I’m not exaggerating when I say that I received the most compliments I’ve ever had for a single fashion item when I took my new giant bag out for a spin on three separate occasions last week. And, to my surprise, I fell a little bit in love with it – the ginormo-bag and the attention.
Blame Ikea, blame Victoria Beckham, but huge bags are most definitely "a thing". To do The Devil Wears Prada cerulean-blue-type-spiel, it started back in April last year, when fashion’s (current) favourite provocateur, Demna Gvasalia (of Vetements fame), revealed Balenciaga’s "Arena" extra large shopper, which looked spookily like Ikea’s famous crinkly blue "Frakta". The main difference being that the Balenciaga version came in at £1,300, versus Ikea’s 40p. Then the spring/summer 2018 shows – from Céline and Calvin Klein to Chanel and Marc Jacobs – had a ton of giant bags taking up room on the catwalks, making the models look even teenier than they already were.
The trend continued for the autumn/winter 2018 shows, perhaps most memorably at Victoria Beckham, who posed for her Instagram pre-show curled up elegantly in her lavender-hued "duvet shopper", which was reminiscent of the time photographer Juergen Teller shot her, legs akimbo out of a Marc Jacobs carrier bag, for his campaign 10 years previously. And now, for her label’s 10-year anniversary, she can be found posing, ironically again, in a giant carrier bag, this time bearing her own branding, also shot by Teller, and much to the chagrin of Piers Morgan (but what isn’t?). Oh, and Virgil Abloh, of Off White and Louis Vuitton fame, has just done a collaboration with Ikea and has focused his attention on – you guessed it – the Frakta bag, calling it "Sculpture".
So, yeah, big bags.
Back in the real world, I’m on the Tube with my aforementioned giant bag (brilliantly called the "blanket tote") and the first thing that strikes me is that it feels like I have a medium-sized dog on my lap, which is oddly comforting. First plus point to a big bag: it acts as shield to the outside world. Handy for rush hour and/or hangover situations. To be fair, the blanket tote is particular snugly, being reminiscent of a travel rug from my childhood, but less itchy.
The second plus: you can fit so much in it! (No shit.) Of course, this is a good and a bad thing. The temptation is to go full Mary Poppins, which I kind of did (minus the standard lamp) and then definitely felt the shoulder burn by the time I got home, tipsy, later that night. It’s also difficult to locate things, like keys (especially if you come home tipsy) because you’ve got this cavernous vessel with half the contents of your desk, wardrobe and bathroom cabinet floating around in it. I learned from this mistake for the second outing of the bag by inserting two smaller bags inside it like a filing cabinet. This reasonably roomy "pebbled shopper" from Mango comes with a mini bag inside it, which I’d say is a definite plus. Not to mention a bargain at £35.99.
On my first day out with the bag, I had various work meetings, an interview and then a swish dinner in the evening with a friend, and the bag was cool for all of those events. It was a conversation starter, perhaps because it’s not exactly quiet in its design but definitely because of its size. It’s a statement. Personally, I liked the look of having this slightly odd-looking, out-of-proportion prop as part of my outfit. It’s perhaps not to everyone’s taste, though. It could make you feel a wee bit self-conscious, especially when the 11th person bumps into you because of your extra appendage.
Going back to the practical benefits, if you’re doing several different things in one day and not in a position to be going home and getting changed like they did in the olden days, it’s handy to be able to have room to stash your day-to-night transformation essentials. Handy for baby stuff. I’m also thinking, it could be handy for the occasions that you have a date and are unsure as to whether it may turn into an all-night date. No one can accuse you of being presumptuous with your extra bag – you just happen to be carrying a really large bag. For fashion’s sake.
It was a conversation starter, perhaps because it’s not exactly quiet in its design but definitely because of its size. It’s a statement
Aesthetically, I like the more casual end of the spectrum when it comes to the giant bag. So I’m into this Cos "collapsed" tote in mustard yellow. As the name suggests, the bag kind of yields to you, depending on how you carry it and how much you stuff in it. I’d say, as well as keeping the osteopath at bay, not overfilling a giant bag definitely looks better, too. If you want to go really casual (and reasonably cheap), super-hip New York brand Opening Ceremony now ships to the UK and has a selection of giant totes to choose from that occupy a sort of midway between proper bag and carrier bag. I like this gingham one.
If minimalism is more your thing, this Acne "Baker" canvas tote is inspired by paper grocery bags and looks very sleek with an autumnal trench. The handle straps mean you don’t need to suffer shoulder aches, either. Zara has this chic slouchy leather number, which doesn’t scream big bag, but is large all the same. In fact, it has a shopping category dedicated to "large bags". The suede tote with pocket is also good.
Selfridges has also dedicated a section to oversized bags, covering a range of price points. The pink "reptile effect" tote by Kurt Geiger looks great with denim. Keeping on trend, this time with a zebra print, is this beauty from Scandinavian favourite Ganni. Having a boring-outfit day? Just pick this up. Job done.