Honey, they shrank the bag: Designer totes go mini

Designer totes have gone micro and the fashion elite can’t get enough of them. Style editor Annmarie O’Connor on the rise of the mini bag.

Over the past few fashion seasons a curious trend has emerged: bags have gotten smaller. Puzzlingly so.

The mála in both mini and micro forms has emerged in street style blogs as a decorative bauble designed to dangle while traversing a zebra crossing or scrolling casually through one’s iPhone; not for actually holding much, if anything at all.

Not that one could, mind you. If the spring summer 17 offerings at Akris, Hermes and Valentino are any indication, space is a relative term, one which holds no currency – not even a debit card. Seriously, you should see these things.

As much as I’d love to make like Harry Potter’s Hermione Granger and conjure an entire library full of books and a tent from a beaded velvet pouch, my rather pedestrian manifesting skills mean that I am going to have to sit this trend out.

It seems that the older I get, the more stuff I carry. Thankfully, this does not include emotional baggage which would require something with wheels – or an outboard engine. But I digress.

The newly downsized dimensions of the humble handbag suggest either one of two things: that one has hit peak youth and can navigate the best part of 24 hours without the accouterments of reality or that one has ‘people’ to do the schlep work, thus allowing for reduced capacity management. I, sadly, tick neither box.

It’s not that I want a kitchen sink-like sack a la Céline or those Marni waist bags that resemble mule pack saddles; although I wouldn’t balk at one of those Balenciaga portable ottomans. Fairly handy if waiting for a bus.

The contents of Annmarie O’Connor’s mini bag. Pic: Dave Meehan.
The contents of Annmarie O’Connor’s mini bag. Pic: Dave Meehan.

In short, I’d like something compact enough that lends to the levity of the season with enough room to carry my keys, wallet, umbrella, phone, hand sanitiser, eye drops, headphones, tampons, battery charger, makeup bag, diary, mints, spare hair bobbles, baby wipes and – on occasion – a partridge in a pear tree.

And therein lies the rub. If I were capable of leaving the house without dragging most of its contents with me, I might stand a chance at giving one of those street style ingénues a run for her Thumbelina purse.

This gives me pause. Is it that my definition of ‘essentials’ has grown with the passage of time or is the mini bag craze simply a game of one-downmanship in the extreme sport of high fashion?

More to the point, is it possible to find the happy medium of handbags - one that looks like a clutch but acts like a carry-all, ideally with a detachable crossbody strap, external pockets for handy tech access, internal pockets for fiddly bits and dividers that keep the riff raff that one acquires over the course of a day (receipts, ticket stubs, jelly babies) from the more refined attributes of one’s daily paraphernalia.

Too much to ask? Anyone?

L.K. Bennett ’Mariel’ red saffiano leather shoulder bag.
L.K. Bennett ’Mariel’ red saffiano leather shoulder bag.

Writer and mother of two Lindsay Woods (insta: @manolomummy) assures me I’m not alone in my demands.

Having ‘unknowingly embraced the trend for dinky bags’ after a phase of carrying ‘a generic version of a bin liner with a carpeting of Cheerios, toy cars and my dignity gracing its base,’ the Corkonian admits to needing a little more than ‘the equivalent of a wallet with a chain attached’.

“I currently favour a ‘camera bag’ style,” she says, “specifically, a little L.K. Bennett number called the ‘Mariel’ in ‘Roca Red’. Not micro but certainly a graduation from my previous bin liner territory.

It houses what I need: wallet, phone, lippie, keys and my ‘Deirdre Barlows’ (glasses); with the odd rogue Cheerio hitchhiking along every now and again!” Good lead! But could it also fit a quarter bottle of wine and a bag of peanuts? (For emergencies, of course.) I’d need to do a bit more reconnaissance work just to be sure.

An email from Belgian accessory designer Marie Martens (www.marie-martens.com) proves that a bushel of bananas can, indeed, fit in a fanny pack, should one choose; but the market stall approach isn’t really my jam; nor is shelling out for pricey designer arm candy. My blood sugar is high enough, thank you.

That said, I’m rather sweet on the current offering from high street heroes Parfois (www.parfois.com) – a collection which fits every demand on my aforementioned happy medium handbag bill; and a snip at €22.99.

Take that Mary Poppins! No trading off on life’s little luxuries (that bottle of Dolce & Gabbana Light Blue goes everywhere) or skimping on bare necessities. I’ve literally got this one in the bag. Although, I might have to reconsider the partridge in a pear tree.

Hey, there’s always a trade-off.


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