Alexander Wang's new "Le Dix" bags for Balenciaga are gorgeous and sensible. Incorporating the unmistakeable edge of Wang, they will score highly for the brand in stores. Yet a few style dinosaurs like me will be found wandering tearfully along the fashion boulevards come Fall. "Please Mr Wang," we will beg, "leave us a memory of the Lariat, the bag that changed our lives."
Flashback: Kate Moss looked cooler than usual standing next to me, browsing round the London store Liberty's one day in 2002. Wearing a fitted army-surplus jacket, skinny black jeans, printed cotton scarf and a white T shirt, Kate always did casual better than anyone else. The standout feature of her look was her bag. Soft black leather, studded with fringey bits, this bag was sleek and towny, naughty and rock'n'roll too. A "Gimme it now!" instinct thumped me in the gut. It was hard not to snatch the vintagey-looking bag from skinny Kate and make off with it. Deep breathing instead, I stepped out into the fresh air and phoned the fashion department of Marie Claire where I worked. "What have I just seen?!"
"Sounds like Balenciaga," said their lovely fashion assistant, Jane.
Further investigation led me to the name of Kate's bag, the Balenciaga Lariat. The "motorcycle bag" as it came to be known was the accessory that almost wasn't, after Nicolas Ghesquiere's Balenciaga bosses declared his original version to be too outré for the brand. Ghesquiere made just 25 of the bags to begin with and gave them to the models in his show. As soon as Kate & co were spotted with the bags, they became the fashion world's Most Wanted. On the day I saw Kate with hers, a London phone round revealed Liberty's actually had one black Lariat left in stock. Without a second thought, I blew my credit card, about 725.00 GBP at the time on that bag. I still have it and I still use it. Some of the long dangly leather bits are lost. Torn off on the floors of bars or chewed off by my dog. It's my go-to thing and I will always love it.
The Lariat later evolved into the Arena, City, and Velo designs. Now the range is more diverse with weekend bags, wallets and all manner of leather accessories available in this familiar, studded style. Balenciaga bags can be seen slung round the necks of wealthy teenagers in and hanging off the arms of reality TV stars. With enough cash, anyone can buy one and some of the legend has dissipated. This happens with everything from workout wear to sneakers and I am not making a judgement, simply stating fact.
As soon as Wang was declared for Balenciaga, fashion pundits predicted the end of the studs and zips and actually, that feels kind of right. Cristobel Balenciaga was a game-changer. An aesthete who challenged conventional fashion wisdom with bold, stark shapes. Alexander Wang's new bag designs feel more in keeping with Mr. Balenciaga's architectural approach. I get it, I really do. It's just that I am mourning the passing of a fashion moment. So, even though I am an Alexander Wang fan, the day I most feared has come. There is no official word from Balenciaga on the future of the "motorcycle bag" but it's pretty clear the writing is on the wall.
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