Proenza Schouler vs. Target, or vice versa

The lines between inspiration and copies, copies and knock-offs, and knock-offs and counterfeits are getting blurrier and blurrier. And for those of us whose seasonal clothing and accessories budget is in the mid-to-high 3-figure range, sometimes the blurry line is, um, not all that visible on the small screen. The latest case in point is the Target Messenger Bag. Not just any Target Bag, mind you, but a Target Bag that looks astoundingly similar to one of this season's nicer Proenza Schouler Bags. The Target Bag cost $34.99, before it sold out on the website. It may still be available in stores. The PS Bag costs about 32 times that. Both prices are retail. This is the Proenza Schouler Bag:

I ordered the Target Bag plus a ride-along bubble umbrella to get free shipping. I selected the army green color, figuring that if the bag worked, it might be a good travel bag and I'd want a color that wouldn't show dirt. And even if it didn't, I can always use an extra bubble umbrella.

The bag arrived, packaged in Target's typical plastic mailing envelope with a plastic bag inside which in turn held the Bag. When plastic bag 2 was opened, it released a scary chemical smell which I haven't smelled since I ordered purple “rubber boots” for the beach house from Target. So right now the bag is getting the same treatment I gave the boots – it's airing out on the terrace until I can get close enough to review the interior. The texture of the rubbery outside is actually acceptable, and the weight does NOT disqualify it for use as a travel purse. However, even the slightest trace of that smell would make it unsuitable for use in airports or any other facility where there might be sniffer dogs.

Some preliminary notes--

Bag exterior: polyurethane, textured to look like pebbled leather.

Shape: a bit pouchy. Size: About 13,5 x 19 x 5 inches.

Closures: Front: flap over main compartnent, held down by two front straps, which slide through loops, plus a turn lock. Rear : envelope, zips closed

Security: good

Straps/handles: both. Strap is detachable, adjustable, cross-body; handle is old-fashioned briefcase type.


Lining: polyester.

Pockets: described as Slit Pocket, Cell Phone Pocket, Zip Pocket, Credit Card Pockets. I wouldn't keep credit cards in “pockets” on the side of a purse, could be handy for bus passes and the like.

Interior dividers: none.

Suitability for intended purpose: pretty good. Will not replace my large rectangular black nylon Prada with the pockets, but will be a good bag to take to parts of world where leather is not welcome, climate is humid, and transport is iffy. Assuming more time on the terrace attends to the lingering smell problem. If not, I have another 58 days to return. Maybe more.

Another review of the Target bag is here:

and this is a link to the New York Times discussion of the possibly hurt feelings of the people at Proenza Schouler:


  1. Thanks for posting this review. I was curious about the Target bag after hearing about the tiff between Target and Proenza Schouler. I think I will continue to save my pennies for the PS1.

  2. Update: brought the Target bag inside last night and hung it in the bathroom. Chemical smell persists. Himself asked if we'd gotten a UPS package for "someone who has a 50/50 chance of being called a statesman 100 years from now" by mistake. Think Target bag will go back this weekend. Worse than mothballs.

  3. I went to my nearest Target right after I found out about the PS1 controversy... looked cute enough on the website, but let's just say I didn't end up buying it, for obvious reasons.

  4. I've been reading about the "weird chemical smell" on people's purchases. Does it smell like "cat pee"? If yes, I think it's urea formaldehyde. It's use to set dyes. If you smell it on a washable garment, wash immediately and wash your hands as well. If you smell it on something like your bag that isn't washable, return it. That smell may go away, but the chemical remain on the surface and will be all over your hands every time you touch it. Some factories in China know the deal and have stopped using it, but some haven't and ship goods to NA and EU reeking of this stuff. HTH

  5. Great review. At least you can return to the Target store for free.

    Closet Crisis, thanks for the info!


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