Why those in the know are no longer in with the It Bag

The once-fashionable accessory does not carry the same weight it once did. Harriet Walker reports on new trend for the utility bag

The It Bag is dead! Long live the It Bag! In fashion circles, there's always a new piece of designer luggage to tote, but this season you'd be hard-pressed to spot it. With the overkill and overexposure of so many labels, what with celebs parading their goods everywhere from red carpets to the final of Britain's Got Talent, the style cognoscenti have turned to the last word in understated and elite accessories: the utility bag. Such a bag is likely to be quiet, casual, anonymous and – of course – staggeringly expensive.

"It's to do with the fact that fashion has gone so overground," explains Iain R Webb, professor of fashion at Central Saint Martins in London. "Cheryl Cole wears all the latest London designers on The X Factor, it's all show, show, show. This is the way that the high-end fashion industry returns to elitism."

The industry is not, of course, shunning the highly lucrative market for OTT and bling – only this week, a Gucci handbag costing £11,040, made from crocodile skin and topped with a bamboo cane handle, sold out on Net-a-Porter.com. But some of the season's other offerings – and some of the most popular among those in the know – are rather quieter in the way they proclaim their fashion credentials.

As part of the Jil Sander spring/summer 2011 collection, for example, the designer Raf Simons presented carrier bags. Simple, plastic shopping bags with two handles, made from transparent red acetate and bearing none of the signature hardware, name plates, bells or whistles normally associated with an It Bag. The Market Bag, as it was dubbed, sold out almost immediately wherever it was stocked. It cost £90.

"We had an amazing reaction to the Jil Sander Market Bags from the moment they went on sale," says Holli Rogers, buying director at Net-a-Porter. "The orange plastic version sold out within days of launch."

The trend comes at the same time as a resurgence of interest in Prada's iconic nylon rucksacks. These humble holdalls, which cost £480, became the ultimate status symbol of the Nineties. And at ultra-high-end label Reed Krakoff, you can pick up a blue leather gym bag for £1,200. "Fashions happen in cycles," Professor Webb continues. "It was the same in the early Nineties, too. With them, as soon as you see it, you know – but with these, only those in the know will know."

It has ever been the chic rule of thumb not to advertise one's personal assets, but "stealth wealth" truly caught on among the in-crowd in the years following the yuppie heyday, as a more classy alternative to the hyped-up "loadsamoney" attitude. Designers such as Christian Lacroix and Thierry Mugler, who had embodied the spirit of the flamboyant Eighties, gave way to the simple, more minimal work of Prada and Helmut Lang.

"Prada's minimalism is followed like a Zen Buddhist religion by fashion acolytes," wrote the International Herald Tribune's Suzy Menkes at the time. "The Prada philosophy fits the (fairly expensive) bill for the Nineties shopper who aspires to be a connoisseur of good things, rather than an avid consumer of status symbols."

"Prada may not make you look rich," Vogue declared in March 1995, "what could be more vulgar than that? But it sure makes you feel it." And that is the new direction for fashion in times of tightened belts and shallow pockets: the unobtrusive item recognised by a privileged few and, therefore, with a much longer fashionable lifespan.

"Fashion is once again becoming something more artistic, and less commercial," Professor Webb adds. "These products have a utilitarian moniker, but they're not necessarily what they say they are on the tin."

News
One Direction's Zayn Malik gazes at a bouquet of flowers in the 'Night Changes' music video
people
News
people
News
'Free the Nipple' film screening after party with We Are The XX, New York, America - 04 Feb 2014
news
Arts and Entertainment
Russell Tovey, Myanna Buring and Julian Rhind Tutt star in Banished
tvReview: The latest episode was a smidgen less depressing... but it’s hardly a bonza beach party
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Fashion

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Manager

    £35000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity to...

    Recruitment Genius: Trainee Manager - Production

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: Trainee Managers are required to join the UK's...

    Recruitment Genius: Telesales Manager

    £25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: You will maximise the effective...

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

    £20000 - £25000 per annum + uncapped commission : SThree: Hello! I know most ...

    Day In a Page

    The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

    The saffron censorship that governs India

    Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
    Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

    Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

    Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
    Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

    How did fandom get so dark?

    Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
    The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

    The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

    Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
    The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

    Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

    Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
    Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

    Disney's mega money-making formula

    'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
    Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

    14 best Easter decorations

    Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
    Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

    The future of GM

    The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
    Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

    Britain's mild winters could be numbered

    Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
    Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

    Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

    Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
    Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

    The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

    The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
    Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

    Cowslips vs honeysuckle

    It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
    Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

    Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

    A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss
    Tony Blair joins a strange and exclusive club of political leaders whose careers have been blighted by the Middle East

    Blair has joined a strange and exclusive club

    A new tomb has just gone up in the Middle East's graveyard of US and British political reputations, says Patrick Cockburn
    Election 2015: Meet the top 12 wacky candidates seeking your vote in May

    Election 2015

    Meet the top 12 wacky candidates seeking your vote in May