It's in the Rivets: The Secret Passion of Loungefly

The "geeky Gucci" designer brand makes its SXSW debut

The delight is in the details: the storytelling in the stitches of Loungefly's signature mini backpacks, crossbodies, and wallets, from their new Strawberry Shortcake, Jurassic Park, and Popples collections. (Images Courtesy of Loungefly)

Limited designs. Evocations of childhood favorites. Attention to detail. But it you really want to know that it's a Loungefly mini backpack, it's in the rivets.

It's a little secret for those in the know, like hidden Mickeys at a Disney park: each rivet has the Funko crown stamped on them. If you don't know Funko the company, you'll still recognize the Funko Pop, the wide-eyed, big-headed figures that have become ubiquitous across pop culture.

And for those in the know, Loungefly is just as recognizable. Founded in 1998, it developed a small, loyal, and rapidly growing fanbase for designer bags and accessories that mixed high-end fashion standards with franchises and IP like Disney, Star Wars, and Sanrio. In 2018 it was acquired by Funko and ... well, nothing changed. Rather than being swallowed up by a bigger company, Loungefly has become ubiquitous without losing its own brand.

And what is that brand? "Geeky Gucci" is what Senior Vice President of Creative, Innovation & Vision Derrick Baca playfully calls it. He and his partner, Senior Vice President of Creative Liz DeSilva, joined the company five years ago as both industry veterans and big collectors themselves (her: those instantly recognizable bags: him, Loungefly's enamel pin collection).

What's really made Loungefly special is a design philosophy that is the polar opposite of just slapping an IP on a bag and calling it a day. Baca and DeSilva don't just talk about design, but storytelling. Loungefly bags are often filled with details and nods, little visual references that make them so beloved that they're as likely to be displayed on walls as they are to be worn on backs (there's a whole cottage industry on Etsy of hand-crafted bag hangers and strap holders). And that storytelling means innovations: embroidery, flocking, sliding panels, glow-in-the-dark materials (DeSilva admits these can sometimes cause headaches when it comes to production and cost, but it's her job and pleasure to find a way to get the designers' beautiful dreams across the shoulders of fans).

And this year will see the brand's first time at South by Southwest, with both a booth on the trade show floor and a special panel on Tuesday with Christy Carlson Romano – the voice of teen turned superspy Kim Possible from the Disney Channel fave. Kim Possible is another of the brands that Loungefly works with, this time with exclusives available only through Austin-based online affiliate Under the Sea, who will also be present at SXSW.

Baca said that, as part of Funko, they're used to big, Comicon style events, but SXSW "is a new foray for us, to get new customers, as we become a new lifestyle brand, not just an accessories brand."

"I've personally never been," DeSilva said, "so I'm just looking forward to a new experience for me and the brand."

Coming to the polymath festival also reflects the growth of Loungefly when it comes to product lines. It was built around franchises like Star Wars, Harry Potter, Studio Ghibli, and Disney (another one of their design innovations: a place to store your Mickey ears so they don't get crushed). But they've been expanding, into music with products for the Beatles and Jimi Hendrix, and even sports, with bags for Dallas Cowboys fans drawing great attention at their pre-launch party.

But their hearts remain in the world of animation and imagination. This year at SXSW, they're unveiling new ranges for Popples (a favorite for DeSilva), the 30th anniversary of Jurassic Park, and Strawberry Shortcake. Wait, is that the distinctive scent of the old Shortcake dolls on the breeze? Proust's Madelines for '80s kids? Let's just say the Loungefly development team still has some tricks up their sleeves – or rather, in the bag.

Loungefly Booth

Sun 11-Wed 15, Convention Center, Exhibit Halls 2-4, Booth #1235

Find Purpose in Your Passion with Loungefly

Tue 14, 2:30pm, Convention Center, Creative Industries Expo Next Stage

Catch up with all of The Austin Chronicle's SXSW 2023 coverage.

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