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The unexpected phenomenon of reselling paper bags from big labels

A quick review of resale platforms such as Vinted, Ebay, or Grailed is enough to discover the market for branded paper bags. The trend is to laminate them so that they do not get damaged

Reventa Bolsas Marca
A woman carries a Chanel bag, which could be resold in the emerging market for luxury paper bags.Edward Berthelot (Getty Images)

On TikTok there are dozens of luxury brand bags for the modest price of $50. They are not fakes, or at least not technically. For a couple of years, the trend on the social network has been to customize these bags, laminate them, and put leather handles on them. You can even buy kits and, of course, there are rankings of which bags are the most desired. After all, a limited edition Christmas Dior bag is not the same as a basic white one. Nor is it the same as a black bag from Chanel, with its paper camellia, which provides its owner with multiple uses as an exclusive brooch.

Paradoxically, carrying the paper bag as an exclusive accessory is a practice that has made luxury itself fashionable. Fashion has been playing the ‘conceptual’ card of turning what is popular into a cult object for many years. From the legendary Marc Jacobs campaign with Victoria Beckham stuffed in a giant bag to the Chanel show that recreated a supermarket full of double C logos, or, more literally, the multiple varieties of ‘signature bags’ with four-figure price tags. In her brief return to her eponymous brand in 2012, Jill Sander launched a handle-less, but “hand-sewn” paper bag. She called it Vasari and sold it (and sold out) for $290. Having just arrived at Balenciaga, Demna, an expert in turning the banal into luxury, began to market the brand’s white bag in a leather version in 2017. Next came the famous Ikea bag, which was sold for $2,000, then the leather one that looked like garbage and, more recently, the bag from the Californian deluxe healthy food store Erewhon that Kim Kardashian took to the brand’s fashion show a few weeks ago. A couple of days later, Bottega Veneta launched its celebrity ‘stolen posing’ campaign. In one of the images, the rapper A$AP Rocky is carrying a classic paper bag with flowers inside, except that it is not actually paper, it is leather with the “appearance of paper”, as explained in his store, and it costs $2,500. It seems that silent luxury has not yet reached its peak.

A$AP Rocky in a Bottega Veneta campaign.
A$AP Rocky in a Bottega Veneta campaign.cortesía

It makes sense that if the world of luxury plays at multiplying the price of the banal by a thousand (because there is a demand), part of the real world also plays at making its daily routine into something exclusive. We have gone from photographing food or turning a corner of the living room into an editorial still life to carrying brand-name bags with tupperware or gym clothes inside. It has long been common in Japan for young people to carry everyday objects in a Prada or Dior bag (a 2009 New York Times report even talked about inheriting ‘family bags’) to mark status. This is ultimately what the trend is about, even if said status is only symbolic.

The pandemic did not slow down luxury consumption, quite the contrary. Lockdowns and the closed stores increased the desire to show it off. To the point that in areas like Shanghai some residents hung Chanel or Hermès bags on doorknobs with their corresponding COVID tests inside. It was then that the world learned to live and communicate through a screen, if possible. On Tiktok, young people were and are making videos with luxury bags in the background. These days Instagram is filled with stories with those same bags under Christmas trees, of course, without unboxing in between.

Model Sora Choi carrying an Hermès bag.
Model Sora Choi carrying an Hermès bag.Edward Berthelot (Getty Images)

A quick review of resale platforms such as Vinted, Ebay, or Grailed is enough to discover the market for branded paper bags. Almost $15 for a Chanel bag, $10 for one from Tiffany, or $55 for a pack of Hermès bags in different sizes. A classic bag is not the same as a special Christmas edition. The Loewe bags printed by the Ghibli studio are priced upwards of $100 if they come with the small notebook that they usually include as a gift in the store, or $50 without it. Bag ‘designers’ are already proliferating on TikTok. One such designer is Winxin Bear, who customizes bags with leather handles or stitching until they become luxury bags that are sold for just over $50.

@designsbyerb

Thanks @winxinshop for the fun DIY idea for my Saint Laurent wrapping 🖤 👜

♬ Believe Me - Navos

It’s as simple as buying a lipstick, blush, or perfume at the brand’s store to get the bag, the Christmas card, and sometimes even a box with samples. What matters is not the samples, but the box, which is now a decorative object, and the bag, which is now a bag to take to the office or the gym, or even a potential resale object. The year in which the big brands gambled everything on a so-called quiet luxury, logomania has been reincarnated in a kind of DIY suitable for all audiences and pockets. The era of democratic luxury has come.

@soullig

I had to trust my own process on this one! Haha @thetotery #diy #SpotlightAPI #viral_video #summer

♬ Paper Planes - M.I.A.

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