In partnership with the V&A

If, like us, you’re a bonafide bag lover with an extended collection lining your bedroom mantelpiece, then you need to check out the V&A’s latest major exhibition, Bags: Inside Out.

Dedicated to the accessory that helps to piece outfits together, Bags: Inside Out, sponsored by Mulberry, explores our fascination with the bag, from the 16th century through to modern day.

The exhibition, running until 16th January 2022, spans around 300 objects varying in scale, design and functionality, highlighting their status and craftsmanship. It’s split into three sections: Function and Utility, Status and Identity, and Design and Making. Read on to find out what to expect. 

Function and Utility

How many of you can say you’ve bought a bag for its prettiness over practicality? The first section of the exhibit explores bags as practical objects designed to hold our belongings.

From fastening confidential documents to holding holiday outfits, make-up to receipts and even gas masks, this section spans bags of all functionalities. Highlights include a gas mask bag owned by HRH Queen Mary during WWII; a Louis Vuitton trunk dating back to 1900; and Winston Churchill’s red despatch box. We’re also fascinated by the Lemière opera bag designed especially for a night at the opera.

We’re also fascinated by the Lemière opera bag designed especially for a night at the opera.

Status and Identity

Raise your hand if you’ve been heavily influenced into buying something after seeing a celebrity donning the latest designer collection – we’re certainly guilty as charged. ‘Status and Identity’, the second section of the exhibition, explores this phenomenon, while also noting its notoriety amongst the political and societal elite.

Set to be an incredibly popular section, expect to gaze in awe at a Hermès ‘Kelly’ named in honour of Grace Kelly and a ‘Lady Dior’ handbag named after Princess Diana. The first-ever made Hermès Birkin bag, owned by actress and singer Jane Birkin, will be the focal point. It’s a bag that gained rapid popularity as soon as it was first showcased and is still celebrated today.

Sex in the City fans can cue over the purple sequinned number donned by Sarah Jessica Parker’s character, Carried Bradshaw. Designed by Fendi, the Baguette bag was heralded as being the first ‘It Bag’, reportedly selling around 600,000 during 1997 – 2007.

Other ‘It Bags’ on display include Mulberry’s Bayswater – seen sported by Kate Moss – and the Alexa, which became popular as the bag to have for those following the footsteps of British style icon, Alexa Chung.

Design and Making

The final section looks beyond the finished product, delving into the design and making process. It nods to the craftsmanship, time and talent that goes into creating a bag, from sketch to sample, sewing to selling. 

Exhibition visitors are invited to get up close with the bag making processes at the ‘makers’ table’. There’s also sketches, samples and prototypes from luxury brand Mulberry which showcases the design process, from start to finish.

It’s here we also get to see creativity come into play through subversion designs and artistic design choices shown out. Bags include a Chanel bag transformed into a milk carton; a playful ‘Florist’s Basket’ by Lulu Guinness’ and Thom Browne’s handbag taking the shape of his dog Hector. 

Lastly, the exhibition finishes by looking towards the future, exploring innovative experimentation and environmentally sustainable materials, including a Stella McCartney backpack made from recycled ocean plastic waste. 

Whether you’re into your bags or not, Bags: Inside Out is one to catch this season.

Bags: Inside Out runs until Sunday 16th January 2022 

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