What’s in a bag?! Beyond practicality, bags have the power to (re)shape our imagination. The way Lady Dior had canonized Princess Diana as a fashion icon or how that plastic shopper had won American Beauty its Oscar. “When you look at the history of any bag, you will find that its development has been largely influenced by trends in art, fashion and society,” states the catalog of the Tassen Museum (Museum of Bags) in Amsterdam. Bags are a serious business, both in terms of market ($167 billion in 2018) and cultural significance as their contemporary lineage goes back to the sexist taboo on pockets in women’s clothing, for example. Prepping my fashion PR seminar at the International Fashion Academy in Paris, I wanted students to work with a bag as a case study. Greatness dwells in the unexpected and keen imagination is a frequent flyer… Voila!
This fall, Rossyia Airlines (Russia’s third largest air carrier) was working with the ground team of Gazpromneft-Aero (one of the world’s largest jet fuel producers) for the airport maintenance competition Aviation Fueling Challenge in Belgrade, Serbia under the guidance of International Air Transport Association. The formal, high-stakes affair needed an element of pizzazz. The corporate giants turned to a small design studio in St. Petersburg for inspiration. Recycled accessories wunder-maker Sasha Polyarus created a messenger bag with a message. #RecycleYourMind… This limited edition was made from tire tubes of jet fueling trucks and styled with decommissioned seat belts. The Polyarus bags served as good luck charms for the Russian team which won the AFC/IATA event! One of these unique bags made its way to France and into my IFA Paris classroom to meet the students in the Global Fashion Media program! #НастроениеПутешествий
Students discussed the PR potential of fashion collaborations for brands outside the fashion industry. Since literally everyone in the room had flown to Paris in pursuit of their dream(s), all could relate to the bag’s narrative of aspiration and transformation. IFA Paris has launched its Fashion Tech Lab and a corresponding degree, so the question of how-exactlynaturally came up as the next fashion generation is becoming increasingly invested in recycling-driven technologies. More than just a story about environmental sustainability concerns, it made the group reflect on the connections to people who make flying possible. “It’s not just pilots and flight attendants just like it’s not just designers and models in fashion!” We ended up scripting a video, ok maybe a YouTube channel, ok how about a Netflix series featuring lives, dreams, skills ‘n talents of airline workers and all kinds of artists in different ecologically pioneering destinations… Not bad for a bag?!
Students asked designer Sasha Polyarus about her experience working on this project:
– The further away you get from “fashion”, the more interesting ideas can be. Every time you follow a different creative trajectory. We had a unique opportunity to work with tubes of jet fuel trucks from St. Petersburg airport. That’s definitely not something you can find at a flee market! I loved their texture. Tubes are round and there is no guarantee how they’d adjust to a new shape. It takes one-on-one negotiation, so to say. You listen to the material to see what could work best for it. It was a fun experience and I am proud of the result.
I loved this case study and hope the collaboration continues! Need ideas? Just ask me and my students 🙂 I’d like to thank Global Fashion Media MBA alumni Alicia Delva, Mitalee Deshpande, Kristen Glover, Jessica Lazarus, Zeïnab Memene, Marilyn Quarshie, Carmela Roberts and Diana Roberts for their in-class contributions. Onward!