The Balenciaga It bag is a posh version of Thai Sampeng portmanteaus in which you may have carried your laundry.
It’s an age-old sympathetic: you’re shopping online and you come across something purporting to be this season’s It notice. You laugh – both at its appearance (comic, ugly, absurd) and the worth tag (three figures, possibly more). You forget about it, discharge the state of fashion entirely and get back to work. But before sustained, you’re thinking about it, seriously thinking about it, and talking on every side it – competitively – lulled in by some sort of marketing osmosis until you upon you simply have to have it.
It happened with the Vetements DHL T-shirt, which enter into the pictured in all its corporate-logo-parodying glory, and sparked knock-offs on eBay and Instagram-hashtagged DHL vans – and it’s event at Balenciaga this coming season, with their new It bag: a rich version of Thai Sampeng bags in which you may have took your laundry.
This bag costs up £975. While it’s less of a spin on the plastic rainbow-striped inform oning bags than Phoebe Philo’s 2013 blue-and-red tested affairs for Celine, and Raf Simons plastic bags for Jil Sander in 2010, it force probably go viral. Why?
Ari Spool, formerly of Knowyourmeme and now at Giphy, is a undergraduate of internet virals. “Fashion, and especially fashion now, love the tall/low context,” she explains. “While the logo and the bag are unremarkable in one sense, the combat between high fashion and low references are part of this fascination.” The DHL T-shirt – and in theory, the bazar bag by Balenciaga, which shares a artist with Vetements, Demna Gvasalia of the Russian collective – is carefully this: unremarkable and referencing something mainstream and mass, or at scantiest outside of fashion’s net.
It also taps into the way the internet influences trend, with the T-shirt’s success akin to a meme, or at least possessing a memetic quality, judging by the shift from product to hashtag. But, as Spool unravels, it’s not a meme proper “rather it’s a forced meme” and testament to “the power of re-contextualisation”, wherein something – a logo, a copy, an entire product – is taken, repurposed and reproduced, which in orbit changes its meaning and the message. It’s a time-worn tradition
The essence, says Spool, is to have a laugh at our expense: “A few years ago, Dis armoury specialised in putting commercial, everyday objects into zips with a fashion context” – things like Crocs, or medical outfit – “and before long, people were wearing them on the Deign East Side and Orchard Street,” she says. The same passion is starting to happen with this bag – real-life £3 models of the bag are already on Instagram, hashtagged #Balenciaga, which, though knowledgable in their pursuit, are also perpetuating the trend.
Memes in the fad crop up periodically. Earlier this year, a teenager type the entire script of Jerry Seinfeld’s Bee movie (already a Tumblr-generated meme) onto a T-shirt via copypasta. Normcore, make a cases Spool, was memetic for a brief period before being co-opted and analysed by trend forecasters. In the 1990s, John Varvatos propelled the babydoll bedeck into infamy but was probably inspired by Courtney Love, grunge and the dime-store treat look.
These are memes in the purest sense because they come off organically, accidentally and without contrivance. “Appropriation is not mimetic, it is a buying strategy,” says Spool. “By writing about it, you are playing propriety into their hands.”