Wednesday, 16 February 2011

The Calgary Bag - Bill Amberg & The Business of Fashion Collaboration

Limited Edition Calgary Bag in Tan, Nubuck Leather /

yesterday saw the launch of a new bag called "the calgary", which is a joint effort between british bag designer bill amberg, and imran amed, editor of one of my daily reads, the business of fashion. you can find out more about how the collaboration started at BOF and details of the beautiful bags (neoprene padded, individual compartments and all). the thing i find interesting about this collaboration was the crowd sourcing element which i will touch on later, but here are some quick facts on the bags:

the above six bags are now available for ordering. each design is however limited to just 5 pieces, and each bag retails for £950. if you are quick enough, no.1 of 5 from each bag is ready for immediate dispatch, while nos.2 to 5 will be handmade and ready in eight weeks.

three other variations of the bags (pictured above) were also produced, but the twist is that readers are invited to fill in a survey deciding which of the three bags should be put into wider production. based on the survey results, x amount of the chosen bag will then be made and available for sale from may 2011 for £495.

so far so clear? in my humble and honest opinion, i feel rather two ways about it. there's a lot of speak about crowd sourcing and it's such an amazing idea to put it into practice. in imran's words, "the potential benefits of integrating input from consumers into important merchandising decisions".

to strip it down and go back to basics: the customers giving feedback on which of the bags they prefer, and based on the feedback manufacturers/retailers can gauge demand and work out quantities of bags to be produced. isn't that considered economics gold: matching demand with supply. it's a win win situation, the most popular bag with just the right quantity produced, giving the customers just what they wanted. and a stroke of genius to set out a well structured survey to collect behavioral patterns of consumers for future collections.

Limited Edition Calgary Bag in Black, Ponyskin Leather /

while i must admit it's a great idea and even more amazing to be able to put into practice. but should fashion really be about giving what the consumers want? ok that sentence doesn't seem to make economic sense, but please soldier on.

when i was in milan last year, i was lucky enough to meet a few designers back stage after the shows. rather than the usual answered to death "what's your inspiration for your collection", i asked them (honestly wanted to know) if the fragile economic situations back then affected their designs. i thought perhaps some of the designs would be watered down or less expensive fabrics used. rather surprisingly, i received many astounding and defiant "nos" to my question. it's about creating a dream and fulfilling a void, one said. and i speak for myself, for one of the reasons i invest in an item, is because i love the designers' endearing vision, not because it's a crowd's favourite. spend money because you love it, not because it's a popular it bag which because of that you love. matching demand and supply probably makes more sense in a manufacturing world, but in fashion i feel it should be different. like blogging, they said blog with your heart, not for the money, popularity or the hype. for these things will come naturally if you are good with your game. and i feel this applies to fashion too.

and like all things in life, it's about striking the right balance isn't it? i put my humble and honest thoughts out here, but i don't want to put a damper on a great idea. i must admit it's a great feat that they are doing, and a reason why i am a loyal daily reader to the business of fashion. have a read, fill in the survey and help shape history. and we might win a bag too, so why not.

click here to read about the fascinating story about how the collaboration began. click here to order your bags from bill amberg.



  1. Really like the angle you've taken with this. I agree that to a certain extent that brands need to be pioneering trends (take LV for example, a brand that does not do consumer research) and not solely reacting to consumers' demands, however this depends on so many different factors.

    I think the BoF experiment strikes a good balance, as the product has already been designed and created, and it is just the additional (modified) versions of the bag that are being crowd-sourced.

    Great piece.

  2. the handles look unfinished / under-designed.


what's he wearing?