Shockingly small nano bag questions limits of fashion

When flashy becomes fashionable and “logomania” floods our feeds, French designer Simon Porte Jacquemus stands out in a social media era where Fendi monogram prints and chunky Balenciaga trainers dominate. The designer clearly takes a cheeky, satirical approach to fashion, and has achieved a sort of notoriety for it. 

Take his Summer 2018 oversized sun hat, for example, that helped put his eponymous brand’s name on the map. His Chiquito bag, big enough to carry a phone and keys but no wallet, quickly became an “it bag” in Hollywood, toted by Kim Kardashian West, Rihanna and Priyanka Chopra, just to name a few. 

And in February, the designer pushed the question of functional to a new limit at Paris Fashion Week (PFW) when nano versions of the bag dangled from models’ index fingers. It’s not clear if this fit-for-a-doll purse is available for purchase to the public, but considering it probably is only capable of holding loose change, we’re not sure if anyone plans on trying. 

That is, if no one views the purse as something they’d rather use decoratively. The bag holds next to nothing, but is still fashionable. It represents the designer’s trendy pocketbook, but also is a parody of current pop culture and the mini bag trend, in true Andy Warhol or Jeff Koons fashion. Always posting for a reaction, we wouldn’t put it past Kardashian West if she was photographed carrying a nano Chiquito. Which then raises the question: Where do we draw the line between functional fashion and high art? 

After all, fashion itself is widely considered an art in its own right. Norman Norell, one of America’s most renowned fashion and costume designers, can be quoted as saying, “The best fashion is worthy of the name, 'Art.'” People go to school to study fashion in the same way they’d perfect their hand in visual art or graphic design, and fashion programs are often housed in the same institutions as visual art programs. 

Museums present countless exhibitions celebrating fashion and clothing design — the Metropolitan Museum of Art hosts one of the biggest nights in fashion, after all. Much of the couture we see grace the runways every year are hardly practical. Instead, designers often use Fashion Week as a platform to showcase their creative talents and vision, hoping to end up archived in books and museums one day. Evidently, the line is now blurry. 

But, when you place the word “functional” into the equation, the nano Chiquito is pushing toward visual art. It’s an expression, a symbol, a satire, but it could never carry out the necessary functions of a traditional purse. But when the tables are turned, who’s to say iconic luxury goods like the Hermes Birkin Bag or Louis Vuitton trunk luggage aren’t works of art, as functional as they are? 

Thierry Hermes started his legacy manufacturing high-quality harnesses and bridles for the carriage trade, and Vuitton wanted to make lightweight, easy-to-stack luggage. Fashion houses who got their starts in functionality eventually became household names for their timeless masterpieces. Surely this is what Norell meant.

In the case of Hermes and Vuitton, there is no line. Jacquemus’s nano bag lacks the practicality of other iconic leather goods, but this is not a new concept in the world of fashion. If art is a form of expression, then so is fashion, and to “wear” the nano bag with pride exudes both a literacy in style and a good sense of humor. Some people enjoy realist art, while others prefer abstract, and if you relate more with the latter, then perhaps Jacquemus should be an inspiration. 

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