How Everything Tao Liang, aka Mr Bags, Touches Turns to Gold
“There are hundreds and thousands of shopping maniacs who love to buy handbags,” Liang said. “But they don’t have time to research and decide which bag is worth buying. I provide them with such advice.” Talking to Tao Liang is like catching up with an old friend. He is polite, soft-spoken, humble in his achievements and most impressively, he is only 26 years old. He oversees a team of 17 staff, but proves he’s having just as much fun as he spends working.
Work and play
Just a week before we met, Liang and a few of his teammates travelled to Tokyo to attend the show of Kim Jones’ sophomore collection for Dior. Between the show and meetings, Liang and his team took some time to have fun at Disneyland, as documented on his Vlog. Vice followed him earlier this year as he released a Chinese New Year exclusive design in partnership with Tod’s on his WeChat channel.
The creation was a dog-shaped Wave mini backpack, which was sold out in a mere seven minutes after it was released online. “We were actually really worried,” Liang recalled, “we were thinking, ‘what if this is the only bag that doesn’t sell out? And it’s all happening live with a camera crew in the office?’”
We met on a warm afternoon in December at his Tsim Sha Tsui hotel in Hong Kong, just steps away from where he hosted a fan meet-and-greet at the Harbour City Tod’s boutique. “My followers and I talked about the newest collections, my top picks for the current season,” he said with enthusiasm, “and then we played some games”. Liang always likes to include engaging ice-breaker games to play at each of his meet up’s and will cater them according to the city he is in, "it’s a nice way to get to know everyone, and my fans really enjoy it.”
How it all began
Liang may be soft spoken at first, but ask him about his passion—bags, and he lights up. “I became obsessed with fashion during my years in high school in Beijing, but it wasn’t till I moved to Los Angeles for my undergraduate studies that I started shopping a lot,” he recalls fondly. “I would go to Rodeo Drive four or five times a week, but I was on a student budget, so I wasn’t making a lot of purchases at the time—it was more like window shopping.”
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Call it shopping or call it market research, Liang made careful considerations and choices when he purchased, and that’s how he got into the business of bags.
Ask any self proclaimed bagaholic about their first bag, and they can remember like it was yesterday. “Mine was the Balenciaga motorcycle bag,” Liang says without any hesitation, “and my first pair of designer shoes was from Tod’s—a pair of Ferrari Gommino loafers.”
Birds of a feather
The Mr Bags community boasts over three million followers, many of which are amongst China’s burgeoning affluent consumer groups. And though they're scattered across the world, they all eagerly tune in to what he has to share on his WeChat, Weibo and Instagram.
“I think a lot of my fans and I have a similar background, we were raised in China but have spent some time overseas. A lot of them are young women who are between the age of 20-35 who love fashion, getting dressed up and enjoy travelling and shopping.”
Liang is certain of this, as he has met his fans in numerous cities, including his hometown Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong, London and Berlin. “When I talk to these women, we have a real connection, we speak the same language and I feel like I am just like them.”
Liang undoubtedly has his finger on the pulse—“I write a lot of the posts myself and I review many of the comments from my followers personally,” he says—and the insights he has at his disposal are priceless. His comprehensive knowledge of fashion and the luxury bag market is a large reason why brands like Tod’s have tapped him in the creation of special collaborations.
(Related: Yes, Kim Jones's First Collection For Dior Homme Is Available For Sale Now)
And what’s trending for spring/summer 2019, you may be wondering? "There’s been a renaissance of vintage-inspired handbags. Handbag styles from the '90s, and bags with shorter straps, that tuck in right under the arm,” Liang says confidently. “With Tod’s, I’m so thrilled that they’re relaunching the D bag, it was a favourite of Lady Diana.”
As for the trends he sees in China, it’s still the mini bag that reigns supreme. “It’s a small yet functional bag; it doesn’t get in the way, but it can still hold all the essentials like a smart phone and a card case.”
February 2019 will mark the unveiling of Mr Bag's third collaboration with the Italian leather goods maker. To be unveiled during Milan Fashion Week, Liang remained tight-lipped on the details, but he did say that the designs were almost complete.
For 2019, Liang will be reviving the house's heritage D bag, “I grew up seeing a lot of D bags when I was a student, and it’s just so iconic. You think of the late Lady Diana toting it around London.” His designs certainly fit the scope of what he predicts will be trending for spring/summer 2019, and if you want to get your hands on his collaboration, you better act quick.
This article first appeared on hk.asiatatler.com.