The V&A’s new exhibition has sold out of advance tickets until early next year. It showcases iconic luxury handbags from down the ages.
Predictions that the pandemic would kill off the luxury handbag have proved to be exaggerated. Bags: Inside Out, which opens its doors at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London on Saturday after being twice delayed by lockdown, has sold out of advance tickets until early 2021, a level of interest that suggests our fascination with “It bags” has not gone away.
Lucia Savi, the exhibition’s curator, believes the show demonstrates the luxury handbag’s strong track record of adapting to survive during challenging periods in history.
Among the exhibits is an elegant 1940s black leather bag finished with polished brass hardware and monogrammed with the owner’s initials, but expanded from the traditional triangular frame into a bulbous shape to house a gas mask. Bag-maker H Wald catered to Londoners who, mandated to carry masks with them at all times, wanted a chic alternative to the government-issued cardboard carrying cases.
“Even during lockdown when people weren’t using bags every day, the market for vintage luxury handbags was booming,” says Savi.
While store closures and economic uncertainty have hit the fashion industry hard – net profits at luxury giant LVMH fell by 84% during the first half of 2020 – demand for classic luxury handbags has proved resilient.
Global fashion search platform Lyst has reported searches for vintage bags hit an all-time high in 2020, increasing 46% year on year, with secondhand CHANEL, LOUIS VUITTON, PRADA, and HERMÈS the most in-demand names.
“A bag symbolizes the day you can go out again – and after all of this, going out is going to feel even more like an event,” Savi says.
More than 250 objects spanning 500 years track the handbag’s evolution, from the moment when slimmer silhouettes and more lightweight fabrics allowed standalone bags to replace the tie-on pockets once attached to petticoats, creating a lucrative fashion spin-off industry. A display of 18th-century silk accessories shows fabric pouches giving way to envelope-shaped “pocketbooks” as banknotes overtook coins. Vintage Hermès and Vuitton cases portray how trains and steamer traveled to lightweight bags that were easy to carry overtaken by sturdy vessels that could withstand storage.
“Every bag in this exhibition was designed to hold something – even if only a lipstick,” says Savi.
Jane Birkin’s personal prototype HERMÈS Birkin from 1984 appears alongside a mock-crocodile handbag belonging to Margaret Thatcher, Vivien Leigh’s Asprey letter-writing case, and Winston Churchill’s red despatch box.
“The ministerial red box highlights the duality of bags, which conceal your possessions but say so much about you,” says Savi. “A red box is both function and symbolism, private and public.”
A sequinned FENDI baguette bag carried onscreen by Sarah Jessica Parker’s character Carrie Bradshaw in Sex and the City takes pride of place, but the curation suggests that the status handbag is not solely a luxury invention. An olive and beige shopping bag from Daunt’s bookshop is on display alongside a canvas tote sponsored by New Yorker magazine.
“When I see the person carrying a Daunt or a New Yorker bag, I know immediately what they are trying to say, just as much as if they were carrying an Hermès bag,” says Savi.
A fabric Longchamp suitcase patchworked with the words INTERNATIONAL WOMAN by Tracey Emin, and a metalled lambskin DIOR handbag embossed with illustrations of orchids by Marc Quinn fly the flag for the handbag as an objet d’art as well as a status symbol. While the first rooms of the exhibition are themed around function, value, and identity, upstairs an atelier and a “factory” examine the design and production processes, with a film showing bags being constructed at Mulberry’s Somerset factory.
Sixty new objects were sourced or donated to the museum’s collection for the exhibition, including a Mary Poppins-style carpetbag purchased by Savi at a vintage fair.
The most sought-after chronograph can’t stay away from celebrities.
Born in 1963, it took some time for this watch to become the icon it is today, but the Rolex Daytona has proven to be an extremely popular model, particularly the new stainless steel version with ceramic bezel. Considering the impressive desirability of its modern versions, and how it has become a statement piece, no surprises to see it on the wrist of celebrities. Here are 10 notable people from various professions who all have a soft spot for the Rolex Cosmograph Daytona.
Victoria Beckham, formerly a member of the English all-girl pop group Spice Girls, is now a fashion designer, with her own eponymous label. She is married to former football superstar, David Beckham. Here she is wearing an 18k yellow gold version with champagne dial.
Shawn Carter a.k.a Jay-Z
Jay-Z (real name Shawn Carter) is an American rapper, songwriter, and record producer and is known for having a large collection of timepieces. Last year Jay Z held his annual Shawn Carter Foundation Gala and instead of sending traditional invitations, sent each of his invitees a Rolex Daytona in 18k Everose gold. Talk about out of the box! Jay Z was photographed at the event sporting his own Daytona.
Jonah Hill is an American actor, director, producer and screenwriter. He is best known for his films, Moneyball, Superbad and The Wolf of Wall Street. Hill has a reference yellow gold Daytona with green dial.
Antione Griezmann is a French football player who plays for LaLiga club F.C Barcelona as a forward. He has an 18k yellow gold Everose Daytona with a colorful twist. Griezman’s Daytona is a Reference 116595RBOW, which stands for rainbow, as the bezel of the watch has a ring of sapphires in multiple gradient colors.
English model and actress Rosie Huntington-Whiteley is best known for her time as a Victoria’s Secret model and starring in the films, Transformers: Dark of the Moon and Max Mad: Fury Road. Huntington-Whiteley is engaged to British actor Jason Statham, who we have previously featured for his love of watches. Huntington-Whiteley has two Daytonas, a rose gold model and a reference 116520 in stainless steel – here, in Daytona Beach.
NBA legend Michael Jordan is a watch collector and has a diverse range of watches from many major manufacturers and independent brands – including Urwerk or A. Lange & Söhne. As far as the Rolex Daytona goes, “His Airness” favors the Reference 116506 Platinum Daytona with its ice blue dial.
John Legend is an American singer, songwriter, and producer. He is one of only fifteen people to have won an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony Awards, which is known as the EGOT. Legend’s Daytona is a platinum model with additional diamond touches. The bezel has 36 baguette diamonds and the dial is paved with 437 round diamonds.
Elle Macpherson is a former supermodel and now businesswoman, who from memory regularly wore men’s Rolex models before they became popular amongst women. Her Daytona of choice is an 18k yellow gold model with a champagne dial contrasted by black sub-dials reference 116528. She also owns another 18k yellow gold model with a white dial.
Michael Strahan is a former NFL player who spent his whole 15-year career with the New York Giants and has moved on to a career in the media. Currently, he is a co-host of Good Morning America. Strahan has shown he likes watches and has managed to get his hands on a coveted reference 116500 Daytona with white dial and ceramic bezel.
Sofia Vergara is a Colombian American actress best known for her role in the television series, Modern Family and such films as Machete Kills and New Year’s Eve. Vergara’s Daytona is an 18k yellow gold model featuring a less common brown dial with mother of pearl sub-dials.
Is HERMÈS’ blockbuster reopening in China a barometer of the revenge buying to come in post-pandemic luxury shopping?
The French heritage brand’s Guangzhou flagship store reportedly achieved $2.7 million in sales when it reopened this weekend. This figure is believed to be the highest daily haul for a single boutique in China and offers hope to luxury brands and retailers of what economic recovery may look like in the coming months.
Atomniu, posted extensively about her spending spree claiming to have spent $142,124 in HERMÈS that day., reinforcing its likelihood. Guangzhou is the capital of Guangdong province, which is China’s most affluent region. This position makes it an interesting testing ground for how consumer behavior for high-end customers will change when stay-at-home orders lift.
“This reopening affirms the house’s commitment to Southern China and marks a new chapter for the Parisian house in Guangzhou, where it has been present since 2004,” HERMÈS said in a statement.
This particular HERMÈS location––previously occupied by Prada––measures a grand 5,500 square feet with a minimalist facade designed to evoke the local tradition of brick making and enamel craftsmanship.
Atomniu, posted extensively about her spending spree claiming to have spent $142,124 in HERMÈS that day.
One shopper identified as Atomniu, posted extensively about her spending spree claiming to have spent $142,124 in HERMÈS that day. Her purchases included a black crocodile Birkin 30 handbag in addition to clothes and shoes. Whether this could be perceived as part of ‘revenge buying’ remains unclear.
First coined in the 1980s, revenge buying was used to describe all of the pent up demand for foreign products that had been denied [to China’s] citizens when the nation was closed off to the outside world, according to Business of Fashion. However, the term has more recently been used across Chinese social media as a way to describe how ordinary citizens were dreaming of treating themselves once quarantine was lifted, as well as by those expressing disdain at unnecessary spending as the economy struggled. Reopening day could be a one-off or, as some brands and retailers may hope, just the beginning of restoring depleted coffers.
While much attention is paid to the exterior – its design, status, and, inevitably, its price tag, less scrutiny is paid to the rich and complex internal life and the tension between the two.
I am running along the river, earbuds in, lungs burning, heart racing. No birdsong, thank you very much. Only curated noise and introspection. Then I see her. A woman is walking towards me, her dog a little way ahead. We smile briefly, and as we cross one another, she pauses for a moment. I do, too, my eyes caught. The way it dangles from her shoulder, the double gold chain glinting in the sunlight. It is exactly like the one I have at home and yet, so not. Reflexively she flicks her bag back, and it grazes her hip. I slow to a walk to get a better look. This version is newer and smaller. So much more modest than mine. It is shinier, too, infinitely covetable. Undeniably superior in every way. It speaks of lightness, of newfound freedom, of being out in the morning sunshine with few possessions (I calculate there’s no room in there for more than an iPhone and keys) except, of course, the possession itself. In comparison, my older and bigger version is grounded at home, bloated, out of time, a lumbering dinosaur. An old bag.
A tote here. A micro bag there. A crossbody bag everywhere. Handbag envy.
How could I have got it so wrong? I speed up again, start to run in sync with my shuffle, but the moment has gone. The dark pull of material desire has intruded again. I try to switch off, but it is difficult not to notice. A tote here. A micro bag there. A crossbody bag everywhere. Handbag envy. Often it is admiration, and sometimes, if I’m honest, there is a pity. Michael Kors, Tory Burch. Really? But how swiftly admiration turns to envy when there is flawless gold hardware involved. Can I be this shallow? Do I even need to ask? Lusting after something like this makes you a fool, an unfeminist fool.
But it took until my 50th birthday to follow through and invest in the Only One. It is blingtastic. Italian.
Last week in a toy shop with my eight-year-old daughter, I saw a “My First Handbag for two-year-olds and up.” The packaging proclaimed, “Little ones will love taking this pretty pink handbag on a shopping trip and pretending to be just like Mum! Take a peek in the mirror and chat on the phone. Playing pretend will boost your child’s imagination and encourage them to talk and learn new words.” Like: “Mummy, buy me a GUCCI!” But obsession is never this simple. I suspect my interest in handbags was more a small act of rebellion than social conditioning, a reaction against my mother’s infinitely sensible handbag choices: natural leather, functional, unembellished. Her modest choice of accessory was far more successful in fuelling my false need than any marketing campaign.
But it took until my 50th birthday to follow through and invest in the Only One. It is blingtastic. Italian. Intimate blush suede concealed beneath tooled black leather and, oh, the inimitable clunk of an expensive gold clasp as it snaps open and shut. Je ne regrette rien.
You see, to truly appreciate a handbag, you have to look beyond its surface.
I may look and yearn but, when I commit, it’s for life. It has to be for the price I paid. My husband is still appalled; it will always be a purchase that baffles him. He likes to remind me that my bag cost more than his beloved bike (surely the GUCCI of bikes, with a custom-steel Italian Dedacciai frame, he tells me) that gets him to work each day – as if this is a clear win in the battle for most functional possession.
I explain, slowly and patiently, that mine is not just a thing of beauty, but a practical form of transportation, too, for my possessions; my way of navigating the world and getting what matters most to me from A to B.
You see, to truly appreciate a handbag, you have to look beyond its surface, challenging though this can be, to what’s inside and how that shapes and defines you.
“It’s only when you leave the home that you decide what is important to you – those things you choose to carry with you define you,”
It is reassuring to see that the argument I hone for my husband is now the focus of a V&A exhibition next month. “Bags: Inside Out”, from Margaret Thatcher’s ASPREY to Carrie Bradshaw’s FENDI, will look at what we have chosen to carry with us down the centuries. “We normally see bags when they’re closed, but I want to see the insides,” says exhibition curator Dr. Lucia Savi. While much attention is paid to the exterior – its design, status and, inevitably, its price tag, less scrutiny is paid to this rich and complex internal life and the tension between the two. “It’s only when you leave the home that you decide what is important to you – those things you choose to carry with you define you,” she says.
When a woman stepped out in the 1740s, her private belongings would have included a watch, a snuff-box, money, jewelry, and perhaps some food,
When a woman stepped out in the 1740s, her private belongings would have included a watch, a snuff-box, money, jewelry, and perhaps some food, according to Savi. These are what she chose to take from her domestic sphere into the world thanks to detachable pockets that were tied around the waist, accessible through openings in the seams of petticoats.
By 1863, she may have included scissors, a purse, a thimble, a miniature notebook and a magnifying glass. These she would have worn in the form of a chatelaine: a series of small purses that were suspended from the waist and highly visible. “It was symbolic of status,” says Savi. “Along with that there were reports of pickpockets who would cut the ribbons and steal them. It’s the first signs we see of the attention paid to women carrying belongings.”
What many women carry in their bags some three centuries later is remarkably unchanged. One friend lists the contents of her bag at this moment as: “A book, cosmetics, phone, keys, reading glasses, spare contact lenses and eye drops, ’emergency’ vegan kit (banana, vitamin supplements and, sometimes, a small vial of soya milk), paracetamol, umbrella, purse, stamps, bank and membership cards, miniature sewing kit and/or lingerie tape, spare tights/socks, perfume.”
Hard currency has shaped bags more than any other single possession, epitomised in 2018 by the appearance of the micro bag.
“The content is so crucial,” says Savi. “As bank notes came in, handbags had to be compatible, at least bigger than a £5 note.” Now we carry cards, it is the phone that dictates design. “No one will create a bag that doesn’t fit the largest phone on the market.” Hard currency has shaped bags more than any other single possession, epitomised in 2018 by the appearance of the micro bag. There was no more potent symbol of a cashless society than the shrinking bag, although Savi is unconvinced by this connection. “It’s nothing new. The frog purse, dating back to the 1600s and intricately made in silk and glass beads, is the same size as your hand. It’s really the micro bag of today.”
“It’s a blank canvas that can tell us all sorts of things: your status, your beliefs.”
More surprising, she says, is how the most ordinary of bags can communicate something about us. “It’s a blank canvas that can tell us all sorts of things: your status, your beliefs.” One of her favorite pieces on show is an “anti-slavery reticule” produced in 1825 by the Female Society for Birmingham. It is white silk with an image of a black woman breastfeeding while still a slave – displayed on a bag it was a powerful and very public way for a woman to convey her political beliefs at that time. “That tells you so much; how women were proclaiming their beliefs, and it carries on with examples like ANJA HINDMARCH’s, I Am Not A Plastic Bag.”
Savi is keen that the exhibition embraces bags in all their glory, not just the female handbag, which is why Churchill’s despatch box is on show, as well as other bags used by men. Baggage began with men, says Savi, and was mainly for the train. “Louis Vuitton started with luxury travel, transferring their leather-making skills from horses to trains and then aeroplanes. Hermès started with saddlery and they still use those techniques in their stitching.”
It is difficult to imagine it will be quite as iconic, as rich in metaphor, as its female equivalent.
Now we’re going full circle. According to Mintel, a quarter of men aged 16-24 buy manbags. But even if the manbag achieves parity, it is difficult to imagine it will be quite as iconic, as rich in metaphor, as its female equivalent. Will the tension between public and private space, that Savi explores, ever apply to men in quite the same way?
As Dr. Alison Bancroft, fashion theorist and author of “Fashion and Psychoanalysis,” says: “The very fact that we have to prefix it with ‘man’ means it’s not the same. It is something different.” She tells me how a male friend of hers recently asked for paracetamol and when she told him it was in her handbag, he wouldn’t look inside. “Instead, he brought the whole bag to me. The handbag is about a degree of intimacy, and not everyone feels comfortable with it.”
A handbag can establish boundaries and respect, but the flip side is less savory.
A handbag can establish boundaries and respect, but the flip side is less savory. Bancroft recalls seeing the aftermath of a mugging in her local park and the remnants of an emptied handbag on the path. “That’s when you see it as a real violation, an act of violence against a person.”
I think back to the brief, primal panic when my brain calibrates an absence, a lack of weight in what I’m carrying – I have left my handbag somewhere. In those moments I feel unmoored as if I have lost part of myself.
“How many times have you heard a woman say, ‘It is part of me. My life is in there?”
As Bancroft says: “How many times have you heard a woman say, ‘It is part of me. My life is in there?'” Maybe that is too much power to invest in a single object. Wouldn’t we feel freer relying on pockets, or just carrying less? But then Savi tells me about another highlight in the exhibition – a beautiful, battered Louis Vuitton trunk from the 1900s that belonged to Emilie Busbey Grigsby, an American socialite. Her trunk was a symbol of freedom, covered in travel labels of the places she, and it had spent a lifetime visiting.
A bag can be whatever you want it to be. It can offer the promise of a sleek, well-ordered better version of yourself, a superior mini-you or, like Emilie, a wonderful souvenir of your travels. As my friend, who never knowingly under packs, says: “A bag isn’t a burden but rather a ticket to ride.”
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As it turned out, those Birkins, Loubs, and Tiffany baubles she was so eager to show off on national television aren’t even real.
Texas beauty queen ‘The Real Housewife of Houston‘ Theresa Roemer, who showed off her closet full of luxury bags and high-end jewelry on Good Morning America, was robbed shortly after that. As it turned out, those Birkins, Loubs, and Tiffany baubles she was so eager to show off on national television aren’t even real. The thieves exposed the super fake designer bags and luxury items after the refusal of ransom.
Theresa Roemer’s closet in her 18.000-foot mansion was three thousand square feet and three stories high.
This bizarre tale happened already in 2014 but is amusing telling again. Theresa Roemer’s closet in her 18.000-foot mansion was three thousand square feet and three stories high, with the floors connected by a white spiral staircase. On the first floor, the walls were lined with bright white shelves to hold Theresa’s CHANEL sunglasses, her 150 handbags, including 60 HERMÈS Birkins, and her extensive collection of jewelry. On the second floor were more white shelves to hold her 300 pairs of shoes, including 75 pairs of Louboutins other shelves to hold her belts, made by HERMÈS, CHANEL, and GUCCI, and a rack draped with LOUIS VUITTON and CHANEL scarves. Hanging from one wall are dozens upon dozens of dresses and gowns. On the third floor is her collection of furs: lynx, mink, chinchilla, beaver, white fox, raccoon, and rabbit.
An impressed Harper’s Bazaar pronounced Theresa’s closet “the biggest” in all of America.
The media called the place: “Woodlands woman’s three-story closet is her half-million dollars ‘she cave,'” On its website, an impressed Harper’s Bazaar pronounced Theresa’s closet “the biggest” in all of America, and the Huffington Post described it as a “wonderland of shoes, clothes, and accessories.” Fashion and celebrity bloggers devoted seemingly endless Internet copy to Theresa’s creation. “Everything really is bigger in Texas!” gushed Hollywood’s Perez Hilton on his gossip site.
Rapper Gucci Mane filmed a music video for his song ‘Nonchalant.’
Her closet had gone viral, when a burglar broke into the Roemers’ home.
Suddenly Theresa had become the most-talked-about social climber in Texas, maybe the entire country. The chatter intensified in early August 2014, just one month after Theresa and her closet had gone viral, when a burglar broke into the Roemers’ home while they were at a country club, less than a mile away, having dinner. It just so happened that the Roemers had neglected to turn on their alarm system or lock the doors to Theresa’s closet that night.
Grainy home surveillance video shows the burglar in a light-colored hooded jumpsuit and baseball cap casually picking through the jewelry and stuffing various pieces into one of Theresa’s Birkins. In the surveillance video of the burglary, an intruder, wearing a jumpsuit and a hoodie, broke in through a bathroom window. The video shows he made four trips over 40 minutes, filling designer luggage with loot.
Two weeks later, the burglar declared that some of the stolen jewelry was fake.
Two weeks later, the burglar, using a burner phone and a voice modulator, called a reporter for the Houston Press, an alternative weekly newspaper, and declared that some of the stolen jewelry was fake.
Theresa claimed that close to $1 million worth of jewelry, watches, and handbags were stolen. But two weeks later, the burglar, using a burner phone and a voice modulator, called a reporter for the Houston Press, an alternative weekly newspaper, and declared that some of the stolen jewelry was fake. To prove his assertion, the burglar mailed the press a few pieces, which did indeed belong to Theresa.
“I contacted Theresa Roemer and explained to her that her items were fake,” the burglar told the paper. “I requested over half a million dollars to return her items and not expose her to the news. The deal never went through. I’m following through with my threat.”
The burglar felt like he was wronged when he went to go fence this stuff, he was allegedly told this was fake.
“It was odd,” a reporter said, of his conversations with the purported burglar. “It sounded like the burglar felt like he was wronged when he went to go fence this stuff, he was allegedly told this was fake. It felt like he was the victim here.”
According to the Houston Press, the burglar had requested more than $500,000 from Roemer to return the stolen items and not tell reporters that they were allegedly fake. Roemer says later, “he claims that whatever it is that’s in there is fake. Well, you know, if you walk into any one woman’s closet, there’s gonna be valuable things, and there’s gonna be costume things, and there’s gonna be vintage things”.
She says not everything in her closet was high-priced. You mix and match.
She says she never pretended that everything in her closet was high-priced, although she has proof of sale from Neiman Marcus and other retailers for most items. “It’s like any person’s closet. You mix and match.