Unpacking the Appeal
A single article of clothing can take the internet by storm. Whether it’s the fit, trend, or color we just can’t shake, some pieces hit different. But what makes fashion go viral? With Unpacking the Appeal, we’re digging into the most-loved clothes on the internet and figuring out why they make us go absolutely bananas. Plus, more on the trend, shopping, and styling details to satiate your style palette.
I couldn’t possibly count the number of times I have two-finger zoomed on an Instagram photo to get details on someone's purse, only to find—yet again—the cute little vegan leather scrunched hobo Gabbi bag from JW PEI. When I first saw the bag, I was attracted by its sleek, somewhat vintage-looking design, perfect shape, and breadth of colors (I am a sucker for green accessories). And, when I clicked to see the price, which I assumed was upwards of $250, I was stunned to see this bag was under $100… $89 to be exact (note: it's on sale right now for the holidays!).
But it wasn’t the affordable price that made this bag explode, worn by countless influencers and celebrities across Instagram. Those who can afford a Jackie Gucci bag or even a Birkin went for the JW PEI because of the aforementioned very cool but timeless design.
However, the bag wasn’t just popular with the Instagram set. That shockingly affordable price caught the masses, thus making this bag truly go viral. Let’s unpack (get it?) the Gabbi bag’s global appeal.
Why We Love It
JW PEI’s bio on Instagram is: “Fun. Under $100. Ship worldwide.” It’s a seemingly simple, stripped-down recipe, but one that makes for delightful results. While “fun” is subjective, when you scroll through their Instagram page, it’s cool girl after cool girl toting the same JW PEI Gabbi bag looking, well, fun. It has the same appeal as the Prada Nylon bag: It looks young, polished, and modern. And, similar to the Prada Nylon bag, it comes in both neutral and candy-like colors. Think: buttery yellow, bubblegum pink, and Kelly green, but also classic cream, rusty brown, and timeless black. Unlike the Prada Nylon bag, it's under $100 rather than $950.
Oftentimes, affordable means a product overpromises and underdelivers. Spoiler: this bag is not that. And that takes me to the next category: How JW PEI made it happen.
About the Brand
JW PEI is a Los Angeles-based accessories brand founded by a husband and wife duo who are currently living in Hong Kong. Their ethos is that “fashion should be accessible, effortless and empowering.” Co-founder Steph Li told me that their profit margins are rather low because the main goal of her and her husband and co-founder, Yang Pei, is to get the bag across the globe and to have as many people enjoy it as possible. All the while, JW PEI’s minimalist accessories are made with vegan leather made from recycled plastic bottles.
Worth mentioning is the brand's NYC-based PR company, House Of, owned and run by Christina Tung, boasts a very cool client list and has countless editors and stylists that are big fans and supporters. House Of’s exposure of the bag helped get JW PEI out to American editors and influencers. So, it made sense when downtown NYC paparazzi-famous Em Rata wore this bag again, and again, and again.
It’s not a complicated formula. Cute bag + low price = why not buy this bag? Steph told me that the Gabbi bag actually took off in early 2021 before any big-named celebrity wore the bag. The surge of sales was initially from International micro-influencers. If you went to Le Marais in Paris, you would see the Gabbi bag (and its sister bag, Eva) on countless stylish people.
Sold on Amazon in order to reach a wider audience, it's not hard to imagine one impulsively adding a JW PEI bag to a Dr. Bronner soap or Anastasia Beverly Hill's order. Just recently, I met a cute, trendy girl dining on the Lower East Side in New York City carrying, of course, a black Gabbi. Naturally, I inquired about her bag (maybe too far?) and found she indeed purchased it from Amazon after seeing a fashion editor with one. She had been planning to purchase a designer bag, but went for a Gabbi instead. She told me that since she bought it in August of 2021, she's been shocked by how well it's worn and how many people compliment her on her bag (...including me.)
At under $100, the Gabbi bag is what I like to call a “happy” purchase—one that doesn’t take too much monetary commitment but, well, makes you happy.
How to Style It
The bag is extremely versatile, and Steph shared that, because of the low price, 60% of customers who buy a Gabbi bag, buy more than two colors. So, if we use the brand's two best-selling shades, you can have your clean modern ivory for dressing up, and your grass green for playful everyday wear.
I’d style the ivory bag to make a pair of casual knit pants, shirt jacket, and clean sneakers look extra put together.
Or! Perhaps some extra texture and fun to a playful mini dress, turtleneck, tights and flats.
I’d style the green to add a pop of color to a suit and ankle boots.
Or to elevate a pair of joggers, blazer, and tee.
That was fun, but you can honestly style the Gabbi anyway you want, as either the finishing touch or statement of your outfit. That’s ultimately the allure of this bag.