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Monday 20th of September 2021

Nairobi, Kenya

Luxury Brand Balenciaga’s $3000 take on the Plastic Storage Bag, Commonly Know as Osuofia Bag

Posted On : September 8, 2021

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A $3000 tote bag by luxury brand Balenciaga has gone viral for its resemblance to a nostalgic and distinctly Kiwi accessory: the blue and red checked plastic storage bags you can buy for under $5.

“My grandmother had expensive taste,” wrote Twitter user @richy_wrld.
“Everyone knows this is the $2 marae blanket bag,” commented Green party co-leader Marama Davidson in response.

Broadcaster Kara Rickard shared a screenshot of the smaller version of the bag on her Instagram Stories, commenting, “What in the marae / nans whare/storage bag is going on here @balenciaga #maraeciaga”.

Balenciaga’s version is made in Italy from calfskin leather with organic cotton lining and is available in two sizes.

While it has obvious similarities to the local plastic bags used to store or transport everything from wool blankets to old clothes, it is actually also a style that is used around the world.

“Based on the quote RTs, I see it is a BIPOC household essential lol. Not just Polys” wrote Te Rina Triponel in the responses to her original tweet.

Around the world, there are various localized names for the style, including “shangazi kaja”, thailas and more. The BBC reported last year that the distinctive bags were popular in markets across West Africa, and are known as the “Ghana Must Go bag”.

“when in the 1980s hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants, most of them Ghanaians, hurriedly stuffed their belongings into them after being given short notice to leave Nigeria, it became known as Ghana Must Go.

A very similar style by Balenciaga had already been called out by Thai consumers in 2016 for its resemblance to the traditional market bags with their distinctive rainbow stripes.

Balenciaga’s designer Demna Gvasalia has become known for his ironic use of every day or capitalist symbols turned into luxury offerings.

In 2016 Demna’s other brand, Vetements, released a £185 slogan T-shirt featuring the DHL logo to much hype and ridicule, depending on what side of the fashion fence you fell (“Scam or subversion?” asked the Guardian at the time).

That was followed in 2017 with a Balenciaga tote bag that looked very similar to the famous bright blue plastic Ikea Frakta shopping bags (the “luxury” version was leather and handmade in Italy).

The brand recently released a neon yellow parka that was pretty much a very expensive version of a high-vis jacket, and last week launched a toolbox case for the Apple iPhone 12 think of it as a high fashion version of trolling.

This also isn’t the first time that the distinctive checked plastic of laundry/market/marae blanket bags has inspired luxury fashion designers.

In 2013 Phoebe Philo of French brand Celine memorably featured the blue, white, and red laundry-bag check on coats and such, while way back in 2007 Louis Vuitton sent models walking down the runway carrying designer versions of the bags.

While some say this is simply fashioned showcasing a sense of humor through parody, embracing high-low, or questioning the true definition of luxury, others criticize the appropriation of an affordable and accessible item, turned into something that is out of reach financially for most.

Balenciaga, owned by Kering, the conglomerate that also owns Gucci, Saint Laurent, Bottega Veneta, Alexander McQueen, and more, is set to open its first New Zealand store in Westfield Newmarket soon.

Content courtesy of  Stuff & Nairobi fashion hub 

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