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Essay: Handbag by Ann-Sofie Back

by Penny Martin on 29 November 2004

Editor Penny Martin muses on the hybrid, anti-fashion piece from Ann-Sofie Back's A/W 04 collection.

Editor Penny Martin muses on the hybrid, anti-fashion piece from Ann-Sofie Back's A/W 04 collection.

Once upon a time, the handbag represented a minefield of sartorial error. For our mothers' generation, the potential embarrassment over whether one's bag was the correct colour/texture/length to match one's outfit meant buying versions in every hue, skin and handle available. More recently, anxieties have been less related to the question of 'blending' them into an outfit and more towards making them stand out. The shift towards accessories as a bankable revenue stream for the major fashion houses has been met with a changing attitude towards these products from the consumer. As prices for the 'signature' accessories have escalated, many women treat their shoes and handbags as their central seasonal purchases and for the rest of their wardrobes continue to buy the less 'fashionable' staples they know suit them.

Flying in the face of the prevailing desire for an accessory that communicates brand-loyalty and wealth, Ann-Sofie Back's 'Blouse Bag' eschews flashy, recognisable styling and aims to literally blend into its wearer's outfit.

Flying in the face of the prevailing desire for an accessory that communicates brand-loyalty and wealth, Ann-Sofie Back's 'Blouse Bag' eschews flashy, recognisable styling and aims to literally blend into its wearer's outfit. Constructed out of two inexpensive components–a cheap gilt, clasp purse on a metal chain and a red, washed-silk shirt from knock-down high-street store H&M–the piece speaks more of the aesthetic than commercial imperatives of fashion. Part of Back's Autumn/Winter 2004 exploration of the silhouette, the bag drapes down the side of its wearer, the blouse's knotted cuffs creating a final, pendulous ornament. Neither the original bag nor the blouse is rendered unrecognisable: Back blurs tawdry accessory into workaday shirt to create a hybrid garment of undeniable elegance. Though marketed by the designer to 'the women that aspire toward glamour but fall short of achieving it', the Blouse Bag underlines the alchemic power of Ann-Sofie Back and her singular capacity for grace.

'Blouse bag' by Ann-Sofie Back, to order at Ann-Sofie Back Stockholm +46 73 3945 505

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