The history of the shopper and the war on plastic bags Read more

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Fashion historian Milana Abieva spoke about the history of the emergence and development of such a type of bag as a shopper especially for the online magazine «Shipyards».

Today it is difficult to imagine the wardrobe of a modern woman without a shopping bag. Business women, freelancers, mothers on maternity leave, students — perhaps there is no such lifestyle and style with which the shopper would not be compatible. A large, functional and stylish bag fell in love not only with women, but also with men.

Yes Yes exactly! Today, along with backpacks, briefcases and fanny packs, a shopper increasingly becoming a stylish addition to everyday men’s looks. And it is not surprising, because if you look at the history of the shopper handbag, it is obvious that since its inception, its main task has been convenience and spaciousness.

From just a glance at the picturesque canvases of previous centuries, it becomes absolutely obvious that handbags for many centuries did not have their inherent significance today. Moreover, wealthy women were not supposed to wear this accessory at all.

However, with the acceleration of the pace of life and as women’s emancipation gained momentum, women increasingly needed a handbag. And if in the twenties and thirties it was a compact clutch that contained car keys and lipstick, then already in the forties, ladies increasingly needed a handbag that could hold much more.

Initially, the shopper bag had a purely economic purpose and was designed to replace non-environmentally friendly and impractical plastic bags.

The history of the shopper and the war on plastic bags
Handbags designed by Bonnie Cashin, including shopper bags, 1969

Going shopping, the ladies took with them a laconic rectangular or trapezoid bag, which could easily fit all the purchases. There were only two requirements for such a handbag — spaciousness and durability. The first shoppers were made exclusively from strong and durable fabric — mostly from dense canvas. And, of course, there could be no question of using them otherwise than for their intended purpose.

The history of the shopper and the war on plastic bags

However, already in the sixties, handbags began to increase significantly in size. The lifestyle of women began to change rapidly, which could not but affect one of the most important accessories of the era. Shopping bags began to gain enormous popularity.

It was in this decade that American designer Bonnie Cashin first introduced the public to a beautiful and elegant shopper bag that won the love of buyers overnight. Later, Bonnie, who collaborated with the famous American brand Coach, created iconic shopper models, analogues of which are presented in the brand’s collections to this day. The bags designed by Cashin were already much more like the shoppers we wear today.

They were made of more expensive materials and fit perfectly into the everyday wardrobe of any stylish lady who knew a lot about fashion and comfort. However, shoppers penetrated the world of high fashion and luxury only in the eighties. This happened thanks to actress Jane Birkin, especially for whom the Hermès fashion house created an elegant and expensive analogue of a shopper bag. The new handbag model not only attracted a young and dynamic clientele on the Hermès fashion day, but also became one of the most sought-after handbags in fashion history.

The history of the shopper and the war on plastic bags

Today, shopper bags are found in the collections of almost all brands — from the mass market to luxury. Such handbags can be both ultra-sporty — made of synthetic materials, and extremely elegant — their finest leather or suede in noble shades. A shopper bag today can be used for a variety of purposes. Depending on the material and design, it will perfectly complement both an office bow and is suitable for going to the gym, long flights or walking with children.


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