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'Bag Snob' Makes the Leap from Blog to Brand with New Handbag Line

Tina Craig and Kelly Cook aim to redefine luxury with Snob Essentials.

Tina Craig and Kelly Cook seem born to appear on a home shopping network. I barely get one foot through the door of the showroom where they're displaying their new bag line, Snob Essentials, before they've taken five or six bags down from the wall to explain the detailing -- a finished seam, a custom piece of hardware, a delicate lining.

It's a good thing they're already skilled on this front, since they'll be debuting Snob Essentials Thursday night on HSN. The home shopping network may seem like a strange choice for two women who have built a brand endorsing the likes of Hermès and Givenchy, but the duo feel it's a great fit.

"HSN is something [Artisan House] brought to us and it makes sense, because we're known in a very small fashion blogging world, but we walk down the street and no one's chasing us," Craig explains. "HSN has a huge, 96 million viewership and they were willing to commit to promoting us and making that order, so of course we went with them and they have been so supportive."

Plus there's the advantage of getting to explain all those details they spent so much time on. "When you go into a department store, that sales girl doesn't have the same passion as us to explain how every detail came to be and how to use it in all the different ways we've designed it for," Cook says.

Now, about those details: Craig and Cook estimate that they've seen upwards of 30,000 purses over the course of the nine years they've been blogging, which means that by now, they've got a really good idea of what works for a bag and what doesn't. That means Snob Essentials has been stripped down of anything non-essential or non-functional. 

More important than what's not there is what is: Custom hardware, signature quilting, multiple pockets on every bag, and straps to convert all clutches and wallets into crossbody bags. They focused on how the bag closed, what could fit in the miniaudieres, how a work bag could be used for play. 

Craig and Cook dropped anything that didn't meet up to their standards -- a hobo style they desperately wanted in the collection just didn't work in vegan leather, nor did a saddlebag that was great on sketch but not-so-great in the execution. If they wouldn't wear it, they wouldn't sell it, they said.

So don't expect this to be their watered-down versions of high-end bags. In fact, Craig says they purposefully didn't want to speak to the biggest, trendiest bags currently on the market. The shapes, from that work tote to a backpack, are all classics with a Snob Essentials twist.

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The most expensive bag, a tote, clocks in at just $128. The duo were insistent on making an affordable line that was still luxurious; they stuck to their guns on the details like that custom hardware, but everything is made in a vegan leather to keep prices low. They understand that $128 can be quite expensive for some women, and want to give the Snob Essentials customer bang for their buck.

"We're changing the landscape of luxury," Craig explains. "We're offering a luxury product under $128 -- it's doable! I think it's an insult to women to tell them you have to spend $2,000 to be considered chic, because money is not indicative of good taste."

It may seem like an ironic statement from a woman who has spent the last nine years reviewing luxury goods, but Craig and Cook are both emphatic that being a "snob" doesn't mean spending a lot of money. Instead, they say, it's about doing the research and having a set of criteria. "This has been the message all along," Cook says. "That we're snobs in the sense that we know what we want, we have a very discerning taste, but it has nothing to do with designer brands."

It was a risky move for two women who have built a blogging empire by reviewing bags to put their own line on the market. "I remember saying to Kelly, 'I guess no brands will want to work with us now that we're a brand,'" Craig says. "But instead people have been very supportive." She lists Brian Atwood, Peter Som, Jason Wu and Keren Craig of Marchesa as some of the first to reach out and congratulate the duo. 

"They don't see us as competition," Craig continues. "They've known us, they've worked with us for nine years and they always knew this is what we wanted to do." 

And for fans of Bag Snob, don't worry: Craig and Cook say the blog will go on forever, even if no one ever reads it again. "It's business as usual on the blog side!" Craig says. "Just like Barneys sells their own private label and still sells all these other lines, we hope to do the same and launch e-commerce on the blog." 

They also hope to expand Snob Essentials into products that fit into all the verticals currently covered on the site, turning it into a lifestyle brand: Jewelry, shoes, beauty, and more.

But first, the bags -- Snob Essentials launches May 15 on HSN at 9 PM EST.