Paper Bagging

The smartest or silliest $300 you will ever spend.

10.05.12

Jil Sander Paper Bag, $290.

While abroad last week I noticed my friend’s paper bag. We were leaving a very fancy restaurant in the 5th Avenue equivalent of Paris and so I commended her for taking the left-overs of her expensive dinner to go in a paper bag, it was behavior looked down upon in the European Union. She just laughed though.

“It’s Jil Sander,” she explained.

I laughed back. I hadn’t realized she was so funny. Were we having a moment? Ah, the kinships Paris ignites.

But no, we weren’t. It actually was Jil Sander. And that is in fact, a paper bag.

I asked her if I could hold it–she gave it to me. I looked into it, clutched it, threw all preconceived notions about label blindness out the window for but a moment while I tried to reason with the deli packaging cum luxury handbag. It’s coated paper, so it won’t rip. That’s nice. It comes equipped with stitching that doesn’t exist on real paper bags and there are ventilation holes: at last, your lipstick can breathe. But for $300?

After I got back to my hotel room, I ran to my computer to research the bag–I felt defeated. So many websites had already acknowledged and subsequently annihilated it. I was clearly far behind and though I recognized and agreed with most of the criticism, I couldn’t help defend the bag.

A few years ago, I read a quote by Karl Lagerfeld that said something along the lines of, “the future of fashion is to spend a lot of money without looking like you spent it.” It sounded ridiculous at the time, wasn’t the point to do the exact opposite?

I learned quite quickly that Karl Lagerfeld is never wrong. Shortly thereafter, the ubiquitous Balmain ripped t-shirts that retailed for a whopping $900 began to surface. Today it seems, traditional luxury really is taking a backseat. See: the later $750 t-shirts (see: Givenchy,) the $500 sneakers (see: Golden Goose), the $2000 jeans (see: Christopher Kane,) the million dollar birkenstocks (estimation, but they are Celine and mink,) and now, the $300 paper purses.

It would be easier and far more cost effective to just grab an actual paper bag from your local deli, coat it should you feel compelled and stamp whatever you want across it. Jil Sander, Chanel, even “This is my paper bag, mother fucker,” but maybe there’s some artistry to the bag that we’re missing.

It’s undeniably endearing to take something as prosaic as grocery packaging and turn it into a season-it. Whether you’d like admit it or not, your perception of paper-bagging has changed and that is because of Jil Sander. It’s the same way rottweilers are now hip mammals because of Givenchy, Star Wars are no longer enticing for sci-fi buffs only, (see: Balenciaga and Comme des Garcons,) and tennis sneakers make perfect sense now off the court and on the runway.

What’s more? Most of it sells out interminably. The Sander paper-bags seem to be sold out globally. I can’t remember the last time I saw a graphic Givenchy tee for sale longer than ten minutes and I’ll leave the Isabel Marant sneaker to your conclusion.

There is a certain humor these items bring to their brands and maybe that’s what inexplicably (subjective) expensive fashion does. While we don’t have to invest in it if we don’t want to, we can still reap the benefits of watching the labels become a bit more human, appreciating the shift from afar. Yes, sometimes that enough.

But what do you think about the wave of inexpensive looking expensive fashion? And on an unrelated, more selfish note: do you like the new banner?

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