Vintage revivals don’t come prettier than those of the sweetie-colored, gum ball-shaped, plastic beaded, Sixties-hued variety, henceforth known as The Bag of Summer 2018. If you’ve been caught truffling through your mother’s wardrobe in hot pursuit of that old retro handbag you probably dismissed as a teenager, you’ll understand the appeal. Rustic basket bags masquerading as market purchases are all well and good, but beaded bags are their more sophisticated sister in arms.
Hannah Weiland, founder of Shrimps, can be largely credited with the return of beaded arm candy. Her “Antonia” bag, first released as part of her Fall 2016 collection in clear iridescent beads, consistently sells out, but this summer has seen it go viral. “It was an immediate hit with the likes of Alexa Chung and Laura Jackson wearing it,” she recalls. “We made a limited run, so sold out very quickly. For Fall 2017 I then designed the Antonia in cream pearls, which met with an amazing reaction. Matchesfashion.com sold over 100 in a weekend. They’ve since had a very long waiting list, and only ever stay in stock for a few days at a time.”
Weiland was inspired to design the bag as an accoutrement to her signature faux fur coats. “The bag was inspired by the idea of carrying jewelry on your arm,” she says. “It makes you feel special.” The cream pearl iteration is the most popular colorway, particularly in Asia and America, but her new season colurs are already selling well: the black crystal version, for Fall 2018, is a hit in the Vogue office.
Original models still have cachet. Vintage aficionados will have Google alerts on Walborg iterations. Founded in New York in the early 1950s by Hilde Windberg, Walborg’s claim to fame is a line of novelty beaded poodle-shaped purses originally made in Belgium and, subsequently, China. The line then expanded to include a range of beaded macramé designs handmade in West Germany, Italy, France, and Belgium as well as Hong Kong and Japan. At one time, Walborg was one of the biggest handbag brands in the US, with designs ranging in price from $4 to $100. As Windberg told the New York Times in an article published in 1971, in response to the US’s introduction of an import surcharge: “The beaded bag and the tapestry bag will again have their inning. We must remember that next to shoes, handbags are the most important accessories in a women’s wardrobe.”
Her sentiments are echoed by another New Yorker, Susan Alexandra, whose hand-beaded creations have a childish charm. They’re flying into virtual shopping bags and off shelves; Moda Operandi reports that Alexandra’s bags have “performed very well for us in trunkshow [format]” and as a result it has commissioned monogrammable bags for its M’Onogram Mania trunkshow.
Matchesfashion.com reports similar success. “We’ve noticed increased sales in bags with artisanal detailing or special features such as beading, chains, studs, and scarf detailing. The beaded Shrimps Antonia in cream has been a best-seller, and beaded leopard Sensi Studio bags have also been popular,” says Cassie Smart, buying manager for shoes and handbags at the retailer. Add to the list Wai Wai and Rosantica, and stay tuned for its rhinestone-splattered cousin, set to dominate Christmas party season.
Shopping edit by Khaoula Ghanem.