I, like millions of other people all over the world was having a Marie Kondo-inspired clean out over Christmas, emptying a storage unit full of grimy and forgotten things.
I opened a suitcase and found a stash of handbags and was reminded that once upon a time in fashion-magazine land, there was a designated ‘It Bag’ every season that we all simply had to have.
Prada kicked off the trend one year when all the editors at the major magazines were gifted with new release, the “Bowling’ bag and the must-have bag trend took off.
Fendi launched the ‘Baguette bag’ later, a small rectangle bag that came in all sorts of treatments, from jewelled velvet to crocodile and was a massive hit, turning around the fortunes of the company.
Every fashion house wanted to design the ‘it’ bag of the season, for obvious reasons, and we all slavishly believed that one new, often times truly ugly bag was the key to looking on trend.
Never mind that you were wearing towelling Juicy Couture track pants, flip flops and a faded black T-shirt in the car park outside Starbucks, if you were carrying a Balenciaga Lariat bag then you were fashionable (shout out to Lindsay Lohan in her DUI period who appeared to have 100, in every colour of the rainbow).
We suffered for this idiocy in ways other than complete financial ruin too. There was a really unattractive large leather bag by Mulberry that was de riguer one year, covered in pockets and unnecessary straps that weighed so much empty carrying it immediately put your back out.
There was an awful Chloe bag that cost more than $2000 AUD that had a huge, useless padlock on it, which alone must have weighed 3 kilos but could feasibly be used as an attack weapon.
For about three seasons I went along with the idea that if you didn’t have the right bag you would die of fashion shame – until I said to my fashion editor colleague one year, “This is a stupid, wasteful concept that is sending us all broke” which sort of put me on the out, because never let logic get in the way of style.
I tend to think if a handbag is the size of a medium-size dog carrier, but there is no dog, you may be in the territory of stupid.
I also watched with great amusement, and horror, the other trend of selling furry ornaments to hang off bags, a kind of luxury road kill gimmick that says, “I have more money than sense”
But one clever handbag trend that is currently big in New York is the Salt strap, a colourful woven artisanal strap that can be attached to any handbag, giving it a kind of cool update (shoppe.salt).
The detachable straps are made in Colombia, and a percentage of proceeds is donated to the local community, which is a much better idea than creating new reasons to make perfectly good handbags obsolete.