Human Hair, Glass and Crystals — Are These the Future Makings of a Handbag?

Coperni Fall Winter 2022, Ready to Wear. Photography courtesy of Imaxtree

Designers are using unconventional materials to create surrealist clutches.

Strange fashion is having a moment. Take Schiaparelli’s golden, sci-fi spring couture collection, or Emma Corrin’s latest red carpet moment in a nipple-imitating balloon bra as just two recent examples. Clearly, designers have a new penchant for futurisic kookiness, and surrealist handbags are the fad’s final frontier.

If you need any proof, just look to the stars, who are choosing to wear clutches constructed of unusual materials. Exhibit A: Doja Cat, Kylie Jenner and Tinashe have all been seen with Paris label Coperni’s bag made entirely of handblown glass.

On the red carpet, the likes of Paris Hilton and Julia Fox have accessorized with unconventional handbags. Hilton wore a Swarovski crystal martini purse to the 2022 Grammys, while Fox paired her avant-garde Oscars ensemble with a clutch made of human hair.

Seeing celebrities in such impractical designs and materials has given plenty of fodder to fashion lovers on social media. And, in turn, ushered in a new appreciation for sculptural accessories — of which there are many.

Designer Clio Peppiatt recently introduced a collection of colourful chunky crystal bags; fluorescent cream-coloured pearls are the inspiration behind handbags from labels like London’s Simone Rocha and Los Angeles-based Cult Gaia.

But it’s not all playful confections, as some designers are taking inspiration from more Gothic sources. Take Julia Fox’s neck-gripping Oscars dress, which was created by labels Han Kjøbenhavn and Naomi Gilon. The latter has a knack for including nightmarish, stretched-out hands into their coveted ceramic bags. Designer Saurieng Hatlep takes a similarly eerie approach. Their spiky Knuckles Punch Bag features sharp blades that shoot out at nearly every angle.

This use of unorthodox materials has other benefits, like sustainability and circularity. Clio Peppiatt’s collection, for instance, uses recycled acrylic beads to create the look of hardened sugar. When Julia Fox wore her aforementioned hair-covered purse, French hairstylist Charlie Le Mindu, who designed the piece, wrote on Instagram, “This is how I upcycle human hair.” That’s what I call innovative!

Although the virality of the Coperni glass bag has led to a new fascination for futuristic accessories, surrealist handbags themselves have been around for years. Berlin-based brand Ottolinger has been crafting bags from ceramics and melted-down plastic for some time. But the trend’s growth speaks to fashion’s appetite for individualism and avant-garde dressing.

Are surrealist handbags the future of design? Being able to repurpose everyday materials makes them a strong candidate. Plus, who wouldn’t want an accessory that leaves everyone around you wondering if it’s a weapon, a dessert or a piece of art?

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