I have found it incredibly difficult to discuss Alexander Wang, or Hedi Slimane or Raf Simons without at least marginally comparing one to the others. That might be because they’re the most recent designers to engage in a game of musical fashion house chairs. Or maybe it’s because of the stringent industry timelines – the fact that when one designer produces something new, a hotbed of additional ones are doing the exact same thing. Maybe it’s both, but either way what’s on the seasoned tongue right now is a conversation about new-age handbags starring Alexander Wang, a little bit of Hedi Slimane and I’ll throw in Simons for good measure.
Slimane revealed his first bag for the house of Saint Laurent in April and Simons has been producing his version of what the Dior it-bag should look like since he took command in 2012. Alexander Wang only recently revealed his bevy of new Balenciaga bags and so the time lag is slightly off, yes. But far more interesting than a detail as inconsequential as a matter of months are the uniquely consistent characteristics evident when considering the respective work across one succinct plane.
We can start with a look at Dior. The above photographed details are from the Fall/Winter 2013 collection show (slides 1-4) and while the leading clutch holsters a Warholian, sketched shoe on its front, the additional two black, structured top handle totes and that one beige version that follows the same silhouette maintain a more nondescript salute to old house tradition. Even in the case of the one with the classic letters, “D” “i” “O” “r”, they appear in a concealed black lacquer as opposed to a more regal and perceptible gold.
Forward on, three styles from Hedi Slimane’s fall handbag collection for Saint Laurent vary incredibly when held up against their predecessors in their structure, the tiny, almost-illegible scriptures and the audible absence of a large, overlapping YSL.
Per the most recent work at Balenciaga, while the gilded bolts complimenting nearly every seam on the ubiquitous Balenciaga ‘Arena’ bag have become a symbol emblematic of the brand, a far more unassuming, structured carry-some (not to be confused with the carry-all) now eschews that sense of here-is-my-designer-handbag.
The common denominator? A nod to anonymity.
Sure, as soon as these handbags become as popular as, say, the Proenza Schouler PS 1 has, or the Celine luggage or conversely trapeze totes have, the sense of inconspicuousness tying them together will probably get lost on us but that’s not so much their fault as it is ours. What’s really important to note here is that we are knee deep in an era that is promoting the luxury of namelessness without actually compromising the name. All three of these houses, arguably best known for their clearly-marked-as expensive handbags are flipping their coins–and likely not for no reason. I am a firm believer that while yes, there is certainly a hint of manipulation vested in the consumerist industry, the consumer opinion really, really matters.
Maybe the obscurity is a cry for help that we are inadvertently inferring in one small, fashion-fostered effort to regain control over something much larger: that which we want to deem invisible (see: our personae?) vs. that which we don’t. Maybe, in fact – and I hate myself for saying this – “Anonymous” has had it right all along.
Slides #1-4, 10 via Vogue, #5,6,7 via Saint Laurent, #8,9 via, womp, Google.