>> I could almost feel the daggers of hate FLYING towards me when I stepped out with this bad boy on my back in Paris. How? Why? Urgh, what a street style baiter. Not that I need to be all apologetic about it but in my defense, I am merely grabbing the chance to carry what in my mind is the most “me” of Chanel bags to have emerged in recent seasons. The “poor art student” backpack was of course a standout accessory from Karl Lagerfeld’s street-savvy art attack of a SS14 collection for Chanel. The backpack itself has taken a life of its own, having commandeered the windows at colette and many an editorial where levity, sportswear and “street” inspired looks dominate. Full disclosure, Chanel very kindly asked if I would like to borrow a few pieces for the shows and being that this collection in particular got me a little bit hyperactive, to refuse would have been needlessly coy, especially where the backpack is concerned. I wanted to have a go at getting to grips with what is the super heightened successor (at super high prices – these babies start from EUR2,300) to those vintage quilted Chanel backpacks that I used to repeatedly search for on eBay.
Here comes the blurb. It’s a tough sell to ask people to fork out around £2k on what is essentially a canvas backpack but judging by the sales at colette (brisk, I’m told!), clearly there’s an audience that is convinced. It’s made of a thick linen canvas that has been specially printed repeatedly with a “rusty” graffiti effect so that it looks gradiated and faded at different parts. It’s got all the CC reminders a Chanel-O fangirl (or boy) would want with the frayed edged quilting, the silver pendant, the spray painted logo and even “Chanel” printed on the carabiner. Weathered grey leather, not normally something you associate with Chanel, make up the hand-woven handle, luggage and zipper tags. The final bit of Lagerfeld whimsy is a hand-woven scoubidou in vibrant primary hues, to hark back to days of knotting up friendship bracelets and toy section craft kits. “There’s a certain lightness and a certain kind of humour in all this,” says Kaiser Karl.
When Lagerfeld sends out a lego-inspired clutch, a quilted bag on a hula hoop, a Russian doll minaudière or indeed, a faux-arty rucksack, he’s cleverly building up a language of Insta-fashion recognisability, using humour, kitsch and eye-bait to draw you in. They become anchors to Chanel collections, hooking people to a different perspective of those double CC’s. With this canvas rucksack in particular though, Lagerfeld taps into the possibility that a new Chanel customer is rising – one that is younger, slubbier and perhaps even less likely to tote a 2.55 on their shoulder. Scratch the young bit out and that’s me. There’s much to admire in the classic 2.55 – its longevity, the tactile quality of that quilted leather and the way it elevates even the grubbiest of outfits. Whenever I’ve had one (I don’t own one) temporarily on my shoulder, I feel a little like a child walking around in my mother’s shoes or someone who is constantly stepping on the train of a long gown. It’s always felt a bit “prim” for my awks demeanour. The Chanel arty rucksack on the other hand, whilst theme-y, specific and probably the opposite in terms of the values of a 2.55, can be worn with one strap holsted on one shoulder or two straps on both. It can be slung and flung around. You can swing it around the front when you’re hunting for your Oyster Card or dumped on the floor of a caff. As ridiculous as it sounds, when talking about a £2k rucksack, it just feels more like something that fits in to day-to-day functionality. Then there’s the practical issue of its size – DSLR, press releases, and at a squeeze, the Macbook Air too (and I was only toting around the smaller sized backpack). It packs a sizeable punch.
Having tried and tested it the last few days, and having passed by colette at least ten times this week (it’s around the corner from my hotel), I did get a bit of a buyer’s itch. The backpack in two sizes and in three colourways and the matching tote are all available in colette in Paris until March 8th in addition to Chanel boutiques. I have three more days to mull it over. I’ll most probably see sense and go home empty handed sans backpack. It was nice knowing how it felt to fling it around though.