SCMP Saturday, May 12, 2001

On The Rack - bag ladies


Central, 8am. In the span of half an hour, I spot 38 examples of Hong Kong's most pervasive trend on office ladies and grandfathers alike: using a fancy shopping bag to hold those miscellaneous extras you cannot stuff into your briefcase or Louis Vuitton tote.
Street fashion trendspotters have left this one out of their style pages, but in Hong Kong, it's an everyday expression of shopping culture. If you can't shop and run to work at the same time, you can look like you're shopping. A popular choice seems to be a candy-striped Lane Crawford shopping bag, big enough to shove a newspaper in. Polo and I.T are runners-up. Gucci and Prada are harder to spot, perhaps because the certified tai tais have yet to awaken.
''I didn't buy anything from Sasa,'' explains a hurried Miss Cheung, 22, a hotel worker, dragging an overstuffed Sasa Cosmetics bag alongside her black nylon tote. ''A guest left it at the hotel. I thought it was pretty, so I used it.'' The contents of her egalitarian bag: an umbrella and sweater. Why not use a plastic bag from the supermarket? ''It's not good for the ecology,'' she says. ''I'm trying to recycle.'' A populist recycling campaign may be underway - or maybe it's just politically correct to cite practical reasons for reusing shopping bags to carry extra junk.
Personally, I suspect when it comes to extending the life of the shopping experience, status label or designer bag, Hong Kongers know how to work it a second, third, fourth ... time around.