Which are the most popular bags in China? Luxury CEOs turn to Mr Bags for the answer
- Buying luxury bags is like playing a game, says Mr Bags, and it is one the key opinion leader knows well. He ranks the 30 most popular bags in China every month
- He tells the Post how he comes up with the rankings, why they matter for people in China and why the Chanel 2.55 or the Hermès Birkin do not appear on them
Every month, fashion executives in Milan and Paris wait eagerly for Mr Bags, a Chinese KOL (key opinion leader) and authority on handbags, to release his rankings of the 30 most popular bags in China.
While Tao started the rankings for his followers – he posts them on China’s Twitter-like microblogging site Weibo, lifestyle platform Red and Instagram – they have become so influential that luxury CEOs are now paying attention, which speaks to the clout that Chinese influencers and consumers have in the luxury industry.
Tao says that, not long after he started posting the rankings, fashion insiders started to tell him that they closely analyse the list every month – not just to get a sense of what is going on in the market but also to find inspiration for their own purchases.
Mr Bags, however, collaborates with many fashion houses, so how does he keep the rankings fair and unbiased?
“These rankings are very fair and based on statistics and objective, so they’re also a source for the brand to see what’s strong in the market and what other brands are doing, and which of their bags are very strong in China,” he says.
“I also use these rankings a lot myself. You can see which trends are hot, like this month [October] hobos are everywhere and big bags are really coming back.”
Tao breaks down the methodology behind the rankings, which is relatively simple. Thirty per cent comes from his followers: he and his team comb through comments, and chat to his fans about their most recent purchases and the bags that they find more desirable.
“I always say that I’m a bridge between brands and consumers,” says Tao. “I always talk to consumers and read their comments and I use that first-hand information.”
A further 30 per cent is the impact of influencers and Chinese KOLs. This also includes street style photos from fashion weeks. Tao does not get the last word but his opinion counts for the final 10 per cent of the overall score.
“I do a lot of consulting for brands and many brands ask me about the rankings. I keep it very strict and tell them that they can’t affect them, and I won’t change anything for them,” he says. “Consumers are very smart and they can tell if it’s fake.”
His advice for brands trying to make it into the coveted top 30 or gain a spot among the honorary mentions? “Promote your bags in the best way and make them popular and work with more influential celebrities and KOLs,” he says. “Encourage them to wear them on a daily basis, in their daily lives, like at the airport.”
He also suggests that brands name their bags – some labels often neglect to do so, which can impact the popularity of those bags in China.
“We find that bags with Chinese nicknames are usually the most popular,” he explains. “If the name is created by the people then it’s organic and natural and people relate to that, but brands should always name their bags.”
Tao adds that fashion executives are often surprised to discover that a bag that they did not promote much initially ends up in the rankings, but then they look at their numbers and see that it is actually doing very well in China.
“They’re shocked and ask, ‘How did you know that that bag was popular?’” he says. “We’re often two months ahead of brands, so if they see a bag that’s in the rankings but they haven’t pushed it much they should know that it will do well soon.”
In a little over a decade, Tao has turned his influencer gig into a real business and shows no signs of slowing down. His success is testament to the importance of handbags in the luxury industry.
No matter what trends come and go, handbags are still the driving force of most fashion brands, accounting for most of their sales and dwarfing categories such as ready-to-wear and shoes.
“Bags are real fashion pieces,” says Tao. “If you have a piece of jewellery, it’s very tasteful but it’s not out there. Bags are statement pieces and investment pieces. Buying luxury bags is like playing a game these days.”