If you found yourself glued to a TV at any point during the 2000s, longing for the beaches of Southern California or an internship in the Big Apple, LeSportsac bags need little introduction. The American luggage maker was founded in 1974, but it reached the zenith of its influence in the aughts, when its splashy nylon purses became ubiquitous among a certain cohort of downtown cool girls.
The LeSportsac craze really kicked off in 2001, when the brand collaborated with Jonathan Adler to cover its bags in brightly colored apple decals and newsprint. In 2003, LeSportsac turned to Gwen Stefani and her now-defunct fashion line L.A.M.B., introducing a new generation of tweens to blown-up gothic scripts and dazzling gold charms. In 2006, it released a special collection tied to the latest season of The O.C. And then demand for LeSportsac largely fizzled out. It girls splurged on Proenza Schouler’s PS1 satchel, or leveled-up to other designer bags, and LeSportsac slowly faded out of the zeitgeist.
The brand’s resurgence in the early 2000s was a little unexpected. In the ‘80s, its checkered travel bags caught on with power-suited Gordon Gekko lookalikes; a hanging bag that offered extra storage for shirts and shoes was a particular hit among the pomaded elite. But by the time the aughts rolled around, LeSportsac was catering to a very different demographic. That’s when GQ style writer Eileen Cartter first remembers coveting one of its kaleidoscopic carry-alls, motivated, in part, by its celebrity adjacency.
“I was a really big Gwen Stefani fan when I was 11,” Cartter says. “I had a covert LiveJournal where I’d interact with fellow L.A.M.B. [fans].” In 2006, her mom bought her a standard LeSportsac dopp kit from Macy’s, but it was only a few years ago, after Cartter ventured onto Poshmark, that she was finally able get her hands on the coveted L.A.M.B. ‘Hella’ hobo bag from the brand’s early collaboration with Stefani’s label. (She paid $35; on eBay, the same bag is now listed for upwards of $500).
LeSportsac AEC “Sanvin” Tote
LeSportsac AEC Tote Classique
You can probably see where this is going: thanks to cosigns from Gen Z netizens like Emma Rogue, LeSportsac has quietly inserted itself into the fashion conversation again, just in time to capitalize on the nostalgia for its heyday. But instead of leaning hard into Y2K mania, LeSportsac is taking the opposite route, plumbing its archives from long before the 2000s.
Last year, LeSportsac introduced Arc En Ciel, an upmarket line designed in collaboration with Rowing Blazers founder Jack Carlson. Over the pandemic, Carlson says, Thomas Becker, LeSportsac’s newly-appointed COO, reached out to discuss “a more elevated, but very nostalgic line that was more premium and design-forward.” The result was AEC, a collection of bags you’d imagine packing up for a road trip that involves a full tank of gas, physical maps, and not much else. The bags are practical and colorful, two hallmarks of LeSportsac’s brand, with sporty, ‘70s-inflected trimmings that hark back to Arthur Ashe’s prime. (Last year, Carlson also launched a label that pays tr