The fashion world follows unpredictable whims. It’s nearly impossible to identify a throughline that threads all of this season’s style trends, which include vintage rap tees, workwear, roses and floral motifs, and stripes. Designers glom onto concepts seemingly at random, and then those ideas trickle down to the masses; alternately, they find street-level inspirations and then recreate them at higher price points. A recent Balenciaga collection, for example, featured what appears to be a high-end replica of an Ikea shopping bag. The oversized leather tote is an arresting sky blue color and costs $2,200. A spokesperson for the furniture company told The Today Show, “We are deeply flattered that the Balenciaga tote bag resembles the Ikea iconic sustainable blue bag for 99 cents. Nothing beats the versatility of a great big blue bag!” This week, its uncanny resemblance to Ikea’s “FRAKTA” carry-all has inspired dozens of uses of the original tote: hats, thongs, sneakers, and even shorts — because why not?
fit goals pic.twitter.com/b6EOpXI2Y3— PATAGUCCI MANE™✨ (@broazay) May 10, 2017
Balenciaga’s creative director, Denma Gvasalia of Vetements, is something of an auteur when it comes to turning the mundane into the chic. One of Vetements’ earliest ‘viral’ designs was a T-shirt that was almost indistinguishable from a DHL uniform — except, of course, that it cost hundreds of dollars. The brand made a name for itself with cheeky, polarizing re-interpretations of everyday clothing items, from oversized pants created in collaboration with Carhartt to refashioned security guard uniforms that read “Insecurity.” But Gvasalia isn’t the first high-fashion designer to have tinkered with everyday objects. In 2012, Dolce & Gabbana unveiled dresses that looked like burlap sacks at a runway show in New York. The British designer Alexandra Louise Champion Hackett, behind the brand ALCH, was making bucket hats and wallets out of FRAKTA bags as early as 2013. And Louis Vuitton ripped off West African shopping bags in 2015, taking the regional staple and stamping its name on it for $300.
Making clothing from every day objects is perhaps a move towards sustainability, and to that end the trend is at least nominally inspiring. Maybe some day we’ll all wear recycled, recognizable clothing, and maybe some day it won’t take a high-end brand to make that concept cool. The Balenciaga bag and the Ikea streetwear it inspired are part of a noble tradition in which fashion people make inexplicable decisions in pursuit of the intangible goal of style. Like last year’s Supreme brick, reworked Ikea bags stretch the limits of the fashion imagination. I will not be wearing any Ikea-related styles this year, but I salute the brave souls trying weird things so that the rest of us don’t have to.