- Italic is an online brand that prides itself on selling luxury goods (bags, accessories, apparel, home goods) without the labels.
- It’s able to do this by partnering directly with manufacturers who have decades of experience producing for luxury designers such as Prada, Givenchy, Burberry, Celine, and Miumiu.
- The leather crossbody ($135), backpack ($200), and tote ($250) we reviewed from the company were beautifully constructed and also functional for everyday wear.
- Seven months after our initial test, we continue to wear and love them, questioning why anyone would ever pay more for a name brand luxury bag.
Direct-to-consumer brands have seen huge success in the last decade. Whether it’s because Millennials have become disillusioned by the excesses of designer luxury or they’re just itching for a way to shop that’s different from how they’ve always done it, this generation is particularly drawn to online-first, direct-to-consumer companies like moths to a flame.
“We cut out the middleman,” the snappy phrase that once vividly captured the value of a D2C brand, however, is quickly becoming stale. Shoppers now see that, shrug, then say, “…and?” It’s not enough to eliminate traditional suppliers and retail distribution methods. They want to know that there’s something inherently revolutionary to the way the product is produced, whether it’s a beauty product created entirely from customer demand or a comforter that’s fully compostable.
Italic is an online brand that wants to flip the idea of luxury on its head by producing goods with partners that manufacture for designers like Prada, Givenchy, and Burberry. In doing this, it’s able to create original designs, ensure designer-caliber quality, and offer very competitive prices all at once.
Italic first launched in late 2018 and created buzz as a $10-a-month, members-only marketplace. If you joined, you got access to label-less, high-quality bags and accessories at more affordable prices. Founder Jeremy Cai says that eventually the volume of sales Italic was doing, along with learnings from managing the customer experience, warranted opening up the marketplace to everyone.
At Italic, you can now freely shop men’s and women’s bags, accessories, and apparel, as well as home goods like bedding and candles. The selection isn’t large, but it seems careful and curated, confidently assured that shoppers don’t actually need pages and pages of options. There are $425 leather moto jackets (currently sold out), $140 sheet sets, and a variety of handbags, the most expensive of which costs $295 and was produced by the same manufacturers making bags for Prada.
Cai says, “Italic is the culmination of decades of growing up with a manufacturing family and working in technology. I had always thought it backwards that manufacturers take home the smallest margin in the supply chain despite making the actual products being sold for many times the cost. Italic bridges the gap between consumers and luxury goods by partnering directly with the manufacturers instead of purchasing inventory like a brand.”
Many of these manufacturers have operated for decades making bags and accessories for labels that some can only dream of buying one day. It’s a risk for them to join forces with a young unknown like Italic, but Cai says that other factors are also threatening these legacy names, and in the end, it’s really a win-win relationship.
He points out, “While it wasn’t easy by any means to convince manufacturers to incur inventory risk for the first time in their histories, most of these companies are facing rising labor costs, uncertain global trade, and a near total reliance on wholesale. Many were already looking for a way to sell directly to consumers but without the enormous overhead of building a brand.”
If you like nicely made things but could care less about the status that comes with flexing a designer label, then you’re the perfect Italic customer. Because making anything akin to a designer dupe would tread into tricky legal waters, especially considering the products are made in the exact same factories, all of Italic’s designs are original and unique to the brand. Still, with options like zip card wallets and oversized acetate sunglasses, they remain classic and familiar.
We tried a few of Italic’s bags to see whether they really lived up to the high expectations. When we first received them, we immediately ooh-ed and aah-ed that they looked and felt good. Over the seven months, as we actually carried and used them in our day-to-day lives, it became clear that the bags would become favorites – functional, beautifully made, and well-priced.
Keep reading for our reviews of Italic’s handbags and backpacks, as well as a January 2020 update revealing how they’ve held up over time.
Luna Quilted Leather Crossbody Bag
- Connie Chen/Business Insider
How much it should cost: $350-$395
Made by the same manufacturer as: Celine and Prada
Our review: This ultra-soft and smooth lambskin leather bag looks and feels gorgeous. With its textured, quilted exterior and a simple and roomy interior compartment, it’s both a fashionable and practical bag choice when I go out to a nice dinner or want to look put-together as I travel. Gold hardware runs throughout, from the chain strap to the side buckles to the feet on the bottom of the bag that prevent the ivory color from getting dirty.
Based on its substantial feel and fashion-forward half-moon shape, I would’ve expected the bag to cost at least $200, but I’m eternally grateful that it doesn’t. Since I usually only carry them on especially active days, all my crossbody bags tend to get a little worn down, but this is one crossbody I’ll be sure to care for properly. -Connie Chen, senior reporter
January 2020 update: I feel like I don’t need any more “nice” crossbody bags – this is the only one I’ve used in the last seven months because the color and style seem to suit every elevated occasion. The quilted leather still feels very soft, while the stitching has held together. All in all, the bag looks and feels as good as when I first tried it, and people who ask about it remain surprised that it doesn’t actually cost that much.
Claire Leather Double-Gusset Tote
- Sally Kaplan/Business Insider
How much it should cost: $785-$1,250
Made by the same manufacturer as: Prada and Miumiu
Our review: I was pleasantly surprised by how much I’ve used and loved this bag since it appeared on my desk a couple months ago. It’s deceptively spacious inside, which makes it great for carrying to work, and I love that it has multiple handle options so I can swing it over my shoulder if I need a free hand.
The interior has two large, open pockets on each side with a zippered divider pocket in the middle. I can easily fit my 13-inch laptop, charger, and daily essentials in one side, along with a pair of flats, my lunch, and a small umbrella in the other. Honestly, I kind of feel like Mary Poppins when I carry it!
I got it in the dusty blue color (the picture above shows it to be a little darker than it really is), which looks relatively neutral even when paired with colorful outfits, but it also comes in black for a more basic option. -Sally Kaplan, editor
January 2020 update: I’ve used this Italic bag at least once a week since I got it (sometimes more often) and I’m still extremely impressed with it. The structure of the bag has held up almost perfectly, with the leather sides softening only slightly over time. I recommend Italic to any of my friends who are thinking about buying a designer bag. Honestly, just don’t! Get one of these instead. They’re great quality, and they’ll last you for years.
Fleur Leather Mini Backpack
- Mara Leighton/Business Insider
How much it should cost: $580-$695
Made by the same manufacturer as: Celine and Miumiu
Our review: Since my main interaction with Italic was limited to targeted Instagram ads before testing this, I came into the experience pretty skeptical. Lots of new brands claim to bring you luxury at a fraction of the cost, but really only a few of them do.
However, after a few weeks of using the Italic mini backpack, I can say that the hype is worth it in this case. I was impressed. I’ve tested a lot of bags in two years at Insider Picks, and Italic’s Fleur Leather Mini Backpack is one of the best in its quality and usability.
The leather feels supple, soft, and substantial to the touch, but frankly, it also just looks nice. It’s the kind of nondescript black backpack that people bother to ask you about at happy hour. Simple, but can’t-put-your-finger-on-it good: a phenomenon more commonly known as luxury. The price is still steep, but if it’s a comfortable splurge – or you’re thinking of dropping more on something similar from Celine or Miumiu – it’s worth checking this out first. -Mara Leighton, reporter
January 2020 update: I use the Italic Backpack more infrequently than I’d like because it doesn’t fit my work laptop, but it looks just as good today as it did when I first got it. It’s a great example of why you really don’t need to spend the designer markup for the quality of a designer bag. I recommend Italic for everything from leather bags to their towels to pretty much everyone I know now.