Plastic in Fashion


Paper or Plastic? Via. ID Magazine

One of the last places we expect to see plastic bags is within the fashion industry. Fashion is often associated with high-end materials like silk, linen, and cashmere. However, depending upon which trends are in, plastic bags could become an essential part of your trendy outfit. Making poverty glamorous and exotic is often associated with tourism, philanthropy, and fine art. Generally, this happens when wealthier people capitalize on representations of “ghetto,” “slum,” and “no-go” spaces or objects in order to create a “daring” and “chic” look that they then sell to consumers at many times the price the object would traditionally have cost.[1] This allows consumers of means to presents themselves as a distinctive class, in which they can merely flirt with poverty and its associations with race, taking it on and off like a costume without dealing with the structural consequences of poverty.[2]

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Vogue Magazine by Jonathan Daniel Pryce

Creating high-end looks based on working-class resources isn’t just something of the present. As far back as the 1980s, plastic bags were recognized as fashionable. In 1982, an article titled “Russia’s Fashionable Item—The Plastic Bag” reported that there was a “demand among fashion-conscious Muscovites” for all things Western. Among the obvious items—clothing and pop music—was the plastic bag. An article originally published in the London Daily Telegraph noted that “foreign-made plastic bags have become a king of underground currency” and could “fetch $4 or $5” on the Moscow black market. Was this a response to the sanctions at the height of the Cold War? International products had social and political value that spoke to life outside of the Soviet Union. Sometimes, however, practicality took precedence over status. The plastic bag was easy to carry, and Russian consumers “never know when they might see some scarce item of food or clothing” for sale. [3]


Balenciaga just released a new line of plastic supermarket bags — and they’ll cost you $1,150 Via. Business Insider

In the past several years, plastic bags have left the black market and graduated into the realm of top-dollar fashion on the streets of Paris, New York, and Tokyo. More recently, the well-known fashion house Balenciaga debuted their “Supermarket Shoppers,” a plastic bag collection, in winter of 2017. The runway debuted three different bags with text printed across them. One read “The Power of Dreams,” the second, “Europe,” and the third had the brand’s signature “Double B” trademark with the letters “EU” running parallel. The retail price for these bags ranged from $950-$1,150 USD, and they came in two sizes: medium and large. [4] However, this wasn’t the first time that Balenciaga took inspiration from working-class life. In spring of 2017, the house debuted an Ikea-inspired bag (the original is sold at Ikea for $0.99) that was priced at $2,150. [5]

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Shopping Bag – Voo Store X Raf Simons Via. HIGHSNOBIETY

The well-known New York-based designer Raf Simmons collaborated with the fashion boutique Voo located in Berlin, Germany to produce a plastic bag. The “Raf Simmons Shopping Bag” was clear with black font that highlighted an assortment of notable memorable fashion locations in major cities across the globe. This item was sold for the considerably lower price of $176. [6] In February 2018, the brand Céline also debuted a clear plastic bag that was priced at $592. On one hand, these overpriced bags feel like a mockery to the poor. However, journalist Sonja Köllinger and Channing Hardgrove of Teen Vogue have suggested that “Perhaps the labels are pricing these bags as such to remind consumers that plastic bags are not disposable, and we should not handle them wastefully. In the sense of slow fashion: buy less and invest a little more money instead.” [7]





Paper or Plastic                                                                        Fight the Bag



[1] “From Stigma to Brand: Commodifying and Aestheticizing Urban Poverty and Violence.” From Stigma to Brand: Commodifying and Aestheticizing Urban Poverty and Violence – LMU Munich. Accessed May 01, 2018.

[2] Ibid.

[3] “Russia’s Fashionable Item – The Plastic Bag.” Honolulu Star-Bulletin, April 21, 1982. Accessed May 10, 2018. Plastic Bags.

[4] Stanley, Jack. “Balenciaga Releases $1,000 USD Supermarket Bags.” HYPEBEAST. December 12, 2017. Accessed May 01, 2018.

[5] Marriott, Hannah. “Flat-pack Fashion: Ikea Takes Swipe at Balenciaga’s $2,150 Shopping Bag.” The Guardian. April 26, 2017. Accessed May 01, 2018.

[6] Stanley, Jack. “Balenciaga Releases $1,000 USD Supermarket Bags.” HYPEBEAST. December 12, 2017. Accessed May 01, 2018.

[7] Matera, Avery. “Céline Just Released a $590 Plastic Bag.” Teen Vogue. February 20, 2018. Accessed May 01, 2018.