It invited consumers to pre-order a product they didn’t know anything about, which turned out to be a circle bag made in collaboration with lifestyle brand Eastpak.
Serdari questioned that approach. “I’m not sure that the relationship between the brand and the consumer is equal,” said Serdari. In her view, the blind drop reinforces the notion of consumerism and goes against the brand’s ideal of equality and inclusion by creating a power imbalance.
But Xie said “they’re trying to create an experience” that is “fun and playful, even exciting.” The blind drop appeals to Gen Z and millennials, the brand’s major consumer base, she said. But she agreed that the strategy could backfire “if the final products are not very satisfactory for consumers … Consumers can feel that they’ve been manipulated.”
In addition to inclusivity, the brand has appealed to values around sustainability by placing an emphasis on the “vegan” nature of bags. But Serdari raised questions about where and how the bags are made. “Sustainability has so many tenets,” she said. “They don’t reveal any of this.”
The bags are made in Chinese factories in which conditions are unknown, and the bag’s “faux leather” are also made of a blend of polyester and polyurethane, according to the FAQ section on Telfar’s website. Despite emphasizing its use of vegan leather, the brand has partnered with shoe company Ugg and uses real fur and suede, according to its FAQ.
What experts say
Although Telfar has often been positioned in relation to luxury brands, the question of whether Telfar counts as a luxury brand—and whether it wants to be—remains up for debate.
The traditional definition of “luxury” is a combination of factors including limited stock, skilled craftsmanship, rare materials and high prices, according to Serdari. Telfar’s prices are much lower than those of brands such as Gucci and Louis Vuitton, and its “operations (are also not) aligned with what luxury brands do,” said Serdari.
But Mrad said that “it might become a luxury brand with time” and the luxury industry has also had to evolve to meet changing consumer tastes, such as streetwear trends and values around sustainability.
According to Xie, “whether they become a luxury brand (doesn’t seem to be) their main concern.” She said that instead, “they want to be inclusive, they want to give their fans a way to express themselves, express their political statements.”
Telfar has fostered an identity for those who wear it, according to Xie. It helps consumers silently take a stand on “topics that can be sensitive” and find people who agree with them, she said.
Telfar has also created marketing that fits with its message, which is unusual for an apparel brand, said Albert Thompson, managing director of digital innovation at multicultural agency Walton Isaacson. The “marketing match(es) who the design is made for” rather than placing designs on random…