To say that David Neville and Marcus Wainwright have cornered the market on cool may be an exaggeration—but not by much. Ever since they launched their line in 2002, a closet full of Rag & Bone has basically been a prerequisite to It Girl status. Nevertheless, one could never stop worrying about one of life’s large questions: What is an It Girl without an It Bag?!
Well, the sartorial crisis is finally over—and it was worth the wait. The label’s brand-new Pilot bag, which just launched exclusively at Barneys New York, is a timeless leather satchel with Rag & Bone written all over it (in theory of course—this isn’t 1999!). The name derives from their primary inspiration: the vintage bags in which army pilots carried their helmets. But another influence was undoubtedly the Rag & Bone girl herself. As Marcus put it, the bag had to be something “that our girl would carry.”
As for debuting the bag exclusively at Barneys, Marcus said it was a no-brainer: “We’ve always had a very close affiliation with the aesthetic of Barneys. Barneys gave us a chance when we were very small and we were delivering clothes two months late and you’ve stuck with us and we’ve stuck with you in turn. We’re very proud to be in the store and so it didn’t even bear thinking about who we would launch it with.”
Read on for our exclusive interview with David and Marcus below…
The Window: So why did you finally decide to do a bag?
Marcus: We’d dabbled with the idea for a while, and then one of the impetuses was a conversation with Anna Wintour about Where’s your bag? You should have a handbag! So we got straight on it at that point. It takes time for a brand to earn the right to have a handbag. There’s a wrong time and a right time and you can do it too early and it can fall a bit flat, but we felt that we’d got to the point where it was the right time for Rag & Bone. So here it is.
David: It took a long time, right?
Marcus: It took like a year and a half. It was very difficult. Unless you launch a huge range of bags, which we didn’t think was the right thing to do, the other option is just to focus on one specific bag, which puts pressure on that bag to be absolutely right. So we spent a long time doing the wrong thing when we started a year and a half ago. About six months after we started that process, we took a step back and just started again by focusing on what we thought the Rag & Bone girl was and what her bag would look like, and I think that’s what we got in the end.
The Window: So who is the quintessential Rag & Bone girl?
Marcus: I mean our aesthetic as a brand is obviously rooted in the fact that we’re very English—there’s a lot of tailoring and tradition in the clothes. But it’s hugely contrasted by the fact that we started making clothes in America. There’s a strong workwear influence on the brand and there’s a strong American military influence on it.
David: And the fact that we’re in New York is sort of the third part of the puzzle. The way the New York girl dresses is so in line with Rag & Bone. I think that’s become sort of part of our language, the New York girl and the way she’s putting clothes together—mixing things up. I think that’s how we approached the bag.
I think there is something in Rag & Bone for everyone because our focus has always been on quality and craftsmanship and the fact that clothes need to be functional, they need to be wearable and they need to last. And I think the bag is in many ways a representation of just that: it’s functional, it’s cool and it’s really beautifully made (in Italy by one of the best factories in the world). We haven’t just produced a bag that we wanted to sell in millions of numbers; we produced what we felt was a perfect handbag.
The Window: What else can you tell us about the bag?
Marcus: It’s taken from an old army helmet bag—that sort of influences where the shape came from, with those two front pockets. We felt a good place to start was the helmet bag just because it’s very practical, it’s a great shape and it has this sense of history that people are somewhat familiar with and that you can reinterpret and twist into something that is very Rag & Bone and very modern and it looks really cool. So the military influence that we reference in our collection again and again and again is there in the bag. The hooks that connect that strap are actually military hardware.
It’s a mash-up of everything that I think Rag & Bone is influenced by as a brand. I think when we approached the bag to start with we got it all wrong and it ended up looking like a lady bag. It didn’t look like downtown Rag & Bone. So we decided it’s got to be tougher, it’s got to be more downtown, it’s got to be cooler, it’s got to be something that our girl would carry. We just shot our first campaign on Kate Moss and I think we see her personal style as something very Rag & Bone. And the question is, “Would Kate Moss carry the bag?”
David: And the answer is, “Yes.” She’s got one.
Sketches courtesy of Rag & Bone.