The incredible shrinking handbag: what you can and can’t fit in a nano bag and why anyone might want one

What’s the use of a handbag the size of a key fob? Nothing, but that’s not the point, say experts: the idea is a bag small enough that it doesn’t disturb your look on a night out – though you may need a jacket with lots of pockets

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 29 April, 2017, 4:03pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 02 May, 2017, 5:28pm

Although bags have been shrinking in recent seasons, they could still fit a mobile phone, credit card, keys and lipstick. Now the big brands have dialled back a few more notches, with lower price tags, as one way to bag new customers.

Clients thought Johnny Coca was kidding when his first collection for Mulberry, autumn/winter 2016, included evening bags the size of a key fob on a chain, but they were a sell-out.

Johnny Coca leads British label Mulberry’s comeback with bags of attitude

This summer, Hermes and Valentino have transformed the handbag into miniature marvels – pendants strung around the neck or across the body in colourful leathers – although Valentino’s lacquered pendants are really lipstick and mirror compacts containing the Loveblade Rosso No.1 lipstick.

Belgian luxury leather goods brand Delvaux has been making tiny bags since 2012 and serves up four styles in its Charm size range, including the Tempête Charm in calfskin, the Mutin (mini saddlebag style) and the Madame and classic Brillant Charms, which come in citron, nude and lilac calfskin with a pearly sheen.

Handbag makers struggle in face of declining sales and retail markdowns, neglecting the creativity that may save them

And in the new autumn collections there are more Brillant Charms, although Delvaux’s witty send-up of their nationality – toy totes decorated with mussels, chips and a Magritte painting – sadly will not make it to retail.

Cassie Smart, accessories buying manager at Matchesfashion.com, describes this trend for tinier dimensions as the “do not disturb my look” bag – size doesn’t interfere with the overall look and hang of an outfit.

Recently, accessories designer Jerome Dreyfuss suggested the trend is driven by a desire to be unencumbered.

“Mini bags bring this kind of allure: a carefree, hands-free silhouette,” he says. Many women lugging around an overstuffed work bag can relate to that. There is the added appeal that if your budget doesn’t stretch to a Hermes Birkin, the sweet micro sacs strung on long solid gold chains in Nadege Vanhee-Cybulski’s summer collection might be tempting. Arriving in Hong Kong soon, there are round, zippered evening bags or cute, flap-fastened bags in Mississippi alligator and lizard. Prices are not yet known.

4 best microbags of the season – review

The bags might be smaller, but Chloé’s Nano Drew saddlebag, at 15cm x 13cm – slightly bigger than Hermes mini sac – still sells for £750 (HK$7,500) on Mytheresa.com, while the Mini Drew sells for £1,050. The Valentino Loveblade compacts start at HK$6,600, whereas the Mulberry Mini Trunk bag, arriving this autumn, is HK$3,095.

Price is one factor, but another reason bags have shrunk to size zero is in response to totes expanding to where they could comfortably be worn by a small child. Who wants to lug an overweight bag from the office to a party? So the latest idea is to clip a dinky evening bag like a charm onto your tote, which you remove at the cloakroom. For instance, the colourful leather cube-shaped bags in Giorgio Armani’s autumn collection can be clipped onto something larger.

Gucci handbags still No 1 choice among affluent Chinese women, says survey

Tod’s new Micro-Wave tags onto the bigger Wave tote, as if it were an accessory for your accessory. Similarly, Fendi’s embellished silk or playful Bag Bug-detailed (staring eyes and furry eyebrows) Micro Baguettes slip onto the strap of their bigger day bags.

As more nano bags are rushed out for autumn, including Lanvin’s colourful pendant purses, a multi-pocketed jacket might have to come into play.