The bank bag has been a status symbol on Wall Street since 1978, when Joan Killian Gallagher, then 28, founded Warden Brooks, one of the first companies to sell branded merchandise. Its canvas duffel, with a jacquard ribbon strap emblazoned with the logo of the bank that placed the order, sold a million units in its first year. Traditionally bestowed on partners and analysts when they join a firm, swag slung has quickly become ubiquitous in New York and beyond.
The bag has barely changed over the years, but the same cannot be said for the world it inhabits. On the one hand, the financial sector, while still striving for racial and gender equity, is much more diverse than it was in the late 1970s and 1980s, women now representing nearly 53% of entry-level workers.1. And many of these women find what is essentially a glorified gym bag to be a less than fashionable accessory. According to our survey, only 3% of women in finance own a traditional bank bag.
“While the representation and influence of women on Wall Street has evolved, the bag has not. And while traditional canvas duffle bags still had their place, we saw an opportunity to reinvent the bag to appeal to a more diverse audience,” says Alice Milligan, Chief Marketing Officer of Morgan Stanley.
Fashion designer Rebecca Minkoff understands what a woman wants from a bag. She launched her company with her brother in 2005 with a unique style, the MAB, and built it into a global brand before selling it earlier this year (she remains the label’s chief creative director). She also understands the importance of standing up for women in a traditionally male arena. She created the Female Founder Collective, a networking group for women, in 2018 with the goal of supporting, developing and uplifting female founders of women-owned and led businesses. “As women, we have the power to shape and transform our communities, through our purchasing power and also through the leadership and employment opportunities we provide as business owners,” says- she. That same year, she launched her Superwomen podcast, in which she talks to powerful women from all walks of life, from CEOs to artists, about how they’ve made it.
When we approached Minkoff with the idea of reinventing the women’s bank bag, she took on the challenge. In fact, she had the banker’s bag in mind when she designed her very first MAB. “I’m not just a fashion designer, but I’m a strong advocate for women in business. This project gave me the opportunity to redesign a style icon to reflect the new gender diversity in banking – something I also know from the champions at Morgan Stanley.
The new, simplified and refined version of the banker’s bag will never be mistaken for something you would throw in your locker on the way to the squash court. “My goal was to empower women to feel confident expressing their own sense of style in the workplace,” Minkoff says. Made from responsibly sourced leather in Spain, tanned using an eco-friendly process, the Rebecca Minkoff x Morgan Stanley Banker Bag 2.0 features silver detailing, a detachable shoulder strap and plenty of compartments. And at 14 inches long and 9 inches wide, it’s spacious without being overwhelming.
The update to an icon debuted during New York Fashion Week at Minkoff’s immersive Spring 23 presentation at Lavan 541. After a soft launch this fall, a limited quantity of the collaboration bag will be available on rebeccaminkoff.com for those who want to exchange a canvas bag. “We don’t just want to launch a new bag,” says Milligan. “We want to celebrate today’s increasingly diverse workforce and continue to champion progress and catalyze meaningful change.”