Picture this: The week just started. People have packed away their winter wear and are stepping outside in their best summer ‘fits. Across the college campus walks a group of fashionably dressed young Black college students, each sporting one of the hottest new fashion trends in the world: Telfar bags.
Many students at historically Black institutions (HBCUs) throughout the country are meeting up on campus for what they are calling Telfar Tuesday.
This trend is becoming increasingly popular at institutions like Howard University in Washington, D.C., Spelman College in Atlanta, and Elizabeth City State University in northeastern North Carolina.
“Sometimes our HBCU lacks student engagement, so we have to get people to come out and be themselves. Sometimes that looks like putting on your bag, cute clothes and going outside,” said Deleini Froyze, a junior at Elizabeth City State, whose sorority, Zeta Phi Beta Sorority Inc., started the campus’ Telfar Tuesday tradition.
The sorority, one of the Divine Nine Black Greek letter organizations, started the event to bring life to the campus and celebrate their love for the Telfar brand.
Telfar Clemens, a queer Liberian-American fashion designer, and creator of the Telfar bag started the brand in 2005. Its tagline — “It’s not for you. It’s for everyone” — is fitting considering everyone from media mogul Oprah Winfrey to Black women at HBCUs is carrying them now.
“It feels good to support another Black creator and designer,” said Brailynn Kitchings, a sophomore at Elizabeth City State and member of Zeta Phi Beta.
According to Lyst, the world’s largest fashion search platform, the bag was the third most wanted item of 2020, and continues to be in high demand as many bags are sold out and restocked on the website daily.
Because Telfar is a designer brand, they aren’t cheap but they are more affordable than most designer handbags. While a small Telfar bag, nearly the size of your hand can range from $150 to $200, a similar sized Louis Vuitton can cost more than $1,000.
“It started trending on my TikTok page and I really wanted one. They were selling out at that time so I did secure the bag. I now have a lavender large purse and a chocolate medium purse,” recalled Froyze.
Services like Bag Security and After Pay, a way for customers to pay for their purchases in installments, have made it possible for college students to afford designer brands like Telfar despite having limited funds.
“Our generation knows we deserve luxurious things and we want to live our best life, so I think this is something definitely attainable for everyone to be able to do that,” said Arrietta Putman, a junior at Elizabeth City State and Zeta Phi Beta member.
In addition to the trendiness of Telfar bags, HBCU students are also associating the feeling of carrying this designer handbag with artist Saucy Saantana’s new song Material Girl.
“Material Girl is kind of like: I am getting everything I want and deserve,” Putman tells Reckon.
Historically, self-care and terms like ‘treating yourself’ in Black communities have been erased or not embraced as a part of the Black narrative. But with trends like Telfar and songs similar to Material Girl, they are reminders that Black folks not only deserve luxury if they want it, but that it is also attainable.
“Growing up, we can see from past Black generations that sometimes they didn’t take care of themselves, and it’s not because they don’t love themselves but more because they might not have been able to or didn’t have the time,” said Putman.
As Black fashion continues to create nostalgic moments throughout history on and off of HBCU campuses, the women of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority Inc., and other Elizabeth City State students believe Telfar could be one of those moments.
“It’s like white Fazos (Nike shoes) in the 2000s. We aren’t talking about crisp shoes unless we are talking about those. Or even Apple Bottom jeans,” Kitchings told Reckon.
“And now you’re not talking about dressing if you’re not talking about Telfar. That’s why I feel like this style will be something that’s looked at as nostalgic in the future.”