What’s trending and what’s not; how do you find out? Through incessant bouts of revenge-scrolling late into the night? Or by obsessively checking in with the fashion crowd’s hottest publications? Guilty on all counts, your honor! But believe it or not, a rather helpful indication of what ordinary consumers want today could very well be the counterfeit market. Wait! Don’t shut the tab yet; just hear me out.
Certainly, there’s no denying that the world of replicas deals in all sorts of unnamable nefarious undertakings, and they’ve all been accounted for several times before, both here at PurseBlog, and beyond. But if there’s one golden rule counterfeiters must always go by (dictated by common sense), it’s that an unsuccessful product is never replicated. After all, where’s the profit in that?
And perhaps for this reason, you simply see fewer fakes of larger bags compared to their micro-mini counterparts. Or at least, that’s what I’m judging from the array of offensively-duplicated pieces lining up the local souks here. Truth be told, even though we’ve all been waxing lyrically for a while now heralding the return of the maxi-purse, very few big bags have actually managed to “make it” in fashion. And considering how beloved they were, it’s somewhat baffling.
The Reigning Diva of the Y2K
Perhaps at no point in history were big bags ever more popular than in the Y2K, characterized by the likes of the Balenciaga City, Chanel Coco Cabas, Louis Vuitton rainbow Keepalls, and the velour monstrosities known as Juicy Couture. Back then, it might have simply seemed like keeping up with the times (or with the Kardashians), but it is now that we truly realize the massiveness (pun intended) of the aughties carryall. Cool girls flaunted them, the Olsens desecrated them, and Rachel Zoe drowned in them.
But were they really wrong? After all, there’s something incredibly aspirational about donning a huge pair of sunglasses and complementing it with an equally gargantuan tote – not entirely unlike an off-duty celebrity on a paparazzi run. Well-documented by tabloid supremacy and a burgeoning blogosphere, relaxed chic truly encapsulated the era in the minds of those who lived through the noughties. Even the Louis Vuitton Neverfull was very much a product of the 2000s, and just look at how that’s managed to stand the test of time. The same, unfortunately, cannot be said for many of its contemporaries.
The Tiny Bag Takeover
At their core, however, big bags, or at least Y2K big bags, were more about the sheer ostentatiousness of it all than their practicality. Often rendered in exotics, sequins, or intricate embroideries (or sometimes a mishmash of all three), they were hefty, unwieldy, and comically giant. As we began to transition into the post-recession world of the 2010s, therefore, we, as the rational consumers we are, automatically opted for the most logical course of action: to veer off into the other extreme and wear our purses as necklaces. No, really, what other function is Lizzo’s miniature Valentino meant to serve if not jewelry? Or Jacquemus’ diminutive Le Chiquito, whose launch coincided suspiciously with the AirPods?
Contrary to the popular stance on mini-bags (and coming from a former big bag patron), there’s something liberating in carrying around very little, making it relevant in today’s timeline, as pretty much everything is online. And because you’re forced to consider whether that half-consumed pack of crackers really commands precious handbag real estate, mini-purses also serve as an exercise in minimalism – win-win!
But it was only a matter of time before the pendulum swung again, and come 2022, maxi-totes appeared to have returned in all glory, spearheaded by the likes of Saint Laurent, Chanel, and Loewe, ready to take on both a regular office day, and a camping trip to the mountains!
Big Bags, Big Bucks, Big Benefits?
But here’s the thing. While the fashion set whispered the comeback of the big bag, mini-purses didn’t quite disappear from the horizon, unlike the carryall of the early aughts. Instead, riding atop the wave of price-hikes, the demand for micro-minis seems stronger than ever, whereas the maxi bags we so joyfully welcomed pale.
Take the example of the Saint Laurent Icare tote, a big celebrity push from the brand among its repertoire of oversized silhouettes, including the Jamie 4.3 and the ES Duffle. Literally gargantuan, the Icare could comfortably fit a small child and undoubtedly a week’s worth of errand-running essentials too. Plus, with the return of the desk job in the post-COVID climate, there is indeed a need for spacious silhouettes that can house our work essentials.
But that is also where the Icare falls short. Sure, it can fit your laptop and probably even a yoga mat. But with its giant YSL logo (which some hilarious counterfeits have swapped for Chanel and Gucci hardware), humongous dimensions, and the delicate lambskin carré-quilting – all very reminiscent of the early-2000s – could we really call it work-appropriate?
Moreover, with price-hikes on the style shortly after launch and limited size and colorway options, its clientele exclusively appears to be the Zoë Kravitzes and Hailey Biebers of the world. Perhaps that is why the maxi-bag trend branched out into the specific subset of quiet luxuries, so buyers could have comforting minimal pieces sans the excesses of the Y2K.
So, while improbable micro-minis are no longer in the zeitgeist, in many ways, absurdly enormous totes are almost equally as impractical, both better suited for editorials than real life. This becomes even more apparent in the Instagram account @thebigbagclub, Milan-based graphic designer Virginia Rolle’s answer to luxury’s obsession with the extremes of the size spectrum. Then again, as we continually shop for fashion over function, maybe big bags are really about the experience over anything else. After all, isn’t everything?