Making a fashion statement

Liang Hongfu

2007-12-25 04:56:39  China Daily      

Here is a little fashion tip, and it can help you save some money too.

In case you do not already know, give-away shopping bags, the reusable type, have become quite a fashion statement among the chic in some of the world's most cosmopolitan cities from New York to Hong Kong.

Not all shopping bags can make the grade, of course. But the best-designed ones are obviously worth fighting for, as the stampede for a limited supply of designer shopping bags a few months ago in Hong Kong showed.

In New York, retailers ranging from upscale department stores, mid-price chains to fashion boutiques are engaged in heated competition to make the most durable, fashionable shopping bags, reported the New York Times. To retailers, the sudden popularity of shopping bags is a marketing opportunity as customers carry them around like walking billboards to the office, the beach, or restaurants.

Indeed, many young women are treating shopping bags as a second handbag. More and more men, too, can be seen using them to carry items that they otherwise would have stuffed into their jacket or trouser pockets.

Nobody is known to have done a serious study to explain the rise of the lowly shopping bag in the world of haute couture. But there are plenty of commentators and knowledgeable bloggers suggesting that the new breed of shopping bags, because of their reusability, have won a place in the hearts of many young, trendy and environmentally conscious city people.

In the past, most shopping bags, whether plastic or paper, were thin and equipped with crude handles. Few shoppers ever thought twice about throwing away these bags as soon as they got home. Toting a shopping bag around with one's personal belongings inside was definitely not the cool thing to do.

Apparently, the common perception about shopping bags has changed a lot in the past few years along with growing public concern about the environment. As a gesture to preservation, more people began reusing shopping bags for as long as they could last. This change in habit obviously has not gone unnoticed by retailers.

Having bought a pair of shoes at a leading department store in Shanghai, I was pleasantly surprised by the apparent quality and durability of the well-designed shopping bag, emblazoned with the brand's logo. It is made of a plastic-coated fabric with handles of the same material securely sewn onto both sides. I gave it to a friend who has been using it for grocery shopping for several weeks, and it is showing no signs of wear and tear.

Retailers in the United States have reportedly gone to even greater lengths in creating the ultimate shopping bag. Envisioning the shopping bag as "a work of modern art", Saks Fifth Avenue, an up-market department store in Manhattan, hired a renowned graphic artist to create it, reported the New York Times.

Another New York retailer is said to have assigned a team of sales executives and designers on a spare no expense basis to redesign its shopping bags. The team took six months to produce the new design that cost more than twice the industrial average to produce.

Despite the higher costs, shopping bags have remained free of charge. All smart retailers can see that penny-pinching on shopping bags is bad business considering the huge benefits from free advertising.

I am sure there will be people willing to spend thousands of yuan for one of those leather trimmed designer tote bags. For most of us, a durable shopping bag will do just fine. Let us hope the popularity of shopping bag is not just another fad. It is a fashion trend we should all embrace.