Bags tend to be seen as investment pieces: The Birkin, for instance, is more valuable than gold. Bags, especially expensive ones, have long been sacred accessories, objects of obsession. They come in crocodile. Horsehair. Leather. A person can wear a scrappy outfit, but if she has a good replica bag, she’s set, polished. But this view, like so much else in fashion right now, is changing. Non-fashion and even disposable bags dotted the Spring 2018 runways: Public School went the literal cheap sack route and showed plastic bags, the so-thin-they’re-see-through types that are used for takeout food and grocery stores, which were illustrated with campy smiley faces and the phrase Come again. Vaquera accessorized a model with a mash-up of a Key Food plastic bag and an Amazon Prime paper bag.
In Paris, New York label Gypsy Sport loaded its models with grocery bags heaping with produce, and among the many props in the Bernhard Willhelm lookbook was a paper sack. Even Selena Gomez was spotted sporting a plaid plastic shopper from Opening Ceremony while in New York for the shows.
The lowbrow bag has spawned luxury incarnations, too. At Simon Miller, traditional paper lunch-bag shapes were rendered in crinkly, supple white and blue leather. Céline churned out clear plastic bags, which, although they appear almost like standard bags that come with a purchase, will no doubt eventually be sold for a pretty penny. And the $8 net bag begat $3,465 versions by the Pied Piper of cheek-chic, Vetements, whose lead designer, Demna Gvasalia, was also responsible for cheap Balenciaga’s infamous high-end take on the blue Ikea tote.
Speaking of Balenciaga replica, that label has been at the helm of transforming ordinary sacks into red-hot must-haves. At its Spring 2018 show, the brand showed a spiffy riff on a motorcycle helmet bag. Its takes on the Thai bazaar totes printed in colorful stripes for Resort 2017 are currently priced from $1,395 (XS) to more than $2,500 (XL). The house even introduced a fake bag based on bulky comforter totes, rendered in a cheeky retro print, for Spring 2016.
This seemingly strange fashion feedback loop makes sense in today’s world: Irony, after all, is at an all-time high. Take Miami-based designer Gelareh Mizrahi, who recently released a $1,500 python version of the standard plastic bag emblazoned with Thank you. Her reasoning came down to how millennials are looking at luxury. “I’ve watched how, in my generation, the conventional idea of luxury has changed,” she says. “For me, doing what you want is the ultimate luxury. I’ve taken the everyday plastic shopping bag and elevated its message. Looking at the bag reminds me to be grateful. And it makes me happy. To appreciate the little things.”