Telfar bag beat off tough competition, from fashion designer Rui Zhou, who uses an elastic knitted fabric to create her garments to give the illusion of an opaque ‘second skin’ and Nigerian-based designer Nkwo Onwuka who developed a new recycled textile.

Others on the shortlist included Fredrik Tjærandsen for his undergraduate degree show at Central Saint Martins that went viral for his balloon dresses, while Phoebe English, Clara Jedrecy, Nataliya Brady and Ellie Grace Cumming created a fashion collection made from nothing new.

There was also recognition for a digital anthology of sari drapes featuring more than 80 films, costumes created by Manish Malhotra for Abhishek Varman’s period drama Kalank, a suitcase made of shoes by designer Nicole McLaughlin, and a collection of reconstructed second-hand Adidas Superstar sneakers by Helen Kirkum with Bethany Williams.

Beazley Designs of the Year at the Design Museum announce the 2020 winners

Telfar was just one of the winners of the thirteenth edition of Beazley Designs of the Year. The annual exhibition and awards span across six categories: architecture, digital, fashion, graphics, product and transport.

Other winners include an illustration of the Covid-19 virus, the vegan Impossible Burger 2.0 designed to replicate a beef burger, a protest performance denouncing sexual violence towards women and LGBTQ communities in Latin America.

The overall winner was the temporary interactive installation the ‘Teeter-Totter Wall’, designed by architects Ronald Rael and Virginia San Fratello with Colectivo Chopeke. The project, win won the transport category, created a place where children from both the US and Mexico could connect playfully through three bright pink see-saws.

Images: courtesy of Telfar / The Design Museum