Polène: Chic shapes and quiet luxury

Polène is the French mid-luxury brand taking over TikTok

Polène: Chic shapes and quiet luxury

By Fiona Ward

The ‘mid-price’ accessories market is one that’s booming right now. While the likes of Hermès and Chanel – and their sky-high price points – aren’t going anywhere, demand for quality-made pieces at a more affordable level has increased.

For those that admire the Birkins and Bottegas from afar, mid-luxury handbags are a welcome compromise – and French brand Polène has undoubtedly tapped into that customer base.

Securing its place as an it-brand among fashion influencers and editors alike, Polène has become known for its chic shapes and subtle ‘quiet luxury’ branding – a reputation that has found its way to TikTok, where the search term ‘Polène’ has millions of views.

Following a series of viral videos by content creator Volkan Yilmaz – a.k.a. @TannerLeatherstein – who took the bags apart to exaamine their quality, Polène found itself firmly on the fashion map. Next came the celebrities. Lily Collins carried a basket from the brand during the third series of stylish Netflix show Emily In Paris and the Princess of Wales was pictured carrying the Polène ‘Numéro Sept’ bag in 2023.

Despite its more recent viral success, the brand actually came to be in 2016, when Parisian siblings Antoine, Mathieu and Elsa Mothay noticed there was a gap in the market for mid-priced, design-led handbags. Antoine told Harper’s Bazaar in 2022: “When we started the brand, there were great luxury brands with great design and history, and then there were more accessible brands that were… I don’t want to say copies, but they were very inspired by the big brands. For us, there was a lack of creativity and quality.”

Leather quality was in fact always their focus. Antoine has spoken of spending more than a year travelling eastern Europe, Portugal and Spain to find the right leatherwork systems before launching the business. They eventually settled on production in the Spanish town of Ubrique, where many luxury brands create their bags.

Choosing only to work with Leather Working Group-certified tanneries, the initial process was meticulous, with Mathieu inspecting every swatch of leather before it went into production. “He did that because quality was so important for him, to have a relationship with our partners and to let them understand how we work and what we expect from them,” Antoine told Fashionista. “This is not a leather you can find with other brands.”

It’s this leather quality – and at such a fair price, with handbags starting at £260 – that has attracted so many to Polène, as well as the chic-yet-unique designs. From the scalloped ‘Numéro Huit’ bag to the luxe-looking ‘Cyme’ tote, each iteration has been a hit.

The brand has since launched into jewellery, and a shoe line is on the horizon – so watch this space as Polène continues to dominate the mid-luxury market. I’m keeping my eye on the ‘new in’ section, but until then, it’s the contrast-stitch ‘Nodde’ bag that has my heart.