Street Couture

High Fashion Bags and the Girls Who Wear Them

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Fashion week is the most exciting moment of each season, influencing the trends that will eventually trickle down to the hoi polloi. For an ever-increasing number of us, however, the real action is not on the runways, but on the sidewalk: what are our street fashion idols wearing? Thanks to Instagram, we can enjoy that fashion-show sidewalk inspiration all year, as our favorite bloggers, photographers, models, it-girls, and editors share their current fashion obsessions.

To further fuel our fervor, the Tassenmuseum Hendrikje in Amsterdam will host an exhibition called Street Couture. Founded by bag aficionado Hendrikje Ivo, the museum is located in a historic home on the Herengracht Canal and houses, in its permanent collection, over five thousand bags ranging from classics such as Hermès, Gucci, and Chanel, to antique purses dating back to the Renaissance era. There are also temporary exhibitions featuring the works of mainly Dutch handbag designers. Street Couture is a sharply curated show that seeks to explore the elements that differentiate couture from street fashion around the world. The realms of design, music, sports, and international pop culture collide in many of the fascinating looks devised by street fashion stars, which in turn re-inspire fashion designers. Anyone who has marveled at the insouciant manner, in which a style-savvy blogger pairs a Prada bag with Adidas sneakers, or an Hermès satchel with a denim overalls, or a Chanel purse with knee socks, will appreciate this exhibition’s scope. Part of the show features classic purses from the most illustrious accessories lines, paired with exciting street looks ranging from Japanese manga to American ghetto fabulous and everything in between. The other part of the exhibition focuses on how street style has in turn influenced bag designers. Camo-print Valentino, pop-art print Dior, and Fendi clip-on embellishments all fall under this category. In honor of this exhibition, SOMA examines a trio of international street-fashion stars, decrypting their style and examining how they style their handbags.

First in line, Chiara Ferragni. The Euro-chic Italian blogger behind The Blonde Salad, Ferragni is currently designing a line of accessories: shoes, backpacks, and phone cases, which exploit her unique pop-art aesthetic. Her favorite bag of the moment, if one is to judge from its presence on Instagram, may well be the polyvalent Chloe Drew Small Shoulder Bag in black, which easily pairs with looks ranging from daytime casual to evening glam. However, the photogenic Ferragni doesn’t tend to play favorites for long. She will sport pop-art print Louis Vuitton bags or her own glittery, winking-motif backpack, paired with Superga sneakers and Anine Bing or Balenciaga Leather jackets. She’s also worn a structured Proenza Schouler bag with metallic Stella McCartney brogues and a fluffy jacket, an H&M sweater, and a mini Hermès Birkin. The Hermès bag is a classic, but the modern thing to do is to personalize it with dangly charms from Louis Vuitton and Prada, fluffy fur pom-pom keychains by Fendi,and of course monograms. No more overly precious Preppy Handbook-style lettering, though- the inspiration here is decidedly less polished. Anya Hindmarch, who has designed quite a few It Bags of her own in the course of her career, is currently on the forefront of the personalization trend with her eighties-style bubble letter stickers, designed to temporarily deface your Hermes bag in an on-trend manner.

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Our next street fashion plate, whippet-thin Japanese-American California girl, Rumi Neely, known for her stylish blog, Fashion Toast. Neely is also the creative director of the fashion line Are You Am I, and also a Next model. Compared to Chiara Ferragni, Neely is more of a monogamist when it comes to her accessories. Lately, if her Instagram is any indication, she has been pairing a small YSL Tassel Bag with the aforementioned fluffy Fendi keychain, high-waisted vintage Levis, a crop top, chunky-heeled booties, and a black velvet choker necklace from her own line. Fashion bloggers need their hands free for selfies—hence evening bags are more bound to be a structured cross-body rather than a too-fussy clutch. Neely occasionally swaps out her trusty YSL for a similar Louis Vuitton model, or a retro-logo Gucci, and if she needs a larger bag that fits more than an iPhone and a tube of lipstick, she often reaches for her basic black Balenciaga Classic City Bag, another favorite of the fashion blogosphere.
Our third street fashion star, and image consultant, model, and blogger, Aleali May, rounds out our survey with her unique urban yet luxurious and artistic fashion sensibilities. She has collaborated with Audi, Nike, and Adidas, and has styled personalities such as Kendrick Lamar, Wiz Khalifa, and French Montana., May’s eponymous lifestyle blog, documents the young woman’s many appearances and projects. May, though a striking raven-haired beauty, seems less concerned with looking pretty, and more involved with the intellectual process of mixing streetwear with high fashion in a way that feels authentic. A practical, chic Givenchy satchel suits her luxuriously sporty, tomboy style. Heels are a rare accessory for this girl, who prefers the look and comfort of impeccable Stan Smiths or Adidas Originals Superstar 80’s Deluxe sneakers, glammed up with stacked Hermès Collier de Chien bracelets. She adds that all-important sporty touch, the pop of primary color, with a red quilted Chanel purse, or a yellow Louis Vuitton Epi leather shoulder strap bag.

Text by Karena Gupton Akhavein
Photography by Ivo De Kok