People don’t usually think of paper bags as fashion statements, but they became just that in Japan. You might consider Tokyo a place where high fashion reigns supreme, but that kind of consumerist lifestyle is becoming a little passé with the city’s younger generations.
The modern Tokyo girl is now giving up her high-priced backpacks and briefcases in favour of paper shopping bags. However, it can’t be just any bag. The Japanese trend calls for only branded bags, preferably from a high-end retailer or one that younger people consider cool.
When the bags get creased, they’re simply ironed into like-new condition. Once girl interviewed in the New York Times with a special Prada bag stated that: “This is the bag I save for weekend dates with my boyfriend. For me, shopping is a special occasion. The bag will be a reminder of that day, how I felt when I bought the dress, the whole experience.”
It’s not even a new trend in Japan. During the early 1980s, teenagers were often seen carrying their sports gear and school stuff in branded shopping bags. Back then, it was done entirely to broadcast their social standing – if you could afford the products, you could have the bag – but today’s users take a more nuanced approach. They’re both a way to look cool and a way to stay eco-friendly. There’s even a system to it. In the words of one Tokyo resident: “I think most women have their own personal paper bag hierarchy. The really good ones are for holding personal belongings, the ordinary ones are for holding groceries, the cute ones for using as gift wrappings, etc.”
One large-size Louis Vuitton paper bag was even auctioned online for a fair sum.
As ever, we love seeing the different ways people use paper bags around the world. Whether inspiring architecture or used as the latest fashion trend, it’s fascinating to see how such an iconic and well-used item keeps getting used in new ways.