The Birkin. The Chanel 2.55. The Alexa.
When two of Australia's biggest brands debuted their resort collections (fashion seasons are no longer just S/S and A/W, darling) last month, the fashion world was introduced to a new form of existence, and also of carrying groceries.
The Coles Better Bag, right, draws inspiration from Carolina Herrera’s 2018 SS collection.
In the space of a few weeks, Coles and Woolworths' reusable plastic bags have become the must-have item for your "from July 1" aesthetic. Everyone who is anyone is carrying one. And by "is anyone" I admit that I do just mean everyone who is at the shops because they're our only option now we've decided the environment will be saved by punters paying 15c for plastic bags.
But, the inevitability of the reusable bag use does not negate that it is capturing a cultural moment.
The supermarket reusable bag exists at the opportune intersection of a number of key seasonal trends. Logos are in (a byproduct of the '90s revival that is still somehow hanging around in its butterfly clips and brown lipstick). Ugliness and utilitarianism, also. Don't think a Woolies cooler bag is trendy? Not my fault you don't get it.
The individual designs of each bag in the brand's respective ranges, too, are very now.
Logos are in this season. Woolworths is on trend.
Take the Coles Better Bag (15c, coles.com.au). Reflecting on trends for the northern spring, Net-a-Porter described polka dots as "the print of the season". Truly, when Carolina Herrera sent models down the runway in big and bold polka dot numbers, she had no way of knowing she would be so honoured as to have her vision reimagined on a vessel for the ingredients of Curtis Stone's chicken and leek soup. Imitation is the greatest form of flattery.
At the same price point, you can tell a lot about a person by which of House of Woolworths' multiple designs they are toting through Westfield. The forest green says "I am a slave to the brand", while the spliced fruit patterns say "I'm a milennial who will never afford a house because I'm spending all of my income on avocado-covered plastic bags #relatable". They all, of course, say "I forgot to bring a bag to the shops and am now forking out 15c for one".
A model carries her Bag for Good and spliced fruit Woolworths bags on the runway at their resort show.
Looking at the luxury options, Coles' "community bags" ($1-3, coles.com.au) have been designed by school children and, just in case you weren't feeling virtuous enough about putting one fewer plastic bag in a whale's stomach, 10 per cent of the sales go to charity a la Dior’s “We Should All Be Feminists” t-shirts.
(I don't mean to play a game of "which bag designed by a child to raise money for charity is the most on-trend", but – since you asked – it is definitely the tote bag by 16-year-old Hiro Kojo from Sydney's Baulkham Hills High School. Pretty sure I tried on a dress in Zara with that pattern last week. And the ultraviolet strap? Pantone's colour of the year strikes again.)
While they gave you some variety at the bottom of their range, Woolworths draws inspiration from Anya Hindmarch's I'm Not a Plastic Bag bag with its "Bag for Good" (99c, woolworths.com.au). They've also piled on the virtue at their higher price point., with all profits from their sale going to the Woolworths Junior Landcare Grants Program.
As with all fashion, the greatest joy can come in subversion. Strong styling options include: carrying your Coles bag into Woolworths (so edgy), completing a shop with bags at a mix of price points (the boundary between high and low culture has truly been blurred) or – gasp – confidently sticking to your Aldi bag (you know you were ahead of the trend).
Because, if you have to carry a shopping bag, you may as well carry a shopping bag. A reusable bag is not the most obvious way to lift an outfit, sure. But the effortlessness is part of the skill.
Maybe she's born with it. Maybe it's polypropelene.
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