Before that, though, those plaid reusable laundry bags you find at a pound and shitty stuff were reinvented by Louis Vuitton in 2007. A decade later, Balenciaga’s Demna Gvasalia sent oversized market bags to the track for SS17. Later that year, the house also released a style reminiscent of IKEA’s blue Frakta bag for £1,365 (a steep markup over Frakta’s 40p retail price). It even prompted the Swedish furniture store to launch a “How to identify an original IKEA Frakta bag” on its website. Menswear designer Christopher Shannon has also gotten in on the action by reappropriating Sports Direct’s large reusable bag and changing its logo to “Lovers Direct” for a modern take on brand-obsessed sportswear.
A year later, Phoebe Philo’s Celine pulled out a clear plastic bag shaped like a supermarket bag, revealing its entire contents to the bus snooper. And more recently Lily Willan, a Westminster menswear graduate, was directly influenced by the carry bag her grandfather used to take to work every day, creating tote bags that followed a similar flexible shape and a double handle.
Fashion has often swept away normal products from our world and turned them into aspirational products. Trash is turned into luxury, bags stuffed under our kitchen sink are whipped for more than a grand. And we let it go.
When Balenciaga originally presented the trash bags in March, they were planted amidst a deeply emotional spectacle that creative director Demna Gvsalia used to highlight the ongoing war in Ukraine. Models battled wind turbines and a man-made snowstorm, clutching fur coats and clutching trash bags, as if they were displaced people fleeing a war-torn country.
Trash fashion makes a statement. Whether it’s homelessness, elitism, the environment or even war, it gets us talking. Controversial in most cases, yes, but isn’t that the point? Perhaps the context of the waste also plays a role. When Balenciaga’s trash bags are placed on a store shelf – compared to a moving catwalk display – they take on a whole new meaning. It gets funny. An inside joke that, to those who observe it, is utterly baffling. Who would pay more than a mile for a garbage bag? Well, loads of people. Fashion is, after all, trash.