THE STORY OF THE HANDBAG
by ABARA SG on Mar 25, 2023
Dear Constant Reader,
The last three decades has seen the handbag evolve into an item of unprecedented importance in terms of fashion, culture, as well as business; With the huge leaps in technology making possible the introduction of new materials and textiles for handbags (such as waterproof canvas, modern synthetics, faux exotic skins etc), advancements in the manufacturing processes also meant that handbags could be produced at a lower cost, allowing more people to buy ever more handbags at affordable prices, then any other time in history.
But once upon the dawn of Man, the very first handbags were practical pouches made from leaves and animal hide. Fast forward thousands of years in evolution, we find the first documented use of handbags is from Egyptian hieroglyphics depicting men carrying little sacks around the waists. Yes, the first handbags were likely a man’s accessory, although today, it has become closely associated with women. But as gender norms begin to be redefined, and with fashion becoming more gender fluid, men’s handbags are once again making a comeback, just like how in the 1400s, both men and women used handbags, which were (like purses today) a status symbol. People adorned their handbags with jewellery or embroidery to reflect their wealth and status, and used luxury materials such as silk. Portraits of the affluent and influential people of the time show the precursors of the designer handbag, and were prominently fastened to the dress with tasselled strings, and other decorative items.
In the 1800s, men slowly abandoned handbags when fashion evolved to have built-in pockets in pants, even as hand-held bags became the fashion for women; Called reticules, these fashion accessories complemented the clothes of the time, and fashionable women had different handbags for different occasions, using it to carry perfume, a fan, smelling salts and visiting cards.
The term “handbag” emerged in the 1900s, and was used to describe men’s satchels or briefcases as they headed off for work in urban centres. The term came to be used for women’s bags in the 1920s, replacing “reticule.” In the 1950s, certain brands became closely associated with creating bold, beautiful and elegant handbags, and this evolved into the important designer houses of today: Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Hermes, Fendi and such, with labels commanding a premium price.
ABARA pays tribute to the tradition of the handbag by crafting contemporary iterations that are made of the top quality leathers available, with luxury finishing and classic handbag designs that will stand the test of time.