Out With the Old, In With the Clear

Thomas Chou
An NYU student carries a clear handbag from Urban Outfitters.

Grocery store plastic bags can be a nuisance. They rip easily, pile up in your home and if you’re throwing them away in the garbage — they’re devastatingly bad for the environment. While these cheap bags are often considered more of an eyesore than eye-catching, the fashion industry is swooping in to change that notion, one designer plastic bag at a time. Say goodbye to opacity because this spring, luxury plastics are bagging the big bucks.

Brands like Celine, Maison Margiela and Chanel have been churning out bags in accordance with the growing trend — a tongue-in-cheek interpretation of to-go delivery bags or bodega bags you might be stuffing away in a kitchen drawer. Luxury clear bags exist at the intersection between ridiculousness and high fashion, much like past bag trends such as the “Frakta”-inspired bag by Balenciaga, a whopping $2,145 take on Ikea’s iconic $0.99 carry-all. These expensive, designer versions of everyday bags fuse together elements of high and low brow culture — they’re considered stylish due to the overt branding and outrageous price-tag, yet are simultaneously effortless because they’re inspired by grocery bags, after all.

For Gallatin senior Daryl Ocampo, the trend of clear bags is too exaggerated.

“I think they’re garish,” said Ocampo. “When I see one on the street, it looks to me like the person is trying really hard to look like they’re not trying at all. That could be the intention behind the bag’s design — the rich and fashionable finding novelty in re-creating something so ordinary, something that we all use on a daily basis, but then slapping on such a crazy price tag.”

A Celine plastic bag that was spotted on the Spring/Summer 2018 runway is now being sold for $590 — approximately $589.95 more than what a regular plastic bag costs to produce, according to Time. At its current retail value, the markup is nearly 4000 percent. However, once the bag is sold out and begins to move around the resale market, only time will tell just how much profit can be made from the sale of a humble plastic bag.

“It’s moments like this that I find the fashion industry so funny,” LS sophomore Ericka Barroso said. “It’s so ridiculous that companies think they can charge so much for a plastic bag — but what’s even more ridiculous is that no matter how much they decide to charge for it, there is undoubtedly someone out there who is willing to pay for it.”
On the other hand, while CAS junior Juli Torres might not be willing to pay for a luxury plastic bag herself, she finds that she can still appreciate the design value and aesthetic worth behind the trend.

“While the price of the bags might be out of control, there is something really interesting about high-fashion’s interest in normalcy that’s demonstrated through these bags,” Torres said. “There’s something weird and unusual about seeing such an expensive brand name printed over a regular plastic bag, but I like the juxtaposition. It’s awkward, but I think that’s the intent.”

With the designer clear bag trend popping up only very recently, only time can tell if this trend is here to stay or will simply drift away with the wind.

A version of this article appeared in the Monday, April 23 print edition. Email Thomas Chou at [email protected]

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