An extensive study on handbags from a bag manufacturer’s POV

The earliest mention of bags dates back to the 14th century, when bag manufacturer only handcrafted them to function as a pocket to keep coins and precious stones. Today it has transformed into a full-fledged industry worth billions of dollars- catering primarily to women customers. On average, a woman owns between 3- 14 handbags at a time. But did you know they were never designed for women in the first place? Keep reading as we explore more on the evolution of bags and how it became a women-dominated industry.

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History of handbags 

Back in the 14th century, when the first set of handbags was sewn from leaves and animal skin, it was carried by only the upper-classmen. Clothes with pockets were not a concept back then; thus, people made pouches to keep coins. Since women were not allowed to work or travel much, they didn’t carry these bags. It was perhaps a status symbol. The ones that carried these bags were considered to be rich. The trend picked up soon, and women also started carrying little purses. Both men and women would have beautiful embroidered and decorative handbags that reflected their wealth and social status. 

The shift from ‘need’ to ‘fashion’

As humankind evolved, men’s clothing got the gift of pockets, and ‘handbags’ became a thing for women. It gave women a sense of empowerment where they could carry their own money and use it as an accessory to express themselves through fashion. This slowly paved the way for the handbag manufacturers and became a profitable business for wholesale handbag suppliers. In the early 1800s, handbags truly emerged as a necessity and were not limited to the wealthy and upper class. Women now had different handbags for different purposes and occasions- from pouches to clutches, wallets to shoulder bags. Everything was being bought by women of all age groups. 

The latter half of the 1900s gave birth to a more casual approach to handbags, and that’s when the ‘Tote’ was born. What’s interesting to note is that, unlike the other fancy branded handbags, the tote had a much simpler and grounding appeal- something improbable to be accepted in the mainstream handbag market. 

The revolutionary tote bags

The word ‘tote’ was used in the 17th century when it was only a word that meant ‘to carry’ or ‘to lug’. It was associated with carrying something heavy like books, vegetables etc. The tote finally became a ‘tote bag’ in the 1940s when a US-based company LL Bean made their first tote bag to carry ice and wood. It was a sturdy canvas bag that could bear the weight of the heavy ice and wood logs. Impressed by its simplistic and practical design, many businesses started purchasing totes from tote bag manufacturers. During the 1960s, a lighter version of these tote bags was born. Political parties asked wholesale handbag suppliers to mass-produce softer tote bags with their party’s logo/ slogan printed on them. This became a great way to demonstrate the evolving political and social scenario. This new way of spreading a message soon became great marketing and advertising tool. 

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The famous New Yorker tote bag 

In 1980 the New York bookstore introduced its tote bags as a means for their customers to carry the purchased items. It was the first-ever tote made by any bag manufacturer with New Yorker printed. These tote bags soon caught people’s attention and became a hit. People loved the idea of a lightweight bag with no complicated chains or compartments that could simultaneously carry all their stuff and look cool. The trend picked up in no time, and fashion models carried it on runways of the top fashion houses like Balenciaga, Givenchy, Louis Vuitton and more. 

Rise of tote bag manufacturer 

The tote bag is one of the few commodities like sneakers that started a cult. The people who belonged to this cult were carefree, minimalistic and exhibited a more laidback attitude. Many famous personalities were spotted wearing baggy clothes and carrying large totes. This gave people (especially their fans) a sense of relatability and realisation that even their favourite celebrities look the same on a typical day. Soon, the tote found its way into book shops, events, lifestyle stores etc. Many stores switched from plastic bags to eco-friendly cloth totes to spread awareness and project themselves as an environmentally conscious brand. Tote bag manufacturers benefitted from this as these bags were simple and easy to make and could be produced in large quantities.

Read-  What inspires us as one of the leading Bag Export Manufacturers in India


Understanding the history of handbags is an interesting way to study and understand social and market trends. As tote bag manufacturers and wholesale handbag suppliers, we don’t see tote bags leaving their dominant position in the market. At Soft Options, we manufacture all kinds of totes, including baby bags, beach bags, shopping bags, work bags, picnic bags, gym bags, handbags, or simply bags in which one can carry a hundred things. Soft Options is a home furnishing and tote bag manufacturer from India that produces tote bags from natural fibres- ensuring all our bags are eco-friendly and sustainable. 

Soft Options welcomes you to get in touch with us with any query related to home furnishings or tote bags. We produce premium quality products at competitive prices for our clients.

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