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Bags: Inside Out at the V&A

My six favourite bags in the exhibition

I managed to catch the exhibition a few days before it closed. Leaving it until the last minute, the exhibition was busy but I’ve chosen my six favourite bags.

1. Sentimental

Lulu Guinness, 1996

Florist’s Basket handbag

I’m being sentimental as 1996 is the year I met my husband and this bag contains red roses. I used to pass the Lulu Guinness shop in the city every morning on my way to work. I would dream out of the window of the bus into the window of this tiny shop selling ornate and wonderful bags that didn’t even look like bags.


Carrier bag woven from discarded plastic, 2015

Australia (no maker’s name)

Stella McCartney x Parley for the Oceans, 2018

Backpack created from ocean plastic

Simply because fashion created from waste is the best kind of sustainability. Reusing materials that are already in circulation rather than creating new substrates.

3.Inspired by nature

Emily Jo Gibbs, 1996

Horse chestnut bag with conker purse

I hadn’t seen this bag before. I was drawn to the spikey outside of the bag and the soft chocolate silk of the internal purse. Probably not very practical and could just about hold a lipstick and taxi money but it looks beautiful.

4. The practical ‘IT’ bag with a story

I had heard about the Birkin bag but didn’t know it’s origin. It was designed for singer Jane Birkin after she sat next to Hermes CEO Jean-Louis Dumas on a flight. She complained that she couldn’t find a leather bag with pockets that she liked.

5. The historical, 1939

Kate Thompson’s books have taught me the social history of World War II. Many of the people she interviews for her books have an evacuee story to tell. I could picture Lionel Allerton Hemsley as a small boy with his giant case beside him leaving London for the country on the onset of war

6. The activist, 2007

I remember this limited edition bag being featured heavily in the press but they were almost impossible to get your hands on. To me the bag highlights the beginning of the end for plastic shopping bags. These were available for sale in Sainsbury’s for £5. Now available on eBay for £225.

The seventh bag would have been Winston Churchill’s red despatch box from 1921 that was held up every year until 1990 by the Chancellor of the Exchequer on budget day. I couldn’t get a photo as a man was stood in front of it for a good ten minutes, so I gave up and headed upstairs to the makers section. There was an interesting video from bag makers such as Bill Amber, Mulberry and Elvis & Kreese. Explaining the journey of a bag from concept to being available for sale. I enjoyed viewing the varying components that go into making a bag.

Sorry I’ve posted this too late for you to visit the exhibition. If you didn’t get to see it, I hope my photos give you a taste of the exhibition.