KARACHI: They are as much of a fixture as the ‘ladies who lunch’ aka the well-heeled women who dominate the society pages of magazines. Designer bags — dangling from the forearms of socialites — manage to garner their owners a prominent space in the social milieu.
But while bags are usually worn on one’s shoulder, the forearms concept is somewhat new to Pakistan.
Accessory designer Mahin Hussain says, “Handbags are a very feminine item and there is a practical way of carrying it.” But the concept of dangling it, Hussain says, “Dates back to years and years ago, with the concept of vintage bags. The popularity has risen in recent times because bags have been marketed this way. Sometimes I believe it looks stupid, it seems as if you are flaunting it!”
The bags alone scream for attention. Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Hermes and Gucci bags are carried by women at almost every event in the country. The bags cost hundreds of thousands of rupees. The Louis Vuitton Alma bag, which has been spotted on several socialites in Lahore, retails for almost $2,000. A Birkin can cost one anywhere from $7,000 to $100,000.
Hussain says that women often place their designer handbags on restaurant tables while dining out. But why? “It seems like that these people have a limited personality. There is a certain social set-up and these people want to be a part of the crowd. Hanging a bag on one’s arm is mostly associated with women who are over 40. They tend to feel that they have achieved something in life and hence they promote and project their status that way.”
The fixation with monogrammed handbags has also led to a rise in the sales of knockoffs. At Karachi’s Delawala Shopping Centre, a store called Julie Ladies Handbags and Shoes stocks copies of designer bags. The owner, Shaheen Abbas says, “Women tend to look for designer logos and brands when they are buying bags. China-produced bags are affordable and cost between Rs1,500 and Rs2,500. Good copies of Burberry and Louis Vuitton bags are in demand.”
The store also offers the facility to affix designer logos on replica handbags.
Mohammad Ashfaq of Aerosoft House, which is also located at Delawala, says, “Fifty per cent of women want Burberry, Gucci, Guess and D&G bags, but these are imports from China that are available in the market.”
Socialite Neshmia Ahmad says, “Big bags are a status symbol today. I find it very cheap. Moreover, these women tend to change their bag within six months.” As far as the designer label is concerned, Ahmad says, “Everyone wants to be photographed with it and they want to make a statement about it.”
But socialities can part with their arm candy. Donated designer handbags were sold at Labels in Karachi this September to raise funds for flood relief efforts. One of the women behind the initiative, Marium Shams, told The Express Tribune, “Some women donated their brand new handbags from this summer’s collections - things I’d seen in stores - without any qualms.”
Published in The Express Tribune, October 28th, 2010.