Uniqlo’s viral $20 bag is being named the ‘Millennial Birkin’

A $20 crossbody bag that fits a 300-page book, a small umbrella, keys, a phone, a wallet, an EpiPen, and headphones has been dubbed as the “Millennial Birkin”.

A young generation obsessed with fit, function, and fast access has found Uniqlo’s “Round Mini Shoulder Bag” more enticing than the iconic Hermès bag, which comes with a minimum resale price tag of $11,000 for its smallest size.

In 2022, TikToker Caitlin Phillimore-Price posted a video to show just how much her Uniqlo accessory held, unintentionally catapulting the simple item into cult-favourite status. “Buy this Uniqulo bag,” she said in her post that’s now been viewed more than one million times - and that’s exactly what TikTok users did.

“Legit just went and ordered straight away,” one shopper wrote.

Speaking to Bloomberg, Kanoko Takenokuchi - the global merchandising director for Uniqlo - discussed the immediate purchase effect they saw take place after Caitlin’s video went viral. While their bag was officially released in 2020, it wasn’t until the young shopper informed her followers about the inexpensive bag that they began flying off the shelves.

“That was the moment I realised the power of social media,” Takenokuchi said about Caitlin’s post. “Instead of just putting out advertisements from our company, we should put out a product that customers really love and that will spread and create a cycle of people buying more and more.”

Takenokuchi works for Uniqlo, but her role falls under the advisory of Fast Retailing Co, a Japanese multinational retail holding company. According to Fast Retailing, the shoulder bag is still one of Uniqlo’s top-selling items in multiple markets.

“Customers appreciate that it’s much cheaper than designer bags but that the product still has value,” Taku Sugawara, a financial services analyst for Iwai Cosmo Securities Co, told Bloomberg.

Two years into the staggering hype, one Condé Nast Traveler writer - who admittedly buys designer and works primarily in luxury fashion - came to the same conclusion about Uniqlo’s Round Mini Shoulder Bag.

On 11 January 2024, Sarah Leigh Bannerman published her unfiltered, honest opinion about the Uniqlo bag from the perspective of someone who wouldn’t have thought to purchase it for herself.

“Aside from its price, the best thing about this unisex bag is how light it is when empty,” she wrote. “A feature often overlooked, especially when shopping online, it makes the weight of travel essentials manageable. Comfort is also key. The curved shape sits close to the body and offers a feeling of security.”

Bannerman continued: “I’m glad I got my hands on it before it sold out again. This cleverly constructed, affordable accessory is the perfect travel companion and is now the most practical small bag I own.”

She agreed with Phillimore, and the rest of TikTok, that the $20 bag held unimaginable value despite its relatively low cost.

Takenokuchi told Bloomberg that Uniqlo had plans to build their promotional efforts by introducing more custom offerings, like they’ve implemented in Edinburgh, Scotland, with the “Irn-Bru” embroidery.

“To make a product that will be loved for a while, we have to think hard and come up with new ideas for it because that’s part of the fun for the customers,” Takenokuchi remarked. “I have a feeling that it’s not just a passing trend but is becoming a permanent item that will stay in people’s lives for a long time.”

The Independent has contacted Phillimore for comment.