Functional To Fashionable: Bags At V&A Is This Season's Must Have Ticket
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Think bags, and where does your mind go? A chic Hermes Birkin, or that fraying tote you take to the supermarket?
It's not something I've given much thought to before, but bags are a remarkably diverse family of items. Now, the V&A has filled an exhibition with them — from solid, functional Eastpaks to a garishly reflective Louis Vuitton which screams Kim Kardashian.
Though we often consider them a luxury fashion item, bags have evolved around necessity. We learn of the tie-on pockets which 17th century ladies could attach to their dresses; and the chatelaine — a waist-hung appendage for accessories. These are predecessors to the modern handbag — like Maggie Thatcher's Nuovo Bidente number, which also appears in the show.
V&A's exhibition is far from just ladies' fashion: the Vietnam war required a functional bag that would dry quickly, and keep weight evenly distributed to allow soldiers to move freely; the same requirements are now worked into modern backpack designs.
As the world evolved so too did bags. When falconry was big back in the day, there were pouches to store your meat in. When plane travel took off, so did the travel bag.
But bags are also a sense of identity: a neck bag with traditional designs marks out a Tuareg man identifying his roots, while a tote emblazoned with the New Yorker logo is a clear play to mark oneself out as an intellectual. (No one need know you've never actually read a copy.)
While items like practical totes, purses — and even Churchill's battered briefcase — are rife in Bags, fashionistas won't be disappointed. Among scores of beautiful, playful objects is a sequinned bag bearing the Dairy Milk logo by Anya Hindmarch; an insect-embedded design by Damien Hirst; and a cute Thom Browne 'Hector' piece. There's even a video showing used fire hoses being repurposed into desirable handbags
I came in expecting most of Bags to involve these kinds of voguish pieces, but came out with (ahem) bags more knowledge about this uniquely diverse accessory.
Bags: Inside Out at V&A is on until 12 September 2021. Tickets are £12.
Last Updated 09 December 2020