LIMITED-EDITION EMERALD GREEN ANACONDA SKIN,
a timeless shape, and gold-toned piston snap. A zip closure with matching pulls and detachable shoulder strap. Hand-stitched leather lining with an internal divider and three pockets. Defining a handbag solely by its parts is like describing a person by their limbs: two arms and two legs, finished by feet and hands. It ignores the intangible sum of the individual pieces, that particular mix of heritage, culture, and character that makes each handbag unique. It dismisses the lineage that classifies handbags as more than mere vessels — as, rather, archives of our personal and shared histories.
Specifically, studies suggest a handbag’s ability to activate memory. Even when our grasp of the present slips away, evidence confirms, handbags and the objects they contain anchor us in memories and past identities. They are chronicles of our inner selves and keepers of our secrets. They remain by our sides even in the most challenging of times.
This is an intimacy that can’t be overstated but can perhaps be understood by history. While ancient carvings document the use of pouches as early as 38,000 BCE, the first modern purse didn’t emerge until the 19th century, when concealed pockets suspended from the waist by strings became public vessels that carried the era’s essentials: calling cards, rouge, coins ... The formerly private containers became stylistic expressions that communicate personality, values, and life philosophies.
Our handbags, in a sense, give us away. They declare upon approach who we believe ourselves to be. Their materials and design combine to personify our dreams. Take Anna Karenina’s red bag: Its vibrant color has been said to represent its destructive owner’s passions and pleasures. Or a modern princess who pairs sportswear with an iconic bamboo-handle bag, asserting her refined rebellion via an accessory. The possession of a beautiful handbag, after all, expresses an expectation of realization, a sense of self-agency.
It is a worldly woman who carries a bag with a 50-year heritage, who relishes its maker’s evolution from leather shop to the height of Italian luxury, thanks to artisanal craftsmanship and endless ingenuity. It is a bold individual who flaunts emerald snakeskin at a head-turning scale. At their best, handbags help manifest our model selves, transforming aspirations into reality.
Consider Jackie O and her namesake bag, each publicly elegant and polished, yet enigmatic and private — the embodiment of grace in the face of tragedy. Perhaps it is this deeply human duality that gives handbags their talismanic quality. If their exterior projects our idealized identity, their interior conceals our idiosyncrasies, emotional state, and daily responsibilities. From a dry cleaning receipt, theater tickets, and a key ring to hand sanitizer, a mobile phone, and frangipani perfume, a potpourri of effects can embody a particular life’s season in NYC.
Refracted by years, handbags become powerful time capsules, recalling who we were in a moment — if only to help us better understand who we might become, as elusive as that individual (or task) may be. It is in the present, however, that these poignant objects take on their full potency. A new handbag — distinguished by an emblematic design, iconic namesake, and arresting, limited-edition skin — signals a fresh chapter, characterized by earned wisdom and infinite possibilities.
The editorial staff of Departures was not involved in the creation of this story.
Departures Studio84 is the creative, strategy, and media team at Departures dedicated to bringing merchant partnerships to life.
Bijou Karman Illustrator
Bijou Karman is an artist and illustrator based in Los Angeles. Her work glamorizes vintage style while working to create an equal future for everyone. Through editorials, books, advertising, paintings, and more, she fashions a universe filled with inspiring women, tropical plants, psychedelia, flowers, and everything chic.