Get bags of style - just like Victoria
Published 15/06/2010 | 05:00
Even if you have only the tiniest bit of interest in fashion, chances are you know all about the 'It' bag.
At the height of our Celtic Tiger days, this fashion phenomenon was explosive. Rumour has it that bags were made from the skin of hand-reared snakes fed on caviar, Bollinger and wheatgrass shots. These containers for lipstick, keys and empty wallets were status symbols cleverly marketed through our celebrity obsession.
Take the blingtastic Victoria Beckham and her love for Hermes bag. Posh Spice has been spotted sporting quite a few of these beauties in several colours. Seemingly she spent up to $120,000 on one version, which was made from crocodile skin with solid gold fastenings and encrusted with diamonds. The waiting list for the famous Hermes 'Birkin' was anything between eight months and six years, or so the story goes. A great PR opportunity for all involved.
The Fendi 'Baguette', with its distinctive double 'F' clasp, was regularly seen on the arm of SATC's Carrie Bradshaw. Well, it was considered the jewel of 'It' bags, you know. Launched in 1997 and still available, it has come in every guise from monogrammed fabric to versions smothered in embroidery, beads, sequins and jewels. At the moment, you can find a rather pared back style for €2,205 on Net-a-porter.com.
The YSL Muse is definitely in the top 10 of must-haves. Oh so Parisien and very chic, with its subtle Y logo and cylindrical lock, it has been re-issued this season in cracked white leather. Time to empty the change jar ladies, it's a steal at €1,775!
Complaints of arm strain were endured due to the weight of luxury heavy leather, zips, studs and general hardware. Style tips like 'the more oversized your bag, the more tiny you'll look in comparison' had the likes of the Olsen twins and Katie Holmes lugging around carry-alls that they could fit into themselves.
The ultimate aim for the industry was, of course, sales and profit. Many styles lasted only a season before something more covetable came along. It had all become quite ridiculous and very competitive. These bags were popular birthday gifts for sweet sixteens or eighteenths and resulted in teenage girls dressed head to toe in high street Topshop with a purse under their arm worth more than a lifetime's pocket money.
Anyone and everyone from Sienna Miller to the girl next door jumped on the bandwagon, but it was perhaps this prevalence that assisted its demise. That, and, of course, the global economic recession.
It's no newsflash that ostentatious spending has been pushed to the wayside. No longer is it acceptable to spend a month's wages on a glittering garment that will fall out of favour in a few short weeks. Now, it's all about the 'investment' piece. 'Considered consumption' is the latest trend.
So what is happening to the 'It' bag? It hasn't died a death but it has evolved into something far more discreet and sophisticated.
Practicality is undoubtedly playing a part that would go hand in hand with the boom in popularity of the flat shoe. Over the shoulder bags and utilitarian satchels are at the top of the trend chart. The Mulberry 'Alexa', named after Alexa Chung, is one of Brown Thomas' bestsellers. Retailing at €800 for the standard leather finish or €1,000 for the leopard print, it's hardly a million miles away from the 'It' bag of old. However, the crucial difference is that it's far more classic and a lot less flamboyant. This is destined to age beautifully and is essentially a modern take on a timeless classic.
Shelly Corkery, Fashion Director at Brown Thomas, describes the 'Alexa' as "the perfect mix of feminine and masculine style that Ms Chung is renowned for. It has perfect proportions and is multifunctional; hand-held, cross-body or worn on the shoulder". She also points out that The 'Pandora' bag by Givenchy is proving popular this season.
Ex-Chloe designer, Phoebe Philo, who is now at the helm of the French house of Celine, has always had a keen eye for refinement. Quietly luxurious, the Celine 'Classic' is a neat boxy bag, with a long shoulder strap and simple gold clasp. It looks like the quintessential little handbag and is the polar opposite to anything flashy. Alternatively, the 'Luggage' tote bag, a perfectly functional shopper, is exquisitely made, reviving respect for craftsmanship.
If you want something more edgy, then fashion will cater for you. Alexander Wang is the hottest new designer with street sportswear providing inspiration for his SS10 collection. His current hot-to-trot bag is the 'Rocco'.
A slouchy leather take on the duffel bag with a studded base, it's compact, practical and subtle so you'll get a lot longer than one season out of it.
Our celebrity fascination is certainly still in full swing but, in line with our handbag taste, it has experienced a shift. Logos and overt branding have been brushed aside in favour of quirkiness, individualism and creativity.
Celebs are still enjoying the limelight but we will just as happily browse through street style websites like The Sartorialist or Facehunter for more realistic inspiration.
Celebs need to up their style game. No longer can their status be defined by a bag dripping in wealth. Quiet luxury is far more admirable these days.
The 'It' bag may have moved on but we are clearly still lusting after purses, clutches, satchels and sacks.
The fundamental appeal lies in the fact that -- regardless of whether you are a size 8 or 18, dressed in H&M or Halston -- you can sling a ferociously beautiful designer bag on your arm and be sure to leave many glints of green-eyed envy in your wake.