This will never end because designer paper bags are to-die-for and to-be-treasured.
Article taken from The Star, 28th September 09.
A designer paper bag has a different connotation from being a mere goods carrier.
By Kaori Shoji
In a city once known as fashion addict central for Asia, the shop-till-you-drop lifestyle has not only become passé, it’s now also an object of ridicule.
Examples of excessive consumerism no longer draw envious sights; they are now a cue for laughter. Early this year a 33-year-old woman had so crammed her studio apartment with designer shoes, bags and clothing that she couldn’t find the front door and called in a television crew (armed with a crowbar) to come wrestle her out of the choking mass of luxury products while the whole process was aired on a variety show.
Still, the Tokyo Girl insists on having fun, and that has manifested itself in the trend of carrying paper shopping bags in lieu of back-packs and briefcases. And not just any bags, but ones marked with brand logos – the more upscale or upbeat the better.
In Harajuku, Japan’s famous teen stomping grounds, Ayaka Nogami, 17, was toting around a lumpy Prada shopping bag on a recent day. Inside were her school gym clothes, a plastic canister with a vitamin drink and her lunch box.
“It used to be my older sister’s,” Ayaka said. “But it got a little creasy, and so she let me have it for 300 Yen (RM11).”
Ayaka also has a shopping bag from Cecil McBee, a popular girl’s brand, whose flagship boutique is in the famous 109 Building in Shibuya. She procured the bag two months ago when buying a dress and a pair of black summer tights, with money earned from working the register at her neighborhood convenience store.
“This is the bag I save for weekend dates with my boyfriend,” Ayaka says, adding that after each outing she irons the bag – after turning it inside out to avoid burning the logo. And then she folds it away.
“For me, shopping is a special occasion,” she says. “The bag will be a reminder of that day, how I felt when I bought the dress, the whole experience.”
The trend, as it were, is not new. In the early 1980s, teenagers used to carry their school things and sports gear in designer shopping bags, mainly to broadcast their social standing (showing that they could afford these boutiques).
Now, the meaning behind the paper bag syndrome is more nuanced, and tinged with parsimonious romance. Adults and teenagers carry them around to bask in the memory of a shopping (splurging) occasion, partly because the “eco-bag” trend has run its course.
“I don’t really like carrying eco-bags,” says Asami Harada, 24, who works at a bookstore in Shibuya. “I’m concerned about the environment and all that, but I’m not interested in promoting myself as a nature-lover.”
Harada was also carrying a Cecil McBee paper bag and inside were her make-up case, a packet of cigarettes, a paperback to read on the train, a magazine, a small towel, a plastic bottle of water and a box of chocolates. She carries her train pass, wallet, cellphone and handkerchief in a smaller shoulder bag and says that “this is the way women utilize their bags – valuables in a proper bag, and everything else in a paper one.”
It’s typical of the Tokyo femme to divide her belongings into two different camps. Many women carry yet another paper shopping bag for their purchases. These can range from sneakers to radishes to cartons of soy milk – the important thing is to refuse the plastic bags offered and nonchalantly take out a boutique shopping bag.
Akiho Mizuta, a part-time waitress in her late 20s, says, “I think most women have their own personal paper bag hierarchy. The really good ones are for holding personal belongings, the ordinary ones are for holding groceries, the cute ones for using as gift wrappings, etc.”
The paper bags actually constitute a market, and have been auctioned on the Internet for as much as 2,000Yen (RM76) for a large-size Louis Vuitton paper bag. A Cecil McBee shipping bag, whose eye-catching logo is often emblazoned in gold – sells for as much as 800Yen (RM30.60).
It’s little wonder that, in spite of the recession, Tokyo’s closets continue to be crammed to the hilt – less so with Prada and Marc Jacobs dresses than their paper wrappers. If you can’t afford to shop, the best approximation seems to be the memory of having done so and, failing that, even the pretense will do.
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