The Plastic Bag vs The Basket Bag: Is 2018’s Must-Have Really Better Than Last Year’s?

Street style, Spring Summer 2018, Paris Fashion Week, France | © Olivier Degoulange/REX/Shutterstock
Picture of Sarah Leigh Bannerman
Fashion Editor
Updated: 9 May 2018
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Each season sees a new cult accessory make its way into the spotlight, often coveted by the most influential editors and buyers at Fashion Week before it has so much as graced the shelves of Selfridges. This year’s style of the moment is the clear Perspex or plastic tote. Culture Trip explores the pros and cons of the trend and compares it to last summer’s must-have and mainstay (for now), the basket bag.
Chanel show, Spring Summer 2018, Paris Fashion Week, France
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There’s no denying the consistent presence of Perspex, vinyl and plastic in fashion, from Gianvito Rossi’s signature PVC pumps to Yeezy’s naked shoes, but the phenomenon has escalated this season. Since Burberry presented its clear plastic rain mac on the SS18 runway – the very same season that Chanel draped the shoulders of Kaia Gerber and her fellow models in similarly minimalist capes and Givenchy accessorised with oversized plastic clutch bags – the fashion industry has eschewed the traditional, functional connotations associated with plastic and reinvented its status to be something of a luxury item.

Plastic shoes, AW18, London Fashion Week, UK
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As with most statement trends, accessories make something seemingly intimidating all the more approachable, so it comes as no surprise that the clear plastic tote was and will remain to be the spotlight piece for the rest of SS18, with Céline, Loewe and Staud leading the way and Zara dutifully following suit just moments later. For those looking to dip their toe but unwilling to expose the (often unglamorous) contents of their handbags, the bag-in-a-bag variation is sure to be a front-runner. It’s true that completely clear designs are suited only to editorial shoots but Staud’s Shirley tote turns a completely impractical look into something significantly more accommodating, allowing its owner to remain as discreetly unorganised as they wish, no style points lost… because isn’t that the point of a bag? To hide your essentials?

Street style, Fall Winter 2018, Milan Fashion Week, Italy
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One such style that eliminates the need for a hygge handbag, however, is last summer’s fashion obsession, the basket bag. As fickle as trends are, it does seem ironic that something so simplistic, so natural and so timeless, was having as much of a moment as its current polar-opposite counterpart. What this style has in its favour is longevity, which is something of a buzzword in the industry of late. Initially championed by 1960s icon Jane Birkin and subtly present ever since then, it shifted further into focus last year thanks to the likes of Muuñ and Nannacay creating iterations that didn’t just work on the beach but in the city also. Those looking for an accessory with staying power may cease the search; it’s near enough impossible for vintage-inspired designs to date, after all.

Jane Birkin
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But which style is best? If investing in both is out of the question, then there’s no denying the fashion credentials that come with SS18’s plastic bags. Staud’s aforementioned Shirley sits at an affordable price point for a luxury piece (around £175) and it will transform even the most simplistic of looks into something current. But if timelessness (and budget) is of importance, then look to Mango and Zara for chic basket bags that will handle direct sunlight and a bit of sand like no other and might just hold their relevance for future seasons as well.


Plastic vs basket bags
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