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Home > Fashion> Trends > From Churchill's despatch box to a star's Fendi: a handbag show opens in London

From Churchill's despatch box to a star's Fendi: a handbag show opens in London

The Victoria & Albert Museum features 300 bags in its new exhibit, 'Bags: Inside Out', and some of them are spectacular

Visitors look at bags on display during a press preview for the forthcoming exhibition 'Bags: Inside Out' at the Victoria and Albert (V&A) museum in London on December 9, 2020. (AFP)

From the humblest pouch to Birkin bags to Louis Vuitton luggage, a new exhibition in London will explore the function, design and craftsmanship of the accessory that carries our stuff, but can mean so much more.

Despatch Box owned by Winston Churchill, by John Peck & Son, about 1921, London.
Despatch Box owned by Winston Churchill, by John Peck & Son, about 1921, London. (Victoria and Albert Museum, London)

'Bags: Inside Out' at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London features 300 bags, including former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill's despatch box, and the Fendi 'Baguette' carried by actress Sarah Jessica Parker in "Sex and the City."

'Baguette' bag, by Fendi, 2000, Italy.
'Baguette' bag, by Fendi, 2000, Italy.

Delayed eight months by the coronavirus pandemic, the show will now open on Saturday, with all the original exhibits in place.

A visitor looks at bags on display during a press preview for the forthcoming exhibition 'Bags: Inside Out' at the Victoria and Albert (V&A) museum in London on December 9, 2020.
A visitor looks at bags on display during a press preview for the forthcoming exhibition 'Bags: Inside Out' at the Victoria and Albert (V&A) museum in London on December 9, 2020. (AFP)

"The whole world has been affected by this pandemic and the lenders have been really amazing about giving us permission to continue displaying their (objects)," said exhibition curator Dr. Lucia Savi.

Handbags are seen on display at the 'Bags: Inside Out' exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.
Handbags are seen on display at the 'Bags: Inside Out' exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. (Victoria and Albert Museum, London)

The exhibition will show the function, symbolic meaning, design and manufacture of bags through the centuries, Savi said.

'Lait de Coco', evening bag, Karl Lagerfeld, 2014.
'Lait de Coco', evening bag, Karl Lagerfeld, 2014. (Jason Lloyd Evans)

Items were donated by some of the world's biggest designers and fashion houses, including Fendi, Prada and Karl Lagerfeld. Iconic items such as the first ever Hermes 'Birkin' bag, and Mulberry handbags from the private collections of models Alexa Chung and Kate Moss are on display.

A visitor uses a phone to take a selfie with bags bearing slogans exhibited in a case behind during a press preview for the forthcoming exhibition 'Bags: Inside Out' at the Victoria and Albert (V&A) museum in London on December 9, 2020.
A visitor uses a phone to take a selfie with bags bearing slogans exhibited in a case behind during a press preview for the forthcoming exhibition 'Bags: Inside Out' at the Victoria and Albert (V&A) museum in London on December 9, 2020. (AFP)

One quirky bag, designed by artist Damien Hirst for Prada, employs real insects.

Frog Purse, 17th century.
Frog Purse, 17th century. (Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford)

Savi said she hoped the exhibition would show visitors how bags have become a "symbolic expansion of ourselves" and something that people have used "throughout history and across the world."

'Fabergé Egg', evening bag, by Judith Leiber, 1983, US. Museum no. T.511-1997.
'Fabergé Egg', evening bag, by Judith Leiber, 1983, US. Museum no. T.511-1997. (Victoria and Albert Museum, London)

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