Did Kate Moss stash her stash in a droopy, squashy Balenciaga bag? If she did, she is in good company—all during Fashion Week we saw editors brandishing various versions of these saggy sacks, though we can’t vouch for the fact that they concealed any anything stronger than Valium or Mylanta. But you don’t have to be a drug-addled supermodel—who no doubt gets her purses for free—or a desperate fashionista willing to spend over $1000 to carry the carryall of the season (what W magazine recently dubbed, in a rare flash of wit, “A Bag Called It.”) We are thrilled to report that we’re seeing ersatz Balenciagas all over town these days: There’s one in the window of Strawberry on Union Square, several good examples at the frenetic Foxy Lady on 14th Street, a rack of miniature models across from the escalators at the Astor Place Kmart, and still others for 10 bucks from a guy selling stuff from a cardboard box on the sidewalk across from Penn Station.
But what exactly does this have to do with poor Kate, you might ask? Plenty. Moss, as has been widely reported, has just been dumped from the H&M ad campaign for her pal Stella McCartney’s collaboration with that proudly downmarket venue, and Burberry and Chanel, two of her rather more exalted employers, are purportedly sick of her too—all just because she was photographed doing a line at a party.
Which got us thinking: But isn’t Kate’s louche, vaguely dirty-girl glamour what these advertisers are paying big bucks for in the first place? We have always thought that the success of the Balenciaga bag, along with other récherché styles of the moment, is due to its echo of ’60s chic, exemplified not just by its languid fringes, but by the fact that it’s made of the kind of thin hyde which first gained currency during the Summer of Love. (Back in those days this cheap leather was imported from Afghanistan, along with those famous Afghan coats, so odoriferous you had to keep them on the fire escape.) That’s why everyone from an 80-year-old dowager, too old for the ’60s the first time around, to her 14-year-old grandchild, wants the Balenciaga bag, real or fake: Drug use notwithstanding, this is a bag that says “Swing my fringe and you’re a swinger.”
Still, make no mistake: What made the famous ’60s icons who wore this stuff the first time around—dead waifs like Talitha Getty and Edie Sedgwick—so desperately alluring, so powerfully seductive can be explained in one word—drugs.
We believe that huge, mega-million dollar fashion houses craved the frisson of cool they got when they hired Kate, just the way it was fun to hang out with the bad kids in high school. Until, of course, the party got too rough, and like H&M, Burberry, and Chanel, you called your dad to get you the hell out of there.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on September 20, 2005