Designers put the fun back into bags with playful, colourful models
Peacocking is back in style with these playful, colourful designs
Fashion moves in mysterious ways, and trends can swing from one extreme to another. When Phoebe Philo took over at Céline, bags became severely pared-down, logo-free and almost anonymous. The easiest way to distinguish the must-have bag was simply by its shape, such as the Céline Classic, or a piece of hardware such as Christopher Kane's Safety Buckle.
While such minimalism might have been reflective of the recessionary mood in Europe, now that economies are brightening up, that upswing is proving cathartic for bags as colourful, fun and maximalist styles become all the rage.
The peacocking street-stylers' favourite this season, Paula Cademartori's Petite Faye handbag hits a home run with it's Big Bang inlay. The rose calf leather bestseller is a memorable explosion of cartoon-style colours with an industrial polished metal buckle. Cademartori, the Brazilian-born designer of Italian descent, has really captivated buyers with her multicoloured arm candy. "I have strong views on colour and textures; what I do is not childish," she says. "It is fun in an adult way, not a teenage way."
The intricate inlaid patterns are a feat of craftsmanship. Cademartori wants the bags to be cherished from season to season and become heirlooms to be passed down. Having trained in Brazil to make jewellery and shoes as part of her in industrial design course, Cademartori moved to Milan when she was 21 to follow her childhood passion of creating accessories. After several years designing handbags at Versace, she was selected for the Vogue Talents showcase, sponsored by Vogue Italia, in 2009, with a project on footwear which gave her the extra boost to launch her label in 2010.
The result is a range of handbags including highly collectable designs featuring enchanting geometric patterns. From precious, bright minaudières, the popular Petite Faye and Dun-Dun bags are inspired by the vibrancy and colour of her homeland.
"When the bags are small the level of complexity gets higher," she says. "They are a very special product and I like to feel every Cademartori is a design made for a collector.
"I really want to design a handbag that gives you a wow feeling when you wear it."
While Cademartori has caught the zeitgeist, designers started to feel more playful a few seasons ago. A case in point is Silvia Fendi's teasing Peekaboo bags featuring an adorable monster with his winking eyes and fluffy furry charms, or Christian Louboutin's Sweet Charity bag - a spiky little number that also should come with warnings. Roger Vivier, the classy French brand with the famous buckle, does some classic bags, but this season has been splattering stars over its Miss Viv handbags with seeming impertinence.
Anya Hindmarch is another with a sense of humour, not just in her accessories but the clever catwalk extravaganzas she stages to present them. She has been doing Smiley bags since 2013, but her Counter Culture show of supermarket handbags, from the iconic metallic crisp packet purse to the Cornflakes shopper, coincided with Chanel's supermarket show. Hindmarch has a way of magically transforming mundane, everyday objects into must-have bags and, like the sweet treats they sometimes resemble, you can never have just one. The adorable KitKat clutch has a long client waiting list and this season she takes on bold, graphic road signs. The new Imperial clutch is branded with warnings like "Keep your distance" and "Slow down".
Tongue-in-cheek irreverence is part of the design language of creators such as Hindmarch and Moschino, where Jeremy Scott has hooked up with Bugs Bunny and Tweetie Pie for his printed bags. Comic book capers are clearly in style for shoe designer Sophia Webster. She gives the art form clutch appeal with speech bubble bags bearing messages such as "Random Thoughts" or "Hold Me".
Alessandro Michele, the new creative director at Gucci, is not above a spot of irreverence himself, customising the iconic GG logo with embroidered cartoon motifs that resemble glorified stickers, albeit rendered with luxurious craftsmanship.
Craftsmanship is what makes these colourful, embroidered and patterned bags feasible and justifies those prices. Fendi used expert artisans to make the collectable 3Baguette with its rotating and deconstructing FF buckle, in a combination of exotic leathers and embroideries. Craftsmanship is given full vent at Dolce & Gabbana as well where bags are inlaid with art deco patterns, painted, embroidered with the "Viva la Mamma" theme this autumn winter, or transformed into lavish jewellery boxes, with the gems on display.