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Last summer, aback I was answerable with the arduous assignment of affairs Theresa May’s abrogation present from her Cabinet colleagues, I knew beeline abroad what to get her. A handbag.

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It’s the one account you can’t actually go amiss with. The array of affair every woman, whether she be affluent or poor, adolescent or old, consistently appreciates. Article that combines appearance with acumen and, cartel I say, pleasure. Choosing Mrs May’s bag was actually tricky. It had to be luxurious, but not too lavish, archetypal but not dull. And it additionally had to be British. The account didn’t actually amplitude to Mulberry, so in the end I went to my favourite boutique in the world, Liberty, and bought her one of their own designs. Affliction comes to the worst, I figured, she could aways booty it aback and get a acclamation note.

Sarah Vine and four British backpack designers appear the items they accumulate in their totes and their favourite accoutrements as a new exhibition opens (file image)

May’s alone anytime changeable predecessor, Margaret Thatcher was, of course, abundantly associated not aloof with handbags but additionally with the appellation ‘handbagging’, a wearily sexist appellation acclimated by annoyed ministers to call incurring her displeasure. Sadly the V&A doesn’t actually own one of Thatcher’s handbags; the one apparent in its exhibition — which opens abutting anniversary — is on loan. It’s aloof one of the abounding iconic receptacles on affectation in what promises to be an alluring show.

Handbags are a constant affection of mine, maybe alike an obsession. That moment aback you cull out an atramentous clamp and ascertain a continued abandoned concert admission or affair invitation; blanket bottomward an old acquaintance afterwards years at the aback of the cupboard. There is article acceptable about accepting your accomplished apple appropriate there in your hands, in a small, safe space.

My accepted favourite is a nylon Prada from the Nineties, somewhat threadbare, that my best acquaintance was giving to charity. I took it home, sponged it bottomward (it had article indescribable, about actually child-related, in the central pocket) and abounding in the threadbare $.25 with a atramentous Sharpie. Now it’s (almost) as acceptable as new.

There’s additionally the hippy one I bought in Ibiza, the best Anya I got for a long-ago birthday, the Etro I begin in a buzz boutique in Turin — on and on the account goes. Abounding are not appropriate or expensive, but it’s not about money. They are my friends, my own accoutrements for life.

Here, four top backpack designers acknowledge theirs…


Anya Hindmarch

They say an amateur never actually gets into the role until he is cutting the shoes for the part, and I anticipate it’s the aforementioned with a bag. A admirable backpack changes the way you activity yourself. The aboriginal time I accomplished this was at 16 aback my mother gave me one of her old Gucci handbags.

It was fleet pigskin with a red band and I admired the abundant stitching. Added than annihilation I bethink it fabricated me feel rather polished.

Anya Hindmarch (pictured) who is a mother-of-five, explained handbags are for ensuring that you accept aggregate you charge aback you leave the house

As the V&A exhibition shows, with its 300 altar spanning bristles centuries, our allure is longstanding. Why do we adulation the backpack so much? For me it comes bottomward to two things.

First, handbags are there to ensure you accept aggregate you charge aback you leave the house. I’m absorbed by organisation and, as a mother of five, I anticipate there’s a affectionate aspect to this. You charge to accept aggregate with you — from dummies to plasters — to ensure you can attending afterwards those about you.

Second, there’s joy in the craftsmanship. Aloof as men adeptness like a car with a beautifully stitched covering council wheel, women acknowledge the adeptness of a actually acceptable bag.

The bag that afflicted my activity is a covering drawstring duffle I apparent during my gap year in Florence aback I was 18.

I’d never apparent annihilation like it in the UK and I anticipation my accompany would like it, so I took some home. Aggressive by Thatcher’s action spirit of the time, I was anon address my own. Accoutrements can be barmy and fun, but they can additionally act as a affective billboard. In 2007, I advised the ‘I’m not a artificial bag’ canvas bag which was awash in Sainsburys for £5 as an addition to disposable artificial bags.

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Statement: Anya’s I Am A Artificial Bag

I’m captivated it appearance in the V&A exhibition as a moment in history aback collectively we started to realise the accident we were accomplishing to our planet.

We launched a new adaptation of the bag in February address the adapted byword ‘I am a artificial bag’. It’s fabricated from recycled artificial bottles and it took two years to actualize a actual that acquainted comfortable and like a affection canvas. I’m application it as my adaptable appointment at the moment.

Sometimes it’s aloof about creating a actually admirable affair that you’ll appetite to accumulate for ever. Appearance doesn’t save lives but it can empower you.

There is generally an aspect of humour to my designs — that British irony that stops us from demography ourselves too seriously.

Take the accoutrements with smiley faces or those area we’ve bizarre accessories with the hand-beaded cartoon of accepted brands. The Turkish Delight and Walkers crisps versions both affection in the exhibition. They are like little tongue-in-cheek works of art.

As for the accoutrements I’m actually aflame about in the show? My favourites accommodate Winston Churchill’s red despatch box and Thatcher’s atramentous handbag. I already bought one of her accoutrements at auction.

The display I accumulate staring at, however, is the 19th-century cut animate chatelaine — a admirable bit of anatomic jewellery with all the $.25 you charge blind from a belt, including scissors, thimble and accumulative glass.

WHAT’S IN MY BAG TODAY? Lots of labelled pouches — one for PPE, addition for headphones and chargers, addition for jotter and one for aboriginal aid (lip analgesic and Nurofen).


Emma Hill, above artistic administrator at Mulberry and co-founder of Hill & Friends

Emma Hill (pictured) appear her aboriginal artist bag was a nylon Prada that she had adored for months to buy in Milan 

My aboriginal artist bag was an iconic Nineties atramentous nylon Prada with a band so abbreviate it fabricated the bag sit appropriate up in your armpit. I was in my aboriginal 20s and adored for months to buy it for about £200 from the flagship abundance in Milan.

It was my aboriginal able artist acquirement aloft affective to New York and it fabricated me feel so appropriate on every one of the crazy nights I had there!

I accept two favourites in the V&A exhibition — the Hermes Kelly, which is artlessly the best absolute design, and Mulberry Alexa. The Kelly is a archetypal because of its form-meets-function style, with the adeptness to about-face amid flush and downtown, by abrogation the aberration lock accessible or closed.

The aboriginal bag that had an appulse on me was the amber covering purse sewn into my Brownie belt aback I was seven.

I bethink putting the compatible on box beginning and actually admiring that little purse. My army canvas attache from Millets, that I acclimated for school, was addition favourite.

Favourite: Mulberry Alexa

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I bizarre it with graffiti, adornment and drawings. I went on to abstraction appearance but my aboriginal job was as an accessories artist for Burberry.

I’ve formed for abounding altered brands including Mulberry, Calvin Klein and Marc Jacobs. I launched my own label, Hill & Friends, in 2015. These days, I tend to backpack three bags.

At the moment, I’m application our aboriginal Marlow tote in navy, with tonal suede ancillary panels. Central that, I accumulate the bag we aboriginal launched, my Happy Chain bag, with our signature smiley lock on the front. Additionally central my Marlow is our Alphabet Zip Pouch, with metal balloon cast that say ‘HILL’, area I accumulate all the essentials from keys to acclamation cards.

WHAT’S IN MY BAG TODAY? Everything! A packet of squashed oat biscuits, painkillers, a facemask, a canteen of duke gel and acclamation cards shoved in pockets. There are additionally candied wrappers address of my 14-year-old son.


Lulu Guinness

Lulu Guinness (pictured) said she remembers the joy of actuality accustomed a red apparent Gucci accept bag from her mother’s cupboard 

My activity afflicted in 1993 aback I advised the Florist Basket, below. It was a black, cottony glassy backpack shaped like a boutonniere with red clover roses on top. It bent everyone’s imagination, abnormally in America area they alleged it ‘whimsical’, as it was clashing annihilation abroad out there.

The red roses were adamantine to source: I had a beard accent with one on that I admired so I did the detective assignment (without the internet in those days) and eventually begin them in New York. The day the V&A bought the bag was the proudest moment in my life.

Lulu Guinness said the Florist Basket (pictured) afflicted her life 

Awareness of my cast aback went all-embracing and that acclamation gave me the aplomb to accompany my career in fashion. The success of that bag accomplished me to cartel to be different.

Handbags, at the time, were an ample allotment of the appearance industry. But I’d consistently had a affection for bags.

I bethink the joy at actuality accustomed a red apparent Gucci accept bag with a argent brooch from my mother’s cupboard. I put stickers all over it to accomplish it a one-off. I additionally bought one on London’s Portobello Road. Atramentous accoutrements were my abundant adulation so it began, as some of the best careers do, with bathrobe up and attractive glamorous.

WHAT’S IN MY BAG TODAY? In my Goliath Bingo Bag I accept lipstick, keys, masks, pens, duke sanitiser, mirror compact, glasses and sunglasses. Then any arcade — bread, milk — it actually is that big.


Mariya Dykalo, artistic director, Aspinal of London

Mariya Dykalo (pictured) acclaimed her aboriginal year in England by purchasing her aboriginal artist bag, a Jimmy Choo Tahula Hill bag for about £1,200 

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I accept a huge annal of all the accoutrements I’ve advised over the years as able-bodied as my favourite best pieces. Accoutrements are not aloof a different account of a woman’s status, they become allotment of her as well.

My favourite Aspinal bag is the bobcat block fabricated from cellophane recycled acrylic with a miniature assumption bobcat doorknocker. It is aggressive by the acceptable English assumption bobcat arch aperture knockers and bobcat statues of London.

I came to England from the Ukraine in 2004 and to bless my aboriginal year actuality I advised myself to my aboriginal artist bag, a Jimmy Choo Tahula Hill bag which amount me about £1,200. It was the aboriginal bag I fell in adulation with and it was an afflatus aback I started as an abettor artist at Aspinal the afterward year. I was so admiring aback the Duchess of Cambridge was spotted with two versions of one of my designs: the Aspinal Midi Mayfair in both atramentous croc and lilac.

These canicule I backpack two accoutrements — our latest Origami Tote, which is actual accessible and can be bankrupt and acclimated like a clutch. I accumulate this central my ample Marylebone bag.

My favourite bag in the V&A exhibition is the despatch box endemic by Churchill. It looks like an old block with a simple assumption handle and I adulation the actuality that the architecture is still acclimated by today’s Chancellor. It’s the affectionate of around-the-clock archetypal any artist would achievement to create.

WHAT’S IN MY BAG TODAY? A abate clutch, additional my composition bag, two phones, my laptop, magazines and assignment documents, sometimes a brace of additional shoes, a advantageous shake, sunglasses, canteen of baptize and a pencil case. You can see why I like actually big bags!


The Birkin bag: Born aback Hermès arch Jean- Louis Dumas sat abutting to extra Jane Birkin on a flight to London in 1984. She complained no bag akin her needs as a adolescent mother. Dumas sketched one out and this was the actual aboriginal — heavily acclimated by Jane — of many.

Dior Saddle bag: Advised in 1999 by John Galliano, the saddle appearance fabricated this an instantly recognisable archetypal amid celebrities and it was airtight up by Beyonce, Katie Holmes and Paris Hilton.

Fendi Baguette: Advised in 1997, the aboriginal all-around ‘It bag’, this was fabricated to sit beneath the arm in the aforementioned way the French adeptness backpack home a baguette. About 600,000 were awash in the aboriginal ten years.

The Cartier: Afterwards women started accustomed cosmetics about in the Twenties, jewellery houses began creating busy cases for them. This 1958 Cartier gold and design adaptation was aggressive by jewelled Faberge eggs.

Chanel 2.55: Named afterwards its absolution date, February 1955, this was the aboriginal women’s bag to appear with a accept strap, and was advised a assurance of apostasy and freedom. New versions amount added than £5,000.

Calavera skull clutch: Known for her change designs and faculty of fun, London accessories artist Charlotte Olympia’s ‘Calavera’ skull clamp bag from 2015 is tongue-in-cheek chic. A calavera is a adorning skull acclimated in the Mexican anniversary of the Day of the Dead.

Bags: Central Out is at the Victoria & Albert Museum from Saturday, December 12. Tickets from £12,

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