Think outside the bag

Toolbox clutch by Elena Scarmagnan

There is something intimate going on between women and their handbags. You could say they’re a woman’s extension, judging by how lost we feel if separated from them: walking and standing feels awkward and unnatural when we’re not holding on to our totes, clutches, purses or shoppers.
For our delight, we have an endless variety to choose from when looking for our next favourite or collecting the right bag for each occasion. Designer handbags are the most widely desired, as they also incorporate craftsmanship, luxury and status. Not many of us, though, can afford a Hermes or a Louis Vuitton piece, yet walking around in the city – in Sydney and in Italy for sure – you’ll see hundreds of designer bags under ladies’ arms. Will all of them be originals? Probably not. Would I spend thousands of dollars and wait years to have a Birkin, after seeing copies in shops and on the street every day? Maybe not.
How, then, do you find a bag that complements your personality and your outfit for a reasonable price, without getting you lost in the mass? My answer is to try vintage shops, or visit the markets, or check out local artists for a handcrafted piece. I believe that is where you should look, until a beautiful Miu Miu bag comes your way.
In the hunt for a unique but affordable bag, you could even look in your own backyard. You would expect to see a bag you love in a shop window, possibly in a magazine, maybe online. Instead, I found mine in the shed.
One day, my partner came home from a trip to a hardware warehouse, proudly carrying a brand-new, 10-piece wrench set, packed neatly in a red metallic box. In my eyes, though, it wasn’t a toolbox, but a gorgeous container that was just waiting for me to transform it into an original accessory. And that is exactly what happened.
The re-baptised handbag won me over with its masculine lines and its shiny metallic coat as bright as red-painted nails. The sharp edges and the steel latch give a strong industrial look, but the proportions of the skinny rectangle make it a perfect, extravagant accessory. It can be worn with a sleek minimalist black outfit; or with heels, jeans and a funky t-shirt; or even with a light and feminine floral dress with some red in it. The obvious handyman reference on a feminine and well-groomed woman instantly creates an androgynous look, not too far away from the tomboy trends recently outlined in press and publications.
When I first carried it, on an evening out for dinner and drinks, I noticed people staring, which is rare in a city where you can walk around barefoot and be ignored. Some might argue it is still a toolbox, and I’ll tell why I think they’re wrong: if I open it, inside you will see a mobile phone, a large wallet, and even a folded cotton cardigan. I say it’s a bag, with a strong personality.

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