While there are plenty of style topics that Gen Z and Millennials don’t agree on – these include, somewhat bafflingly, side partings, ankle boots and skinny jeans – there is one surprising wardrobe staple that they share: Longchamp’s Le Pliage handbag. Even if you don’t know it as a Longchamp bag, you’d likely recognise one if you saw it – created in 1993, the foldable nylon tote comes in a variety of sizes and colourways, with strong double leather shoulder strap handles and gold fastenings giving it an understated but luxe appeal.
When I first began working at glossy magazines in the early 2010s, everyone had one. I played spot-the-Pliage on the Tube everyday and clearly remember buying my first one, the classic black style, to take my lunch and heels to work in while I was an assistant at Harper’s Bazaar (never has Matthew Macfadyen’s famous Succession observation about a woman carrying a “ludicrously capacious” bag felt so apt). Other original fans of the look included the Princess of Wales (who carried one on the day of her graduation in 2005), Alexa Chung and Katie Holmes.
But at some point in the late 2010s, Le Pliage became so ubiquitous that it was no longer deemed “cool”. There’s nothing like oversaturation to dampen an item’s appeal. No longer the preserve of the fashion crowd, but instead the fashion crowd’s mum. Case in point: my mum, myself and my younger sister all had the same one. We had to stop wearing them together.
Yet, fast-forward to 2024 and suddenly the ultimate millennial style staple is cool again among the most unlikely of customers – Gen Z – with twenty-something stars like Heartstopper’s Joe Locke and Kizzy Edgell, Bridgerton’s India Amarteifio and Stranger Things’ Natalia Dyer all being “friends of the Maison”.
“I first noticed the cool girls at school wearing them four years ago, when I was 13,” says 17-year-old Ava Cleverley, who has one in navy blue. “Now everyone in my year has them, and it’s all over TikTok.” Indeed, a cursory scroll of social media reveals that the hashtag #Longchamplepliage has 228.7 million views on TikTok, with influencers like Maria Lavalle (71.3k followers) sharing “what’s in my school/university/work bag” videos showcasing the roominess of the style, one of which has 4.1 million views. They probably haven’t noticed that 73-year-old accidental Royal style muse Princess Anne has one too, and was seen carrying hers in Sri Lanka last week.
“Scrolling on TikTok, it was impossible not to see girls showing off what’s in their Le Pliage,” shares 23-year-old alumni officer, Tshokey Mindara, who owns a large navy one and a mini purple one. “When you see girls of all ages, ethnicities and styles carrying the same bag, it really has an impact on what you want to buy. Mine has become a part of my staple work uniform because it essentially fits everything – it’s a Mary Poppins bag.”
This able-to-fit-everything quality is what makes the bag so popular with young workers in particular, whose busy lifestyles entail them going from the gym to the office to post-work drinks, all with the same bag. “I can fit just about anything I need to take to work and anything I want for the evening: laptop, notebook, gym kit, change of shoes, bottle of wine, ASOS parcel, makeup bag, change of clothes, food for dinner,” explains Thea Smith, a 25-year-old who works in the City.
“I once emptied my bag and found four hand creams amongst many other treasures.” Natasha Leake, a 23-year-old journalist, agrees: “It’s become my go-to overnight bag simply thanks to its winning combination of practicality and style. The trusty Longchamp will stretch and not break. Crucially, unlike other handbags, it has a zip so keeps everything secure, too.”
The new colourways launched by the brand have also been instrumental in its appeal, with pastel hues like baby blue and buttercup yellow: “The baby pink fits in with the new ballet core trend in my age group,” explains Mindara.
Longchamp’s “My Pliage Signature” feature also allows customisation, another major trend amongst Gen Z, with the ability to add numbers or letters to the body of the bag. “I had the Le Pliage as a school bag for years,” says 20-year-old jewellery designer Amelia Hitchcock-Merritt, “So when I started my own brand, Bijoux De Mimi, I wanted to incorporate the pink and red branding onto my new day-to-day bag.”
Another reason why it’s so popular with young people? The cost. At between £105 and £115, it’s a rare designer piece that’s accessibly priced. “I saw a TikTok recently saying something along the lines of the Le Pliage is a handbag everyone should have as an introduction to designer bags,” says Smith. “And because I didn’t take out a small mortgage for it, I don’t mind throwing hell at it. I ended up in a bar on a Thursday night? I don’t need to sit in the corner to guard it. My pen exploded in it? A blue interior just adds to the charm.”
In many ways, it’s the ultimate in “quiet luxury”. “It’s understatedly chic,” says Leake. “It is an acceptable status symbol in almost any bar, restaurant, club or office. It’s universally recognised as a mature, stylish bag.”
Searches for the style have gone up 53 per cent on Depop month-on-month, with savvy Gen Zers looking to secure one second hand. Which leads nicely into another factor that plays into its appeal – its eco credentials. “The next generation inspires Longchamp to continue on its path towards reducing environmental impact,” says Longchamp’s UK and Ireland managing director, Hector Cassegrain.
“For example, since 2022, the entire Le Pliage collection has used canvas produced from recycling only.” The brand also launched a “Re-Play” collection in 2022, which utilises deadstock materials, and owners can have their bags repaired in-house free of charge too, no matter how old. Around 30,000 Le Pliage bags were repaired last year alone.
Importantly, Gen Zers don’t seem to consider the fact that millennials like the bag too to be a bad thing — or “cheugy,” to use their lingo. “I can confirm that my mum has the bag too,” says Mindara. Perhaps it’s time for my mum, sister and I to dig out our old ones…
How to find Longchamp bags
On the Longchamp website and at its London stores, naturellement. It’s also stocked in lots of department stores nationwide, including John Lewis and Fenwick.
Where to buy Longchamp bags on sale
Longchamp’s famous Le Pliage bags are so classic, they rarely go on sale - there is a sale section on the Longchamp website but the offering tends to be limited to other styles. Your best bet for discounted Longchamp bags year-round is to search second-hand sites like eBay, Vinted, Vestiaire Collective and Depop; often they’re in mint condition and can cost as little as £35. Alternatively, take a trip to the Bicester Village outlet mall in Oxfordshire - if you have something specific in mind, give the boutique there a call to find out if they have it in stock.
Where are Longchamp bags made?
According to its official website, Longchamp has six production sites in France, where it employs more than 800 people. There are two more sites in Tunisia and Mauritius, and it also uses partner workshops in France, China, Romania and Morocco.