“Fashion is not about utility. An accessory is merely a piece of iconography used to express individual identity”. - The Devil Wears Prada
Within the vast global fashion industry, designers understand the key element to creating a masterpiece— expressing individual identity. Collections bloom from historic traditions or a singular muse. Every tiny detail is imagined, reconsidered, and adapted before the handbag you just spotted at Bergdorf’s lands itself on the retail floor. You catch a glimpse of this luxe tote as you wander by. Immediately, it draws you in. Something about it speaks to you in a way that no other handbag in its company does. What is that something? It’s your individual identity and style speaking to you through an accessory. Today, you found a handbag that got it right. Everything about it feels personal and inspires you. This feeling, this experience of finding your perfect accessory, is the key element to why diaper bag companies have got it all wrong.
When I learned I was pregnant with my first child I immediately thought about purchasing a diaper bag. I was naively excited to begin my search for an exquisitely designed, fashionable diaper bag. The perfect diaper bag. One that suited my style and could elevate my look even if I left the house in sweatpants. I was searching for the Celine of diaper bags, if you will. I already knew motherhood didn’t easily lend itself to looking fabulous every day, but I figured with the right accessories I could set myself up with the tools to stay connected to my unique sense of style no matter the challenges that lay ahead.
My diaper bag search began at my most adored spots—stores that never failed to deliver a wonderfully unique and coveted item in the past. I assumed every designer would offer multiple versions of the “stylish mom bag,” but, to my disappointment, that wasn’t the case. Sure, there were a few well-known designers who offered a diaper bag, but the aesthetic screamed “I am a clichéd mommy bag!” I emerged from my shopping trip feeling a little defeated and majorly craving some unexpected design elements and a cool, non-diaper-bag-looking (yet functional) handbag.
What I didn’t fully understand at the time was the unforeseen life-changes motherhood would present. You’re thrown head-first into a world where so many of your personal preferences are assumed. The world tells you, of course you want a shorter hairstyle to reduce the amount of time needed to put yourself together in the morning. Of course you want shoes designed for comfort alone because you’ll find yourself running after an energetic toddler. Of course your diaper bag should hold the most baby paraphernalia (inside and outside). It’s like the fashion world has decided that moms no longer care about the muse behind their handbags’ creation or the story they tell as you carry them.
As a result, the same silhouette (tote-like with two external bulky pockets) and the same fabric choice (synthetic for easy cleaning) seemed to nudge their way into every diaper bag option. This common silhouette speaks volumes to how your handbag should look once you become a mom. But what if you want to be you, and not just another woman carrying a stereotypical mommy bag?
Why is this cliché of function over style attached to motherhood anyway? Must everything associated with motherhood be linked to sacrifice? Giving birth to my daughter didn’t change my affinity for tall boots or anything adorned with a tassel. Becoming a mother changed my life in a way that had nothing to do with personal style. I’m still the same person I was prior to giving birth. Sure, motherhood transformed many aspects of my life, but my individual identity stayed unchanged. Designers who see a “mom” instead of a woman are missing the opportunity to help women everywhere tell that story.
What I wanted to find in my shopping trip, and what I saw as a gap in the diaper bag market, was a diaper bag that felt like me. Millennial moms like myself crave choices. We yearn for a customized shopping experience, a unique story behind a product, and a way to forge our own path rather than settling for an antiquated perception of our lifestyle.
By leaving style out of motherhood, diaper bag companies made a huge mistake. One that I had the chance to correct. I created ToteSavvy, a super functional handbag organizer parents can slip inside their favorite bag to blend the organizational benefits of a “traditional” diaper bag with their own unique style. More than being an organization tool, I hope ToteSavvy helps guide our industry to stop expecting women to sacrifice everything that makes them who they are the second they become a parent. After all, what better lesson to teach your child than to be true to yourself and never lose those special characteristics that make you, you.