Most of my favorite purchases have come from jumping on a hype bandwagon. I finally caved and bought Allbirds last year and—surprise!—they're now my favorite shoes. I bought Outdoor Voices' color-blocked 7/8 leggings after seeing so many stylish women wearing them around New York. I even own that one Amazon coat. Rarely is it that I find something on my own, only to realize it's already a cult favorite. But that's exactly the case with my beloved Longchamp Le Pliage tote bag.
It was, first and foremost, a practical purchase. I had just started my freshman year of college, and I wanted to upgrade my JanSport backpack from high school for a more grown-up bag. I did a deep dive on tote bags, which lead me to the Le Pliage, a roomy nylon bag with leather straps and a single side pocket. It fit my books, my laptop, and my makeup case—good. The leather envelope closure, gold buttons, and logo zipper gave the otherwise plain bag the slightest touch of elegance, which was a plus. Here, I thought, was a bag that looked timeless but was purely useful.
Even though I had done my research, I didn't realize at the time the worldwide fan base Longchamp's Le Pliage had. It was only once I started carrying it that I noticed it everywhere—on my college campus, on the bus, in foreign countries. It felt like I had entered a secret society, linking me to several thousand tote carriers that were clued in to the magic of this incredibly plain bag.
Since it launched in the nineties, Le Pliage has been one of Longchamp's best-selling bags. In 2017, Business of Fashion reported that the brand sold 11 per minute. A representative for Longchamp confirmed to Glamour that it has sold more than 30 million of Le Pliage totes to date.
Part of its popularity can be attributed to its celebrity fans. Kate Middleton has famously carried Longchamp's tote since the early aughts. (She still carries them, as does the Duchess of Cambridge.) It's been spotted on It Girls like Alexa Chung and Kendall Jenner. (The latter acts as the face of the brand.) Even Meghan Markle—long before she was linked to Prince Harry—has been photographed with it slung over her shoulder.
There's more to its appeal than A-list sightings. Le Pliage is one of the more accessible bags sold by a designer brand available on the market. The small nylon totes start at $125; the large ones can go up to $190. It's stocked in all of the major department stores (Nordstrom, Bloomingdale's, Neiman Marcus) and on Amazon. (On all these sites, reviews number in the hundreds and are overwhelmingly positive. It's fairly common for customers to report that they own two or three.)
“The Longchamp Le Pilage is an iconic bag that is timeless and appeals to all ages," says Erica Russo, Bloomingdale’s vice president and fashion director of beauty and accessories. "Our customer loves the bag for its functionality, vibrant colors, and chic styling.”
Visit Longchamp's Instagram and you'll see that widespread appeal in action. For teens and young adults, it's among the affordable yet high-quality bags that are a first designer purchase; for people far into their careers, its size makes it ideal for carting supplies to work or travel necessities on the road.
Akari Furukawa, a college student in Cambridge, Massachusetts, owns three Le Pliage bags, two medium and one large. "I needed a bag that would fit my 12-inch Macbook, book, and agenda, while being sophisticated enough to be carried in formal settings, as well as casual everyday use," she says. "I saw this bag in a department store, and I thought it was absolutely perfect for what I need."
Blogger Carly Heitlinger remembers buying her first Le Pliage 10 years ago. She's featured it on her site several times, and still gets questions from her readers about whether they should buy their own. "I think seeing me style Longchamps over the years and having them appear on my blog with various outfits—everything from a work-inspired look to a casual outfit as a tourist in Paris—really shows off its versatility," she says. "They're truly classic bags. And they're functional."
Six years after purchasing my first Le Pliage, I've grown my collection: I now own one in navy (a gift from a family friend) and one in black (a gift for myself after a trip to Paris last fall). It's the bag that carries my laptop to work, and my weekender when I'm heading out of town for a quick trip. The simple, logo-free design matches everything I own. And with its weather-resistant coating, I know it's durable enough to take anywhere.
While I have a handful of other totes in my closet, I reach for Le Pliage more than any other. I think Heitlinger sums up my and so many other's loyalty to the nylon bag best: "Whereas other bags may be seen as 'classics,' there's something timeless and unassuming about a Le Pliage." And that makes it the kind of tote I'll always have in my closet.
Halie LeSavage is the fashion associate at Glamour. Follow her @halielesavage.