2007 was another great year in fashion - it certainly had it's share of Landmarks, Spectacle and Tragedy.
Landmarks: 2007 marked big birthdays for venerable fashion houses and businesses alike; 100 years for Neiman Marcus and Henri Bendel, 60 years for Christian Dior, 45 years for Valentino, 40 years for Ralph Lauren.
Spectacle: Karl Lagerfeld for Fendi staged a first-ever fashion show along the Great Wall of China with the iconic double F images projected onto neighboring mountains, Pierre Cardin showed on sand dunes in the middle of the Gobi desert, and Marc Jacobs sent a 9pm runway show out at 11pm which sent everyone - editors and buyers alike into a dither.
Tragedy: Isabella Blow and Liz Claiborne passed away, and women of all ages embraced the girly ballerina as the shoe to be worn with absolutely everything for absolutely every occasion. Husband and wife David and Victoria Beckham were featured in a raunchy spread in W magazine (that one hopes their children don't see until they're old enough to handle the shock of mom and dad in compromising positions) to link with the smash launch of her new jean line here in the US.
The event which hasn't yet been widely covered (if at all) is the death of the designer handbag. I may be ahead of my time, but I am convinced that, though we won't see it played out until mid-2008, the year 2007 killed the handbag.
In his wonderful first book, Malcolm Gladwell coined the phrase "the tipping point" both as the title of his book, and as a descriptor for what happens when a product or idea goes viral. He did not describe the decline or fall of an idea and did not name it, so I'll give it a go here. If when something is ON it has 'tipped', maybe when it is OFF it has 'topped'...if so, the handbag, which went fully viral in mid-2007, the designer handbag, in all its manic oversized hardwareized, logoized splendor has 'topped' at the end of the year.
Handbags have been around since the dawn of time, or so it seems, but in recent years they have taken on mythic proportions in the minds and hearts of women and fashion houses alike. They served as an important driver of growth and profitability for fashion houses, and they were lauded as the best way to update your wardrobe, (actually I still believe good clothes and shoes are the best way to update your wardrobe) and so it went...every season, a new bag, new color, new hardware, new shapes...downright dizzying.
I work in Manhattan in a part of the downtown called the 'meatpacking district.' It sits in the lower west side of the city and is one of the coolest spots in town. I call it 'the land of the early adopters' for all the trend-setting people I see in the streets of this neighborhood. Lately I am seeing fewer and fewer designer handbags, and it's gotten to the point that when I do see a woman with a brick house of a bag on her arm it just jumps out at me as WRONG ... OVER .... I am still carrying my own brick house bag which only a few months ago was totally the rage, but every time I pick it up now I cringe. It's done. And it's not done in the way that, well, this bag is done, now I need a new one, bigger and better...no - it's just flat out done.
But it's not that simple really, what is a woman to do when she doesn't want to carry a bag anymore? Bags are not just frivolity, they're a necessity. We can't possibly stuff all of our belongings into our pant pockets as men do...there's just too much required of a woman during the course of her day...(not sure why...it certainly would be liberating to leave the house with a few bills and a credit card, a cell phone and the house key like my husband does) so what is the answer?
Since not carrying bag at all is NOT the answer, I think that what I want to carry now is something small, pared down and frankly totally nondescript. No logos - absolutely none, no hardware, nothing to identify it as belonging to any particular brand. I want a clutch big enough to hold my 5x8 moleskin notepad which goes everywhere with me, my wallet (which I will now downsize) and a small cosmetics bag (which is also getting downsized). I am imagining a large envelope with a top flap and leather ties to tie it up down the center. Simple. This can be in PVC in black or dark brown or in a soft deerskin.
On days when this is just too small because I'm going to the gym, or need a change of shoes, I think I want a type of manbag. Something like the tote that L.L. Bean made famous only in leather with handles only high enough to fit into the hand, not long straps to be slung over the shoulder. Again, no logos, extraneous hardware, etc. I can't look at another pumped up, tricked out bag in the face, and I certainly am not willing to pay tricked out prices for it either.
The moment is feeling pared down, conservative. Maybe it's because we're in an election year, our men and women are still overseas fighting a war, and we've got our own economic war we're now fighting in this country. It's also more than all of this - I don't think this is just about a moment in fashion. I think women are becoming less and less comfortable feeling dictated to - our confidence is rising. We don't need that bag on our shoulder, or the logo that accompanies it to help make us feel validated.