It has been said that an ‘it bag’ is only an ‘it bag’ if you’re unlikely to ever own one. Characterised by exclusivity, celebrity and exorbitant price tags, ‘it bags’ were first introduced in the mid 1980s, and by the early 1990s small bags emblazoned with corporate designer logos were the accessories in fashion-conscious circles. Glossy advertising campaigns, glamorous brand ambassadors and celebrity style icons, including Lady Diana, encouraged power-dressing executives with high disposable incomes to snap up these luxury wares.
In critique of this phenomenon, Italian designer Franco Moschino produced a series of handbags that parodied the trend for conspicuous consumption. Among them were witty works such as Hanger shoulder bag, c. 1989, and the Steam iron handbag. Marrying humour and irreverence, Moschino’s surreal visual puns satirised the fashion industry, couture conventions and consumerism. Yet they also drew attention to the social politics of the period, critiquing the stereotypical female clotheshorse and articulating the less glamourous reality that, despite their careers, women remain enslaved to the domestic realm in ways that men do not.
See it today at NGV International in the Mid 20th Century Contemporary Art, Decorative Arts & Paintings Gallery on level 3.
MOSCHINO, Milan (fashion house); Franco MOSCHINO (designer)
Steam iron handbag (1990s)
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased with funds donated by the Bertocchi family, 2015