File this one under Things That Aren’t As Terrible As You Think: Dooney & Bourke may have been founded by Peter Dooney and Frederic Bourke in Connecticut in 1975, but its contemporary image doesn’t exactly match its New England roots.
Not too long ago, the brand strayed from its Americana aesthetic and started producing items such as logo-laden, armpit-sized barrel purses in an array of pastel colors, splattered with hearts and stars. Lindsay Lohan was their campaign model—never a good sign.
Dooney & Bourke was more than likely reacting to the insane success Coach was experiencing—in fact, both brands started out with pretty much the same concept: leather goods, equestrian influence, classic styles. But in the early 2000s, Coach started producing colorful (read: pink), tiny bags with price tags that were just a tad out of reach for teenagers and misguided grown women. Sales exploded, and Coach was revived; the brand is now a common sight at just about every high school, department store and shopping mall.
Though Coach has since pulled back the reins a bit—since that whole Lisa Frank-chic thing isn’t so in style anymore, even with the kids—the shiny, sequined thing is still around.
But passing by the Dooney & Bourke retail storefront at South Coast Plaza the other day actually made me stop and gaze at what was inside: a return to its past, with the canvas and leather-paneled goods, drawstring bucket bags, satchels, and cross-body purses. The old-school duck logo with the russet leather trim was even back.
(And okay, fine: The tacky heart-themed and monogrammed stuff is still around, but just ignore that part of the store.)
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What captured my attention the most was the Dillen collection, oozing an all-American, Ralph Lauren-type feel, with its anywhere/any-age totes and bags. The standouts were the Juliette bags, which come in three sizes, ranging from a mini to a large size that’d make a great office tote (it even holds a laptop). They share that leather school-satchel look with which so many (pricey) labels are achieving popularity these days—particularly the four-figured Proenza Schouler PS1 and the Mulberry Alexa. Juliette bags feature both top handles and a long shoulder strap; come in 10 colors, from tan to a bright magenta; and generally range from $145 to $335 per bag.
And while vintage Dooney & Bourke and Coach pieces are popular items on Etsy and eBay, Dooney & Bourke also has its commemorative all-weather leather collection, with those classic tan accents, still up for grabs in stores and online.
Dooney & Bourke at South Coast Plaza, 3333 Bristol St., Costa Mesa, (714) 641-5622; www.dooney.com.