Brandon Blackwood has been working on his label since 2015, but his ESR bag takes one of his signature mini boxy silhouettes, and adds a call to action with hardware lettering: “End Systemic Racism.”
Following the murder of George Floyd and protests against police brutality and racial injustice in the U.S. earlier this year, handbag designer Brandon Blackwood released his now-famous End Systemic Racism bag, with a portion of proceeds going towards the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights.
“I was stuck creatively and exhausted by the daily news,” he told Teen Vogue about the origin of the style, which has since sold in the thousands, following an initial order of 509. “I had a pretty solid following and decided I would take this opportunity to make something that could have a direct impact against systemic oppression.”
That’s how his “End Systematic Racism” mini tote, also dubbed the “ESR tote,” was born. Shortly after its creation, the tiny bag started popping up all over Instagram in posts from influencers and fashion lovers who not only loved its design but also its message.
But Brandon had not anticipated the bag would resonate with so many people. The designer says he was, and still is, taken aback by how big of a response the bag got. “I actually launched the bag with a simple photo from my factory and posted it because I’m so impatient,” he recalls. “The numbers started happening almost immediately. It was the craziest day. To see your most powerful [and] meaningful piece accepted and celebrated so quickly. I was crying.”
Celebs including Lupita Nyong’o, Zoë Kravitz and Cardi B have toted his purses (all of which are completed by fair-trade craftsmen in Asia, Europe and the US), but the label went next-level viral this October when Kim Kardashian posted a photo of herself alongside Blackwood’s “End Systemic Racism” bag on Instagram.