Bags: Inside Out
Victoria and Albert Museum, London
April 25, 2020 – January 31, 2021
On 25 April 2020, the V&A will open Bags: Inside Out, the UK’s most comprehensive exhibition dedicated to the ultimate accessory. From designer handbags to despatch boxes, vanity cases to military rucksacks, the exhibition will explore our longstanding fascination with the bag. Featuring innovative designs from Mulberry to Karl Lagerfeld, statement handbags worn by Margaret Thatcher to Sarah Jessica Parker, the heritage of Hermès to the streetwear of Off-White, and an exclusive look inside the world of the factory and atelier; Bags: Inside Out provides an unprecedented look at this global obsession.
Often projecting bold statements to the outside world whilst concealing our most treasured belongings, the exhibition will explore the function, status and craftsmanship of bags. Examined through around 300 objects varying in scale from tiny purses held on a fingertip to luxurious travel trunks, this thematic exhibition will explore the worldwide heritage of these highly covetable objects from the 16th century to today. The use of bags as a blank canvas for slogans, personal statements and political messages and their role as a public platform to share beliefs and convictions will be represented through objects including an anti-slavery reticule bag from 1825, the ‘I am NOT a Plastic Bag’ tote by Anya Hindmarch and a ‘My Body My Business’ handbag by artist and activist Michele Pred.
Explored through the design process, this section will examine the experimental forms created by designers and the bag’s role as an object of whimsical subversion as well as an opportunity for artistic collaboration. A 17th century purse in the shape of a frog, Thom Browne’s handbag in the form of his dog Hector and a Chanel bag transformed into a milk carton will explore the surrealism and humour evoked through accessories. A hotbed for collaboration, the bag offers an opportunity for experimentation and statement designs.
Collaborations between fashion designers, artists and architects have resulted in innovative and often limited-edition collections such as Prada’s nylon bag reinvented by Japanese architect Kazuyo Sejima, Valextra’s collaboration with Bethan Laura Wood and the ‘International Woman’ suitcase by Tracey Emin for Longchamp. A look to the future will finish the exhibition with designers experimenting with innovative and environmentally sustainable materials including a Stella McCartney backpack made from recycled ocean plastic waste and a bag crafted from decommissioned fire hoses by Elvis and Kresse.