In fashion, the 1990s revival seems never-ending: first lycra cycling shorts, tiny sunglasses and ugly trainers made a comeback, then skinny eyebrows appeared on Rihanna on the cover of Vogue. But the latest iteration is a lot more palatable: the handbag of the moment is a small, embroidered and bead-embellished pouch of the kind carried by Kate Moss in her supermodel 90s heyday. Usually made from velvet or silk, they vary from all-over adornment to a minimal motif, and are just big enough to fit a makeup compact, credit card and phone.
On the red carpet, Alexa Chung and Aurora James are among those leading the renaissance, having carried them on several occasions this year including at the Met Gala in May – the biggest fashion event of the year.
The fashion search engine Lyst notes that searches of “beaded bags” are up 37% year on year and cites Ganni’s Edison purse (£240) as one of the most popular over the last six months. The Danish brand has three variations of the accessory on its website. Searches for styles by London-based brand Shrimps, which retail for about £450, are also up 55% in the last three months.
The high street has also bought into the trend. Zara’s Beaded Crossbody Dolly Bag retails for £49.99; Topshop has a similar style for £30; while New Look’s striped sequin style is £17.99.
In the nineties, such bags were red carpet regulars: Moss took one to the Cannes film festival in 1997, and was photographed carrying it while walking the red carpet with then boyfriend, Jonny Depp. She held one, too, at a Vogue party the year after to complement her velvet coat and strappy silver sandals, while several of her red-carpet contemporaries, such as Jennifer Aniston who had one swinging from her wrist at the 1999 Emmys, followed suit.
As with most trends, this one is cyclical and has roots in the 1920s. Isabelle Waring, the designer behind contemporary British brand Isabelle Fox dedicated her bag to Greta Garbo Waring.
Waring, whose first collection of pouches sold out within a week at a London pop-up earlier this year, said: “I was looking through photographs of her and noticed she often had these very small bags, which she would hang from her wrist; they were useful in that they could carry things, but they also became an adornment, like a bracelet.
“I loved this idea that something was both perfectly practical (you can also keep both hands free) as well as indulgently aesthetic.”
Her bags are made from leftover material from her ready-to-wear collections and retail for £70.
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