New Delhi, Dec 6 An exhibition featuring bag designs from Mulberry to Karl Lagerfeld, statement handbags worn by Margaret Thatcher to Sarah Jessica Parker, the heritage of Hermes to the streetwear of Off-White, will open in London next year.
Titled “Bags: Inside Out”, the exhibition is sponsored by Mulberry and is touted to be UK’s most comprehensive exhibition dedicated to the ultimate accessory.
From designer handbags to despatch boxes, vanity cases to military rucksacks, the exhibition will explore our longstanding fascination with the bag.
Often projecting bold statements to the outside world whilst concealing our most treasured belongings, the exhibition will explore the function, status and craftsmanship of bags.
Examined through around 300 objects varying in scale from tiny purses held on a fingertip to luxurious travel trunks, this thematic exhibition will explore the worldwide heritage of these highly covetable objects from the 16th century to today.
The first section of the exhibition on Function will examine bags as practical objects designed to hold our belongings: from holiday outfits to confidential documents, make-up to money and even gas masks,
Rare exhibits on show include a large embroidered burse used to protect the silver matrix of Elizabeth I’s Great Seal of England, a gas mask bag owned by HRH Queen Mary during the Second World War, Winston Churchill’s red despatch box and Vivien Leigh’s attach’ case. A striking Louis Vuitton trunk from the early 1900s will also take centre stage. Once belonging to the American socialite Emilie Grigsby, an extensive conservation and research project helped to bring the trunk back to life with its labels and markings revealing a hidden history of its travels on the world’s great ocean liners.
The second of the three exhibition sections will look at the central role of the bag in celebrity culture as well as its notoriety amongst the political and societal elite. Featuring a Hermes ‘Kelly’ named in honour of Grace Kelly and a ‘Lady Dior’ handbag named after Princess Diana, the exhibition will explore the powerful and influential world of celebrity endorsement.
Fuelling the ‘It bag’ phenomenon beginning in the late 1990s and early 2000s, celebrity association has helped to drive luxury bag sales and see certain designs reach icon status in popular culture. The Fendi ‘Baguette’ bag worn by and stolen from Sarah Jessica Parker in one of Sex and the City’s most famous scenes will sit alongside a gold Louis Vuitton ‘Monogram Miroir’ Speedy bag by Marc Jacobs popularised by Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian.
The wardrobe of Margaret Thatcher acted as her suit of armour and her handbag was essential to the image of the ‘Iron Lady’. Thatcher’s grey Asprey handbag will be one of the leading examples of the bag as a symbol of power.
The use of bags as a blank canvas for slogans, personal statements and political messages and their role as a public platform to share beliefs and convictions will be represented through objects including an anti-slavery reticule bag from 1825, the ‘I am NOT a Plastic Bag’ tote by Anya Hindmarch and ‘My Body My Business’ handbag by artist and activist Michele Pred.
The final section of the show will look at the Design and Making process from sketch to sample, sewing to selling.
Sketches, samples and prototypes from international fashion houses and the UK luxury brand Mulberry will show the innovative early stages of the design process. An insight into the skilled work of shaping bags will include examples of intricate craftsmanship employed on a 17th century silver filigree heart-shaped purse, a metal chainmail belt bag by Paco Rabanne and a 17th century letter case decorated with exquisite straw embroidery.
A 17th century purse in the shape of a frog, Thom Browne’s handbag in the form of his dog Hector and a Chanel bag transformed into a milk carton will explore the surrealism and humour evoked through accessories.
A look to the future will finish the exhibition with designers experimenting with innovative and environmentally sustainable materials including a Stella McCartney backpack made from recycled ocean plastic waste and a bag crafted from decommissioned fire hoses by Elvis and Kresse.
Thierry Andretta, Mulberry CEO said, “Bags can be functional and beautiful, public and private; they carry cultural and personal meaning as well as our belongings and they are iconic pieces of design, worth celebrating in their own right.”
The exhibition “Bags: Inside Out” runs from April 25, 2020 to January 31, 2021. It is curated by Lucia Savi.
(Siddhi Jain can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)