There's No Stopping IT Bag Fever!
29 May 2010

There’s No Stopping IT Bag Fever!


Here’s an article that I had written in early 2009 in defense of the IT Bag phenomenon. Enjoy!

There’s no stopping It!
By Poh Bei Yan

The decade of the It Bag is over, and in its place, the “hit shoe”, proclaims fashion journalist Suzy Menkes in a recent article. Now, it isn’t easy to get me all riled up, but when anyone makes an unfair statement about handbags – something I’m so passionate, nay, obsessive, about – it really gets to me.

You see, I’ve accumulated gazillion bags over the years. Some, in their original packaging, untouched. Bag addiction is definitely a disease I’m stricken with. The mere mention of ‘bag’ will set me off like a rocket, get my heart pumping and cause endorphins to gush through my veins. I am what you might call a happy victim of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). And if you’re nodding your head knowingly as you read this, you probably have the same ailment.

Like a druggie, I had to find ways to get my daily ‘fix’. And in December 2006, I found just the perfect way to do it: by sharing my bag-related thoughts with others through my old blog, Bagfetish Unleashed, and now, on this BagAddicts Anonymous blog. . With that, my blog alter ego, Bagaholic Babe was born (I have since changed that pseudonym to Stylicious Fashionista).

As a bag-addict-cum-bag-blogger, I consider a handbag as the ultimate fashion accessory, especially one of It Bag calibre. Some, like Menkes, may beg to differ, declaring that shoes are more important. But look, a bag is way more visible – after all, people look more at what’s on top before they look your feet. If there’s a sole accessory that a fashionista in an otherwise stylishly put-together outfit needs, it has to be…the bag!

The It Bag phenomenon isn’t exactly new. In fact, they first surfaced after the First World War. Back then, the It label was only awarded to something novel and innovative. One of the ‘Its’ of yesteryear was the 1922 “Lytup” (pronounced light up) by English designer Alfred Dunhill – an alluring silk-chiffon bag with an interior that automatically lit up when opened. The silk-and-cotton newspaper print bag (1934) by French designer Elsa Schiaperelli was another such example. Even today, the newspaper print style continues to inspire contemporary designers like John Galliano. Fast forward to 1995, and we have the “Florist’s Basket” by Lulu Guinness – so smokin’ that it’s on permanent display at London’s Victoria & Albert Museum.

More recently, ‘Its’ are usually bags that are available in limited quantities (though not always), often waitlisted, carried a hefty pricetag. Deemed as must-haves, ‘Its’ always cause a frenzy, and send people flocking to worship at the temples of Vuitton, Fendi, et al. They are undisputed, in-your-face status symbols. To be spotted with one elevates its owner to uber-bagista-slash-fashionista status. Arm candy, that’s what they are.

Some may say that these widely-coveted and lustworthy items are just fads or gimmicks. Yet, they still watch in awe when the Purse Posse parade the season’s latest: cue in Victoria Beckham, Lindsay Lohan, Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, and Nicole Richie.

In the last 5 years alone, we have witnessed the birth of more It Bags – The Paddington, The Motorcycle, The Spy, Manhattan, Nappa Gauffre and The Stam – all have become ubiquitous buzzwords. We’ve seen them in every exotic skin, material, leather, shape, and texture imaginable. Trimmed and embellished with shearling, chinchilla, fur, beads, and sequins. You name it, they’ve done it. Admittedly, some may be a wee bit shy of becoming fashion roadkill. Despite that, others still find them desirable. But then again, I guess the apple of my eye could be a poison arrow in yours.

The last year or so marked momentous occasions in the History of It Bagdom. The reissue of the Fendi Baguette is to be one of them. Turned into a collection of its own, it came in varied sizes, colours and textures. There was even a paint-and-design-your-own Baguette that came equipped with 5 marker pens! A bold move, and never-before-seen in fashion history, this DIY piece certainly gave the word “bespoke” a new meaning. Also, let us not forget Vuitton’s homage to itself, the Tribute Patchwork Bag. Sold for just under a whopping 50,000 US Dollars, it’s a collage and montage of miniature versions of its iconic bags of the season in all its multi-textured glory, which looks rather ridiculous, if you ask me (see pic below). If this isn’t Luxist, what is?

Whether we like it or not, bags will always be at the forefront of fashion and continue to be must-have status symbols. Every season, fashionistas continue await for the next It with bated breath. And one thing’s for sure – bagistas are never tired of this ritual. For such is the satisfaction when you finally get your well-manicured talons onto the season’s-object-of-your-desire.

Which fashionista could ever forget the scene in Sex and the City when Carrie was mugged in the alleyway with her DVF wrap dress and Fendi in tow, she snarled at her assailant and said, “It’s not a bag. It’s a Baguette!” This pivotal scene in SATC, which is said to have single-handedly revived the It Bag Phenomenon and made the Baguette into a buzzword, reminds me of how I once saw this lady who dashed into a local shopping mall, drenched by the heavy rain outside, with a Limited Edition denim Spy in her arm. The first thing she did was to wipe and dab her already-soaked Spy. Close to tears, she was mumbling “oh no oh no, my new Fendi”. It would have been comical if she didn’t have such a forlorn look on her face. The crowd around her were scratching their heads in disbelief. But they were philistines you see, and they would never appreciate the trauma that his bagaholic is experiencing.

Truly, It Bagism is here to stay. Now, just a few months into 2009, along comes Marc Jacobs with the Stephen Sprouse Spring/Summer collection for Vuitton, including the relaunch of Sprouse’s monogram graffiti that took the fashion nation by storm in 2001.

Let me counter Menkes’s statement with the words of author and fashion journalist Dana Thomas: “Look at a woman today, any woman and what do you see? Clothes that are more or less anonymous. Shoes that are more or less anonymous. And a handbag … More than anything else today, the handbag tells the story of a woman: her reality, her dreams.” ‘Nuff said!

Images via Polyvore, Louis Vuitton, Beyonceworld and Nordstrom

I welcome any feedback/comments on this article. Like It? Loathe It? Comment away!! =)