August 2nd, 2007
Paper, Plastic or Prada?
For fashion-conscious women, every season has an It handbag. Shopping blogs, lunch hours and entire episodes of Sex and the City are devoted to discussing the waiting lists, long lines and bribes to key salespeople often required to get an early shot at the most sought-after Birkin, Marc Jacobs, Balenciaga or Fendi baguette. So when the newest must-have tote, designed by British bag guru Anya Hindmarch, went on sale in England in April, it wasn’t terribly unusual that devotees began lining up at 2 a.m. or that all 20,000 coveted pieces were gone by 9 a.m. What was odd was that instead of queuing up in front of department stores or exclusive boutiques, fashion addicts were camped outside of humdrum supermarkets. And the bag in question was not one of Hindmarch’s luxurious metallic clutches but a $15 canvas tote designed for ferrying groceries home and embroidered with the phrase I’M NOT A PLASTIC BAG.
The frenzy surrounding these limited-edition bags–several would-be owners were trampled in Taipei, Taiwan, in July, the same month in which a mob of Hindmarch fans forced police to shut down a mall in Hong Kong–is the result of a calculated effort to encourage shoppers to use fewer disposable plastic sacks, some 88 billion of which are consumed each year in the U.S. alone, with many ending up stuck in trees, clogging roadside drains and killing the birds and sea creatures that accidentally ingest them. As legislators around the globe debate whether to tax or ban outright these petroleum-based products–which experts estimate take up to 1,000 years to decompose–celebrities have been doing their part to steer consumers down a greener path. This year’s trendy eco-tote has been photographed on the arms of actresses Keira Knightley, Alicia Silverstone and Reese Witherspoon.