I was thinking about these bags a little while ago and wondering what to call them. I was thinking about them because I don't see them as much as I used to. They used to be everywhere and now they're not so much.
I asked people on my Facebook page what the bags are called, and got a lot of interesting answers. Many had a certain similarity, referencing ethnicity and class:
Little Chinese lady bags
Old lady bags
Ghana Gucci bags
In summary, these bags are mostly associated with old people, poor people, and immigrants. The Telegraph did a story on this bag, calling it "the bag of the uprooted" and "the modern equivalent of the battered leather suitcases piled high at the Ellis Island museum."
And then the high-end fashion designers got a hold of it. Jack Spade knocked it off--selling an $85 version called the Canal Street Coal Bag, along with matching accessories like iPhone cases, luggage tags, card holders, and New Era ball caps.
Louis Vuitton knocked it off, too, calling it the Street GM bag--selling for around $600.
And then that knock off was knocked off. As the people most closely associated with this bag--immigrants, elderly, poor--are being replaced by the young and affluent in Manhattan, the bag is literally changing hands, morphing into a status symbol for the rich and their aspirants.
But did the replica of Louis Vuitton's replica of the Chinatown bag ever sell on the streets of Chinatown? A middle-class simulacrum of a luxury simulacrum of the low-end real thing returned to its roots?
Thinking of this the day after the Punk: From Chaos to Couture Met Ball, where "Miley Cyrus, Anne Hathaway and Cameron Diaz were among the celebrities to embrace the punk theme" and "Sarah Jessica Parker donned an oversized feather mohawk by Philip Treacy that complemented her graffiti-splashed and slashed gown by Giles Deacon, which she also paired with custom-made, thigh-high, tartan-plaid Christian Louboutin boots."
The show at the Met includes a reproduction of the piss-filled bathroom at CBGB's.