Why We Need Handbags Forever?

by Min Leung Saller
In fact, handbags have been intertwined with both male and female identity for centuries, and have survived multiple crises, only to return with even more import. That reports from Dior bags and Hermes bags selling out as stores reopen in Asia and life returns to quasi-normal are actually not anomalies, but part of a historical pattern.

That the news of record vintage handbag auctions at Christie’s, the dominant force in the resale market, which recorded a total of $2,266,750 during an online sale in July, including $300,000 for a Hermes Diamond Himalaya Birkin 25 bag, may be a harbinger of the future. That the hullabaloo on social media last week about Houston Rockets point guard James Harden giving rapper Lil Baby a black Prada nylon duffel bag for his birthday filled with very expensive treats was a sign of the times.

“People kept saying it was the end of handbags,” said Lucia Savi, the curator who put the V&A show together. “But bags go hand in hand with humanity. We have always had to carry something.”

Even in a pandemic, it turns out, le sac c’est nous. Perhaps what we ought to be wondering is why.

A Brief History of Handbags

It is impossible to know who invented the handbag, but they seem to have been with us almost from the beginning. Bags made from linen, papyrus and leather were found in the tombs of ancient Egypt, dating from 2686 to 2160 B.C. In ancient Greece, little leather bags were used for coins; one of the first known purse owners was Judas Iscariot, whose job it was to carry the money bag for Jesus and his disciples.

The British Museum has a gold and garnet lid believed to have come from a bag belonging to a man in the seventh century and found in the Sutton Hoo excavation. There are bags depicted in an Assyrian wall carving found in the palace of Ashurnasirpal II at Nimrud in the ninth century, featuring a winged figure toting what looks like a purse.

Bags play a role in “The Canterbury Tales,” “Pride and Prejudice” and “Anna Karenina” (among other literary masterpieces).

Indeed, Savi said her point with the show was to elucidate the living and universal nature of bags — not to treat them as sculptures in leather and cloth, but to reveal the peculiarly unique role they play in both our physical and psychological lives, and the ways in which they become part of not just the fashion record but also history.

That despite all of its iterations, there is no substitute for a bag.

Composed of more than 250 bags and bag-related pieces from around the world, “Bags: Inside Out” is divided into three parts: function and utility (bags as receptacles); status and identity (bags as celebrity totems); and design and making (how bags are constructed).

What’s in a Bag?

It may be counterintuitive, but even if we are going out less during the pandemic, we often have to carry more when we do go out, meaning the bags we choose are increasingly important.

They need to hold hand sanitizer, gloves, masks, replica shoes, all the personal protective equipment we have now become used to bringing on any outing — just as, during World War I, Savi noted, people needed bags to hold their gas masks. (Queen Mary’s gas mask bag is on display at the V&A show.)

It is also true, said Beth Goldstein, the fashion, footwear and accessories analyst at NPD Group, that despite the general slowdown in the bag market during the pandemic, certain segments have proved notably hardy, especially the higher end and resale.

Charles Gorra, chief executive of the Rebag resale site, said that just after the start of lockdown in the United States they had a week of sales larger than Black Friday and Cyber Monday of 2019 combined; he attributes the growth to the need for “retail therapy” and desire for self-care.

Savi cites three additional factors: the professional sectors that stayed solvent during the pandemic maintained an income stream even as current events curtailed discretionary spending, creating more disposable income; the fact that of all fashion items, bags are among the easiest to buy online, everyone’s current shopping destination of choice; and the behavioral tendency, in times of crisis, to retreat to the classic, putting money into pieces that hold their investment and aesthetic value.

Indeed, amid all the hand-wringing — perhaps precisely because of the hand-wringing — Savi thinks that bags have become another kind of symbol. Not of aspiration or indulgence, not of what we have lost, but rather of optimism and hope. That to swing your bag onto your shoulder is to make a statement of belief: One day we will go out again.

And that means, she said, “we have realized we do need replica bags. Actually more than ever.”

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About Min Leung Innovator   Saller

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Joined APSense since, June 14th, 2014, From Guang, China.

Created on May 12th 2021 11:18. Viewed 72 times.


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