Handbags are back in this winter, and any kind will do
Versace was true to its signature style
Momentarily and dramatically, handbags fell from grace. Magazine editors, stylists and buyers spent 2017 arriving at shows clutching little more than an iPhone and a credit card, pushing the focus to their jewellery, shoes and coats.
But this year, the handbag fought back – and it has now regained its rightful place at the top of the hierarchy of accessories. Both autumn/winter and spring/summer shows this year saw the rebirth of the ‘Look at me’ bag, where the overriding mantra is “more is definitely more”.
Bags hogging the spotlight include boxy vertical briefcases at Burberry and Bottega Veneta had woven incarnations in every colour. Now, that fashion month is over, festive collections are in store and the weather has changed, it’s time to buy that new bag. Particularly since this year marks a shift in all accessory trends – gone are the days of monochrome comfort zones and all-black normcore outfits, as 2018 is all about the new season’s colours.
Think shades of burnt rust, deep orange, earthy greens, African khaki, retro tan – or neon green, pink or yellow. In other words, anything brown or Day-Glo, in a smorgasbord of textures.
Snake and crocodile skin – real and mock – were on bags all over the recent runway shows. Just like your grandmother wore it, except this season, reptilian skins have been revisited in a rainbow array of bold neon and pastel hues. The neon-green snakeskin at Lanvin and lilac crocodile at Louis Vuitton were worthy of a trip down an acid-tinted memory lane. If you want to be ultratrendy (and confuse all men in the vicinity), carry it sideways like models did at Louis Vuitton.
Neon is not for the faint-hearted. Only the most committed fashionistas can tackle one of the head-to-toe acid trip looks advocated by Prada and Sonia Rykiel. If you’re not sure your boss is enlightened enough for that, then a bright handbag is the perfect way to test the waters. From the soft, malleable neon yellow pouches at Maison Margiela to the attention-grabbing lime green crossbodies at Lanvin, it’s all about Day-Glo.
Also revisiting the past were Gucci and Michael Kors in the form of structured, top-handle boxy bags. Reminiscent of those colourful, ladylike handbags of the 1950s, but remade in sleek navy or black velvet, these hard-shell accessories brought an unexpected dose of grown-up chic when paired with the season’s brightly coloured, girlish dresses and skirts. Boxy, vertical briefcases hog the spotlight
Another major textile trend is nylon. Prada’s nylon bags and rucksacks first appeared in the eighties but took off a decade later when Naomi Campbell and Linda Evangelista carried them during the supermodel era. Now that the nineties are back in vogue, Prada’s classic styles started flying off the shelves of vintage stores, so the brand cleverly decided to bring them back. Model Bella Hadid has a one-shoulder version in bright orange nylon, while Kendall Jenner was snapped with a similar orange clutch in Los Angeles.
While the nineties are cool, we’ve also reached the “I can’t believe I’m this old” point of being nostalgic about the noughties. If the recent love-in over Dior’s iconic saddle bag wasn’t enough to convince you that early-2000’s itty-bitty logo-centric bags are back (think Carrie Bradshaw in Sex and the City seasons one to three), then one look at the autumn/winter runways will change your mind forever. Channelling Paris Hilton in her heyday were Fendi and Gucci and their monogrammed baguette bags, and Miu Miu with its pink metallic bags.
Prada's neon clutch was seen in the arms of supermodels
But if you really want to stay on trend this season, you’ll need to get streamlined – so say goodbye to the bulky make-up bag, paper diary and half-read novel, and hello to the “less is more” approach to life. All you’re taking to parties this season is a bank card and a phone – because that’s all you’ll fit in one of the tiny handbags on offer at Céline, Louis Vuitton and Chanel. Oh, and did we mention that they can all be worn around the neck? That solves the “matching your jewellery to your handbag” question with alarming simplicity.
Clutches in general are experiencing a major resurgence. Historians have proved that women have been in love with the easy-to-carry handbag trend for at least seven centuries. Believed to be the oldest handbag in the world, a 700-year-old accessory was uncovered this year in the city of Mosul in northern Iraq, and evidence suggests it was crafted as early as 1300. The brass container is eerily similar to a clutch you might see in the shops today, but inlaid with intricate scenes of royal life.
Stella McCartney's oversized totes
Following history’s lead were nearly all the major fashion houses, who mostly debuted at least one or two clutches. Chanel went oversized and Isabel Marant opted for fringing. Giorgio Armani went mega furry, while Marni’s clutches were big enough to be mistaken for carry-on luggage.
If it’s not a clutch, then it’s a heavy metal chain strap. At Dolce & Gabbana, pretty evening bags were made with hefty chains that look like they could pull you up the side of a mountain. Meanwhile, Versace was unsurprisingly gaudy with lengthy golden ropes, covered in coin-shaped golden embellishments.
In that tasting menu of trend treats, only one thing is certain – this year there is a feeling of utter freedom when it comes to your handbag. Be it Chloe’s buckets, Stella McCartney’s oversized totes, Victoria Beckham’s toolboxes or all those minute necklace bags, you can go as big or as small, or as outrageous or ladylike as you please – and nobody will judge you.