Buzz Worthy

Is Your Bag Exhausted? Consider the Purse Stool

Because no one wants their purses on the floor.

What are you even doing if you’re not spending your weekday mornings lounging and brunching at fine-dining establishments with your flock of finely-dressed friends? At least, that’s what Carrie Bradshaw and her crew would have us believe, so it’s not really difficult to see why the show has (historically) faced critique for setting unrealistic expectations. But the thoughts on the latest season of And Just Like That, the Sex and the City reboot (sans Samantha? That remains to be seen) has been especially divisive, pondering upon some big questions about, well, Mr. Big himself. At the same time, his well-off widow continues to drop big bucks on everything from $26 omelets to Manolo Blahnik heels and even entire apartments (seriously, what did Big do for a living?)

Nevertheless, like its precursor, the show is ultimately all about escapism. So, of course, nobody in it has to worry about rent, even if their employments are dubious. And we, as its steadfast stalwarts (hate-watchers included – we’re not judging), shall continue to tune in every week, simply to satiate our inner material girls, if nothing else.

As materialistic as it is, though, this season has proven to be particularly patronizing to us handbag-stans, treating us not only to a set of covetable carryalls but sometimes developing entire character arcs around them (who could forget LTW’s yellow Valentino number, which has her son’s overly-clingy girlfriend – and ourselves – equally obsessed)! In many ways, therefore, And Just Like That is now closer than ever to the show’s original run. And as much as it loves to place the purses on a pedestal, in the season’s first episode, Carrie’s Chanel clutch is given a literal pedestal treatment – in the form of a purse stool.

The Proliferation of Luxuries

“Oh, thank you, my bag was exhausted,” quips Carrie, placing her little clutch on a too-big stool she didn’t need. The point, however, was made. In fact, although the product placement on AJLT sometimes feels a little on-the-nose – like Charlotte’s entirely inappropriate pink tweed bomb-cyclone Chanel or Seema’s oversized Lemaire Croissant (that makes you wonder if this real estate agent lacks her own real estate) – its overdose of opulence simply goes to signify the increased spending overall in the luxury market. So much so that restaurants have supplied miniature seats exclusively for our handbags!

Large Fendi Peekaboo.jpg

The facts put this into the picture: despite recessionary pressures, LVMH clocked an 18% revenue growth of the luxury fashion segment in the first quarter of 2023 compared to the same period last year, while the rising cost of housing has propelled many young adults to move in with their parents, allowing the discretionary income previously reserved for rent to be splurged on designer goods. And as more of us can buy into the premier labels of our generation, more customers are now fretting over their grievances about having to set down their purses on the floor (perhaps the single most common handbag ick there is!)

Restaurants Moving Upscale

Enter the purse stool. Previously a fixture of fine-dining restaurants, the useful contraption is now rapidly making its way to more casual, mid-tier, and niche eateries to imitate the trappings of their high-end counterparts. This has the dual advantage of making restaurant-goers toting expensive purses appear to be more valued by the staff (wouldn’t you just feel so seen if a thoughtful waiter supplied you with a little seat for your bag?) while also drawing a higher-paying clientele overall, who are now likely to perceive the establishment as more upscale than they otherwise might have.

Consequently, restaurants throughout Europe and the Americas have begun accommodating various options for the safekeeping of their customers’ carryalls. Jean-Georges at the Connaught in London, for instance, currently has five stools in store to be allocated between guests, while the Riviera Restaurant at Roquebrune-Cap-Martin, France, stocks 20, all made to match the tan interior décor of the seaside eatery. Michelin-starred Japanese fine-diner Shingo, on the other hand, goes the traditional route, utilizing hand-woven baskets that may be placed underneath the customers’ seats. Similarly, the Middle Eastern mini-chain, Aba, situated in Bal Harbour, takes a more rustic approach with tiny wooden purse stools.

Hermes Pippa Stool
The Hermès Pippa Stool

Aside from the more conventional bag seats (since they can sometimes run the risk of seating the customers themselves, à la Emily from Emily in Paris), restaurants have also been known to house mini coat racks, baby seats, bag-hooks, and other gimmicky apparatuses, like the Bag-Up Stool by Danish designer Lind DNA, for their client’s convenience. But perhaps nobody does extra quite like Hermès, whose caramel-hued Pippa stools, which line the Le Dalíin Le Meurice in Paris, can run anywhere between $9,150 to $12,500 apiece – often surpassing the purses themselves in price tag!

Fad, Fiction, or Finery?

Given our longstanding horror with setting our bags on the floor, restaurants are now trying at whatever capacity possible to accommodate our demands. The South China Morning Post reports that “not all purse rests are born equal.” And, of course, this accompanies the underlying motive to attract more clientele, which, in the grand scheme of things, isn’t such a sinister one. Plus, several cultural superstitions from Russia, South America, and India correlate putting your bag and/or wallet on the floor with financial misfortune. So it further justifies why eateries worldwide are increasingly keen to jump onto the bandwagon. It even makes sense from a security standpoint – making them less vulnerable to theft or spillages than if they were to be placed on, or hung from, the back of the chair, for instance.

Bal Harbour Bags August 2022 2 of 2
Mini coat-racks may take up less space, but are they secure?

Nevertheless, amid rising commodity prices, can restaurants really afford to give up precious dining real estate in the form of handbag stools? Research suggests otherwise, as many of these high-end establishments have now resorted to increasing prices to consumers over reduced operating hours. Plus, an investment in purse stools, much like an “investment” in luxury purses, is a gamble: who’s to say boxy satchels and top handles, which primarily necessitate companion seats, would stay on trend forever, especially as big bags seem to lack staying power in general?

Eventually, when it comes to eating out, one can’t help but wonder, does glamour trump gastronomy?

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CShell
CShell
10 months ago

I just return from Japan for the first time. Everywhere I went there was a stool or basket for my handbag or backpack or whatever I was carrying brought to me when I sat down. Not just nice restaurants but everywhere. Even Starbucks. It was quite nice.

Hikaru
Hikaru
10 months ago
Reply to  CShell

Service is indeed very important in my country. In addition, we have so much competition so need to offer different service for customers and everyone know that Japanese people do care for their own precious bags. Hope you have had a fabulous time in Japan 🇯🇵

CShell
CShell
10 months ago
Reply to  Hikaru

The people of Japan were wonderful! They exceeded all expectations. It was my favorite trip I have ever been on. Strangers would approach us if we looked lost and helped us out. Just wonderful wonderful people. 🙂

Maggie
Maggie
10 months ago

I see everything right about having a safe place for bags in restaurants. I bring a bag hook with me when I’m eating out, á la the late Queen Elizabeth II. It is very discreet. It’s a lot better than placing your bag on a dirty floor, or hanging it on your chair and where people can run into it or spill something on it, or keeping it in your lap with your napkin.

Heather Hargreaves
Heather Hargreaves
10 months ago
Reply to  Maggie

Yes over 10 years ago my Lv,was given a chair a serviette to cover it.That was in Hong Kong👏🏻

Kaththee1
Kaththee1
9 months ago

At Van Micheal an upscale hair salon in Atlanta, they provide each client with a nice thick plastic bag for handbag protection. All salons might do the same but I have been going to Van Micheal for so long I wouldn’t know. They also provide a perch under each station where one can keep her bag close and under watch so the bag still isn’t on the floor. Before Covid they would recycle them but now I make a point of saving mine for future trips as well as emergency bag protection.