Daniel Lee started something big this season. The creative director of Bottega Veneta evolved the house’s bestselling Jodie bag into a supersized cross-body, which was an instant hit when it appeared on the catwalk. The Maxi BV Jodie is a slouchy, voluminous, urban traveller of a bag, crafted in the label’s intrecciato nappa, with oversized woven panels – that take almost an entire day to complete by hand – and a long shoulder strap enabling the wearer to sashay along hands free.
Bags are blowing up all over the place. “It’s a move towards a softer silhouette, often in an oversized format,” says Hugo Preece, womenwear buyer for bags and accessories at Browns. He points to A.W.A.K.E Mode’s quilted supersized clutches and new brand Kassl, which has oversized padded totes “best worn folded over”. At Sies Marjan’s spring/summer show, models walked the runway with XL bags slung across their bodies; JW Anderson has launched the gold and silver leather Crinkle tote; and sustainable label BITE is offering a giant, squashy courier-style bag made from Piñatex, a hardwearing vegan leather alternative made from pineapple-leaf fibre.
There’s also been a maximising of the top handle, such as Marni’s new Tropicalia, which looks a bit like a fortune cookie in polished calfskin. The Drawstring, launching this season at Alexander McQueen, has an air of Mary Poppins about it and is carried using metal jewellery handles or worn on the shoulder with a removable strap. It’s pleasingly big enough to fit a laptop and also has a built-in zipped pocket for phone, keys and cards. Which solves the number one disadvantage of a humongous bag: never being able to find anything in it.
Apart from attracting attention and fitting in all your stuff, a bigger bag seems to complement the current understated mood that’s re-emerged over the past few seasons. “There’s a broader interest in proportion and scale in fashion at the moment,” says Rob Nowill, deputy editor of Farfetch. “We’re seeing that a lot of labels are moving away from embellishment and focusing on sophisticated, minimal pieces in unexpected shapes.”
Preece believes that fashion is in a state of flux. “The streetwear trend that recently dominated is moving onto a more sophisticated aesthetic, often incorporating elements of tailoring,” he says. ”Bags are also growing up, literally in size, but also in sophistication, with the softer edges helping towards this end.”
The current rendition of the outsized bag started popping up two years ago. For spring/summer 2018, Maison Margiela introduced its now cult Glam Slam, a cloud-like pouch in nappa leather, launching it in a size that outscaled all other bags at the time – ahead of the curve, which is often the way with creative director John Galliano.
Simon Porte Jacquemus, creative director of French label Jacquemus, has been having great fun with proportion for several seasons, providing fashion watchers with something akin to the handbag equivalent of the Honey, I Shrunk the Kids franchise. He’s done a micro-bag to nestle in the crook of a middle finger and straw totes big enough to set up camp in. For this season he did them all, including a giant cloth carry-all with an equally giant bow.
Sandra Sandor, founder and designer of contemporary label Nanushka, has this season created way-out bags inspired by Japanese furoshiki wrapping cloths in tweed, satin and alter nappa, another type of vegan leather. “I really liked the contrast between our more tailored pieces and the slouchy shape of the bags,” she says. “I also think the style complements busy lifestyles today – it can be perfect for a woman on the go, but also for holidays and beach trips. And if you happen to live in NYC it could make a very stylish laundry bag!”
There is something intrinsically humorous about an enormous bag. Just look at Instagram account @thebigbagclub, founded by Milan-based graphic designer Virginia Rolle, which uses images of fashion influencers carrying real bags that have been photoshopped to gargantuan proportions. The end result looks comical yet somehow believable. One of the most popular posts to date is one of Chloé Harrouche of @louloudesaison carrying the Khaite Circle bag – already big at more than 50cm in height. “To enlarge it again felt like a gamble, but my followers liked it so much, it went viral,” says Rolle. Then, Diane Keaton regrammed the post with the caption: “Not big enough for me. I’ll be buying two”.
In real life, Rolle thinks that while a big bag is a fun fashion statement, above all it’s eminently sensible. “The fashion world is finally understanding women’s real needs,” she says. “Or getting closer at least.”