Phillip Lim Tells Us the Story Behind His Super Successful 31 Hour Bags

Phillip Lim was nice enough to hop on email with us and answer all of our fangirl questions about the history and future of his 31 Hour bag series--including a new shape he just introduced this season. Read on for all the scoop on the bag.
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Phillip Lim was nice enough to hop on email with us and answer all of our fangirl questions about the history and future of his 31 Hour bag series--including a new shape he just introduced this season. Read on for all the scoop on the bag.
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We are unabashed fans of Phillip Lim, and we're especially enamored of his 31 Hour bag--it's deceptively simple, but damn near perfect. Since being introduced less than two years ago in 2011, it's become the designer's signature and most popular bag--if the amount of arms we see it dangling on here in NYC is any indication. (It's even been ripped off. That's how you know a bag is an "It.")

Phillip Lim (along with his contemporary, Alexander Wang) has been one of few designers who's figured out what the modern handbag market needs--namely, bags that do not cost $2,000. A recent WWD article noted that there's still a huge hole in this market. Hence the success of the 31 Hour bag, which rings in at $795. (Yes, it's still a lot, but at least it's within reach and costs less than a month of NYC rent.)

The 31 Hour bag comes in intriguing new colorways every season and we love the colorblocking--it even comes in smaller versions, called the '31 Minute' bag, ranging from clutches to cosmetic bag size. When the new camo version for pre-fall 2013 (see above) hit our inbox, we swooned.

Phillip Lim was nice enough to hop on email with us and answer all of our fangirl questions about the history and future of the bag--including a new shape he just introduced this season. Read on for all the scoop on the bag.

The new backpack version.

The new backpack version.

Fashionista: When was the bag first introduced? Phillip Lim: The men’s version was introduced for Fall 2011 and the women’s version was introduced for Spring 2012. What's behind the name? We named it the ‘31 Hour’ bag because it was designed with the 3.1 Phillip Lim Man or Woman in mind. The 3.1 Phillip Lim customer is a citizen of the world; they are someone who leads an exciting and active life and are truly multi-faceted. They live, work and play 31 hours worth each day and for us this is the bag they carry.

What were you thinking about when you first designed the bag? For me, it was really about pragmatic design without compromising aesthetic. Accessories have grown to be such an important part of our business--when we first introduced accessories, I really wanted them to enhance what we already offered.

How many versions have there been? There are so many--but they all work together like a Russian doll! 31 Hour weekender, 31 Hour bag, 31 Minute clutch, 31 Minute medium clutch, and 31 Minute cosmetic bag. We have also just introduced a 31 Hour backpack for Pre Fall 2013. {Ed. Note: Check it out at left.}

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What's your favorite version and why? The 31 Minute clutch. It’s just the right size for transitioning from day to night and it's perfect for travel.

Where are the bags manufactured? We work with boutique manufacturers in China.

How do you keep the price below that magic $1000 mark? Our goal has always been to produce luxury product at a contemporary price point. We are very prudent with the process so we have little wastage which means we can pass this on to our customers.

What are your future plans for the bag? Do you anticipate that it will become one of the classics in your line? Absolutely! We will continue to expand for the 31 Hour range for both men’s and women’s. Lots of novelty coming for Fall 2013. Why no logo or obviously identifying hardware (the long zipper pulls seem to be the best way to ID a Phillip Lim bag)? We wanted to keep it simple, sleek, and refined so that the bag could transition easily through a man or woman’s wardrobe.

Who are the celebs/models who you know that love or use the bag? Caroline Issa, Garance Dore, Shiona Turini, and Anya Ziourova all carry variations of the 31 Hour series.