Tuesday, 27 December 2011

"Fifty Bags That Changed the World"

Whilst I was out trawling the shops for Christmas presents a few weeks ago, I stumbled by chance across a book that completely intrigued me. "Fifty Bags That Changed the World" is published by the Design Museum and charts the history of bags from 1860 through to 2010. It catalogues 50 bags which it obviously believes have had the most impact on our lives during that time. Some of their choices I would definitely agree with, others have completely passed me by and I am sure most people who aren't fashionistas.

The book starts with the famous budget box that is used each year by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in the UK when the annual budget is announced. I had no idea this iconic briefcase was first used by the politician William Gladstone around 1860. Apparently the case is in such poor condition that it was withdrawn from service following the budget in 2010.

The book moves on covering iconic bags such as carpet bags, saddlebags, doctor's bags, bicycle panniers and gas mask bags, all of which certainly deserve their places in the book. Also mentioned is the introduction of Louis Vuitton's steamer bags which inspired the whole range still available today and the metal mesh handbags of the 1920's. Other noteworthy bags covered are the TWA airline bag, the Hermes Kelly bag and Birkin, as well as the Fendi baguette.

One bag which really captured my interest was the Ferragamo handbag favoured by UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. Who knew that a woman well known for her safe, blue suits carried a designer handbag? I too young at the time to pay any attention to the Iron Lady's fashion choices but looking at the photo of her crocodile skin handbag now, I definitely see her in a whole new light.

Out of the 50 bags mentioned in the book, if I had to choose the one that I feel has had the most impact, positive and negative, on the world it would have to be the plastic shopping bag. The concept was the brainchild of Sten Gustaf Thulin, a Swedish engineer, in the early 1960's. Reigning triumphant in the world of bags for well over 40 years, nobody ever really considered the environmental impact of the countless plastic bags all over the planet. Whilst it is now the villain, there is no getting away from the fact that the humble plastic bag definitely changed the world.

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