• Nina Hanz

The Bags We Had as Children and Their “It” Value

With the heatwave slowly retreating and the summer coming to an end all throughout Europe and the UK, we can begin to reflect on some of the best summer trends of 2018. In retrospect, the biggest struggle this summer was acclimating to the scorching heat. While dressing weather appropriate had become a quasi-survival strategy, remaining stylish proved daunting. The cool-girls of Spring and Summer 2018 have found a way to upgrade their outfits without adding extra frills, layers or further insolation. Their style secret: the small, little handbags which seem to resemble the types we had as children or at least begged our parents for.

Staud Bag, Photo courtesy of Getty Images

Regardless of season, accessories have always been a way to elevate any outfit. This is nothing new. And while statement earrings also saw their return, nothing captivates our Instagram feeds quite like see-through PVC bags, micro handbags and basket-inspired purses. Whether it is their classic top handles or their colourful beading, these bags seem to share a youthful nostalgia dating back to our childhood with their disproportionate sizes and unconventional shapes. The Cult Gaia Ark bag is one of the most popular examples of this trend. This retro bamboo design has been the “it” bag for the past two seasons, despite their open-weave pattern which certainly proves impractical for holding keys or cardholders. Similarly, Instagram has also contributed to the increased popularity of Shrimps’ beaded bags which likewise trade adulthood’s practicality for a more whimsical spirit. What these bags all have in common is their mini measurements, their bold designs and their more affordable price tag.

Shrimps Beaded Bag, Photo Courtesy of Stephanie Broek

Maybe it’s the holiday attitude or maybe the persistence of ‘90s fashion, but the absurdity of wearing these juvenile purses un-ironically reflects a greater shift in the fashion industry. Previously considered a faux pas of sorts, this summer trend epitomises the departure from sensibility and buying into the overpriced fashion giants. Rather, it demonstrates how younger fashion enthusiasts are toying with identity perceptions and internet trends. The individual characteristics and even personalities of these accessories become personal micro-declarations. Fuelled by the instantaneous access to a global fashion market the wearer opposes essentialist culture through a multifaceted style that gives way to hyperculture. Instead of prioritizing name and recognition of a luxury brand, the younger generation diverges from conventional norms with unapologetic and bold statements, even when it verges on kitschy. This, coming at a price far cheaper than traditional luxury bags, has allowed these doll-like accessories to fall into the hands of many young people.

Staud velvet bag, photo courtesy of Megan Ellaby

It seems that particularly their price has allowed these trendy handbags to infiltrate the luxury market. Take Staud as an example. Cofounded by Sarah Staudinger and George Augusto three years ago in Los Angeles, Staud has contributed their own version of the bucket bag at a price competitive value of £314. Sarah Staudinger explained in an interview with Elle Magazine that “the new consumer is savvy,” and goes on to explain, “I think there’s less value on high brands… [They] realise that all the things that go into a bag that’s $2,500 [approximately £1,935] isn’t really the true value of the bag, but it’s [other things] like packaging and expensive store locations that add to the expense. With us, the value is really going into the bags.” This new wave of financially attainable “it” bags has led emerging brands to explore and experiment more, allowing us consumers to satisfy our inner child while decorating our empty elbow crooks with unconventional designs.

More than just an easy styling tip, these “it” bags represent a larger shift in the fashion industry initiated by young consumers. Opposing the formal styles handed down to us, the younger generation’s renewed attraction to these childish bags equally reflect our past as well as our current eccentricities. With youthful designers from emerging labels like Cult Gaia, Shrimps and Staud producing products for equally young shoppers, the mini novelty handbags are predicted to stay throughout Autumn and Winter as well.

*Previously published by Minke Magazine, August 2017