Flat broke during the lockdown? Then this ingenious $300 flat purse might not be for you

May 7, 2020

Ikea built its home furnishings empire on the strength of one simple idea—products designed in such a way that they can be flat-packed to reduce shipping costs and eliminate the need for a delivery truck. Now, that same level of innovation has come to global handbag and purse manufacturing.

The Milan, Italy-based bag label Up To You Anthology has created a flat-pack purse that it is selling in a variety of shapes and sizes, along with leather and felt options. And yes, just like Ikea furniture, you have to assemble it yourself, Fast Company reports.

Designed by the prolific Japanese firm Nendo, which is known for taking surprising approaches to the design of everyday objects, the bag is called the Mai.

Each bag is laser-cut from a single piece of leather. The consumer is instructed to fold the leather in half to assemble the bag; fitting the rivets into precut holes. And within about a minute of work, you have a fully functional, 3D purse, the business news outlet notes.

As COVID-19 keeps most of us home and puts tens of millions of people out of work, fashion retailers are in a lot of trouble notes. Indeed, J. Crew just filed for bankruptcy, and many direct-to-consumer companies are finding themselves underwater.

Mai wasn’t developed in response to COVID-19. Up To You Anthology told Fast Company in an interview that development actually started on it last year. But it was created specifically to be a bag sold through e-commerce. “Each bag had to be delivered to the customer’s house, so they designed a bag that could be delivered flat, to simplify this process,” a spokesperson explains. “And the customer would assemble the bag themselves. It can be fun!”

Indeed, the slight work of assembly could give the buyer more ownership over the bag—much like the old adage that Betty Crocker cake mix could have been formulated in a way that removed the need to add an egg, but that this modicum of effort makes it feel like you actually baked something.

But ultimately, this bag isn’t just flat to ship but 20% smaller in overall volume when deconstructed than it would be if mailed fully assembled. It costs money to ship air!

For a purse that runs around $300, saving the $8 between a USPS flat-rate envelope and a small flat-rate box might not seem like a lot. But especially as you get into international shipping, the difference jumps closer to $35.

The fact of the matter is, competitive online companies now are being forced to subsidize or eat their shipping costs entirely, Fast Company says—making it a huge expense for every online product company that doesn’t have the leverage of Amazon. And if these businesses are to survive the next two years, every dollar counts.

Research contact: @FastCompany

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