My first luxury: a Telfar shopping tote
Odinaka Adu recalls the feeling of buying something that had value to the community
Shopping for designer goods is about more than beauty, workmanship and cost. It’s an emotional experience that often comes with a personal story. In this series, women recall a singular piece and a moment in their journey into luxury.
Odinaka Adu, 26, of Jersey City, New Jersey, a social media editor and professional knitter, recalls her journey to Black-owned designer bags.
My first big girl purchase was a Telfar bag. I was really into Yves Saint Laurent and Givenchy because of my mom, but then I learned about the concept of people buying things because it’s attached to status. I wanted to get out of that mindset because I felt like I was attaching myself to things that didn’t really resonate with me.
I learned about Telfar before Telfar was Telfar. Something about Telfar before its height was like: I love this. I love everything about this. I feel like this really does speak for me.
When I first saw the bag, Coco and Breezy were wearing it in an ad. In the caption, they even titled it ‘Bushwick Birkin,’ and I was like, ‘What’s the Bushwick Birkin?’ Because the [Hermés] Birkin is a big commodity in the luxury community. I’m like, ‘Why did they call this bag the Bushwick Birkin?’
And then one of my friends was talking about the bag on Twitter. This was like late 2019. I started looking into it. I bought the bag. I was able to get it without any problems. It just felt like I was purchasing something that actually had value, not only to me but to a community. Telfar being a brand that takes up so much space, causing trouble — not in a bad way, but a commotion in this way that really resonated with me. Especially as a Black person in general and in the fashion space. There is an expectation of us and it boxes us in so much. To see how Telfar is busting out that box, mind you, they’ve been in the game since 2005. So even though it took them a while to get that traction, there’s something about their marketing and what they stand for that’s sticking for me.
I bought the black one first and I was like, ‘OK, I definitely need yellow because that’s my favorite color.’ Then they came out with this cobalt blue color, so I got one, too. One day I decided to post on Twitter and it became a viral tweet.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.