Tracing the evolution of the humble bumbag
A lavender-toned purse topped with sparkling brooches was wrapped around the waist of a hand-embellished Elie Saab dress on the Haute Couture Week catwalk in Paris last year. Karl Lagerfeld also incorporated skinny belts topped with rectangular pouches, no doubt inspired by bumbags, in his haute couture looks for Chanel. That’s right – bumbags. This typically unfashionable accessory has been given an extravagant makeover, with multiple fashion houses such as Gucci, Prada and Moschino all delivering luxury renditions. And, surprisingly, they’re selling like hot cakes.
The accessory was likely inspired by early Native Americans, who wore buffalo pouches around their waists, or by European lords in the medieval ages, who stored their weapons in pouches attached to their belts. In terms of contemporary fashion, the bumbag has never been deemed as particularly covetable – until now, that is.
Traditionally offered in a slouchy, inverted-trapeze shape, and fitted with zippers and a canvas strap with a buckle, the bumbag went mainstream in the 1980s. Cra ed from neoprene and vinyl textiles, it was a convenient, utilitarian and hands-free alternative to a bulky bag. But it seemed fated to remain in the realm of the unstylish, and by the 1990s, it had become symbolic of out-of-place tourists, dishevelled joggers and flustered motherson-the go. While all indicators suggested that the bumbag had made a hasty (and welcome) retreat into fashion history, over the past few seasons, international brands – Italian, Parisian and Middle Eastern – have shown an eagerness to revive it.
There have been bumbags in glossy jewel tones at Emporio Armani, oversized pouches buttoned onto wide belts at Marni, minimalist drawstring designs at Céline, and leather envelope styles dangling off belts at Stella McCartney. Dubai-based label Bouguessa, which specialises in shirt-dresses and abayas, recently adorned its tunics and trenches with self-tying belts, with removable, oversized pouches attached. Likewise, lace gowns created by Madiyah Al Sharqi for summer 2017 featured matching pastelhued bumbags.
However, if you really want to witness the new-found stardom of the bumbag, observe the ensembles of fashion week ticket-holders, and you will spot the accessory, adorned with designer logos and emblems, around the waists of high-profile fashion editors, designers and influencers. As a matter of fact, the cool new way to wear it is slung over one shoulder, à la Louis Vuitton’s 2017 and 2018 menswear offering. So, men too are at risk of succumbing to the craze – new Hermès, Lanvin and Gucci collections for men all include bumbags.
Some style-conscious consumers are managing to adopt this trend without actually splurging on a designer bumbag. Instead, they’re simply doubling up the shoulder straps of their luxury Fendi or Mulberry handbags, and wrapping them around their waists in a layered fashion, to emulate the appearance of a bumbag. It’s a clever way to cheat the system and still sport the trend. A er all, Gucci’s turquoise-coloured bumbag in quilted velvet may well become a fashion staple this autumn. But will you feel confident enough to fasten it around your waist three years from now? Perhaps not.
THROUGH THE AGES Clockwise from top, the bumbag has come a long way since the 1990s; Marni’s spring/summer 2017 collection featured large belted bumbags; a monochrome iteration by Dubai-based brand Bouguessa