“Cult” is a word that can be easily abused; just because a brand has a small, relatively enthusiastic group of fans does not a cult favorite make. That group of fans has to be so dedicated, so ardent in their love for a designer’s work that they create a high-entry point that’s almost prohibitive for newcomers. Those are the kind of fans that Olympia Le-Tan‘s handmade book clutches have attracted. Good luck getting your hands on your favorite title; you’re going to need it.
Le-Tan’s literary handbags have sparked many imitators at all kinds of price points, but the biters haven’t detracted at all from the quirky, feminine, high-minded appeal for which her clutches are known. I check NET-A-PORTER’s new arrivals every Monday, Wednesday and Friday as soon as I get out of bed, and without fail, any new Olympia Le-Tan bags that they’ve received have already sold out, even when the notoriously hard-to-find Isabel Marant sneaker wedges still have a few pairs available. The clutches are one-of-a-kind, which makes a sell-through relatively easy, but they’re also $1880 and generally made of felt. That’s a very specific customer, particularly when you factor in that not all of her potential buyers might be fans of whatever book she’s decided to recreate in bag form.
And still, the clutches sell immediately. No matter the title, they’re gone in minutes. An unpopular title might stick around for a couple of hours before being snapped up. Le-Tan’s idea was a genius one of course, and that’s why it’s been copied by so many other designers. Women of higher incomes are more likely to be well-educated than average, which means that they’re more likely to have both an emotional connection to the classics and money to spend on a handbag enshrining that love. Could you see yourself buying an Olympia Le-Tan clutch? And if you did, what book would it be?