The Phantom Handbag - The New York Times

The Phantom Handbag – The New York Times

The Phantom Handbag – The New York Times

The Phantom Handbag – The New York Times

She has been relying on a neat black leather tote, purchased on Etsy, years ago: “It’s subdued, and it feels like the right bag for this moment.”

The question of appropriateness is paramount. Typically, bags have been a financial crutch for fashion brands, propping up ready-to-wear sales, and, thanks to their logos, serving as a form of advertising. Whether this will remain true given the recession as well as the related shift in attitudes toward big business and wealth inequality is debatable.

“I think people are becoming quite confused about what they should buy and what they shouldn’t buy,” said Ms. Hillier. “They are thinking about where materials came from, whether they are eco.” She predicts people will be keen to “shop to support,” saving their money for brands that share their values.

Case in point: Tree Fairfax, a small independent label based in Virginia, whose handmade leather goods, designed, the website says, for “moving around lightly,” received numerous shout-outs on social media in the recent drive to promote Black-owned businesses.

However, when contacted to discuss the effect of the current moment on handbag trends, the brand’s owner, Tricia “Tree” Hash, replied that she was too exhausted by racism, and too worried about her son, who was still working as a delivery driver without P.P.E., to talk about leather goods. Which seemed exactly the point.

Later, keen to remember what had once felt so important, I took my former favorite bag for a walk around the house. We meandered from living room to bedroom and back again. After weeks of living bagless, hands-free, my swag weighing down my bicycle basket rather than my shoulders, I was transported back to a time of commutes, rushing, air travel, post-work drinks, and a laptop ensconced in leather beneath the table. Suddenly, it all felt so heavy.


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