Women still worshipping at the altar of the fashionable handbag

By Susannah Frankel
Saturday 27 December 2008 01:00

The priestess of designer fashion, Miuccia Prada, once told me that a woman's obsession with bags – and shoes – has its roots in the fact that these hardware-laden, status-driven receptacles are an easier way to make a fashion statement than, say, wearing a coat that looks like a big green teddy bear or a jewel-coloured turban. And what La Prada says ...

While pundits have been decreeing for the past year or so that the designer bag is no longer fashion's holy grail – it was replaced by shoes last season and then costume jewellery this winter, on the catwalks at least – the need to snap up ever-more-elaborate handbags appears relentless. Yes, the woman on the street is steadfastly ignoring any fashion-forward posturing and, despite the fact that she owns a good few already, is adding to her burgeoning collection at the sales as you read.

In fact, a woman's love affair with her handbag begins at the tender age of, well, about four as anyone who has witnessed the little pink metallic heart-shaped purses turning up under trees across the nation this Christmas will be quick to testify. A lady – and this too stretches back to toddler-hood – resists the urge to stuff her pockets with keys, lipstick, money, whatever, almost as soon as she exits the womb. That would only ruin the line of her trousers. A man, on the other hand, is still likely to find the idea of carrying a bag effeminate and this despite the fact that any major brand worth its credentials is spending a serious amount of advertising budget to persuade him otherwise. Even now when society is bombarded day in day out with news of the worst recession to have hit the Western world since the 1940s, women appear to be unable to resist the lure of the handbag. And it's not just during the sales that such unabashed consumerism runs rampant. Waiting lists for the season's "it" bags and indeed classics like the Hermés Birkin and the Chanel 2.55 continue to grow.

Is there anything particularly wrong with any of this? Perhaps. Consider the tragic predicament of Victoria Beckham who is unsatisfied by owning just one Hermés Birkin and instead appears to own one in every colour of the rainbow to match any given outfit. Given that these cost upwards of £2,000, for the simplest lambskin model this may well be described as an extremely costly addiction. Be warned, then, fashion friends, because that way madness lies.

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