How fashion accessories are finding a new role in the age of social media


Is Louis Vuitton's dollhouse handbag for Spring/Summer 2023 Insta-worthy? Photo: AFP

Should your handbag be practical or Instagrammable? Social network users seem to have made up their minds, so much so that brands are now launching increasingly unusual, eccentric and even completely off-the-wall accessories

From the pigeon bag to pink flamingo stilettos and a dollhouse-style bag, fashion accessories are undergoing an aesthetic revolution to become the stars of social networks.

How Instagram-friendly is your handbag? The social media age has subtly changed our relationship with fashion, giving pride of place to creations that were once considered unusual, weird or totally out there.

And these are much more suited to social media than to a supermarket trip or a day at the office.

This has obviously not escaped the attention of brands, which are now scrambling to come up with the wackiest – and most Instagrammable – accessories that will help their customers score loads of views and likes.

At a time when fashion trends – and micro-trends – come and go at lightning speed on social networks, accessories are on a mission to stand out from the crowd with unusual aesthetics.

And it's a win-win concept for brands and consumers, the former betting on viral hits to spark desire, and the latter reaping the views and likes generated by the said object of their own desire.

While fashion seems more comfortable and functional than ever, accessories stand out as a way to fulfill the more outlandish urges of the younger generations.

As such, shoes, jewellery, headwear and handbags have never been so firmly in the spotlight as at the beginning of this year.

Read more: Move over Barbie, Ariel is now fashion's favourite inspiration

All about the buzz

Less fleeting than trendy clothing, fashion accessories now appear to be a safer investment for consumers.

The success of sneakers bears witness to this since, in the space of a few years, these shoes have become objects of collection and speculation.

Similarly, on social media, it's not uncommon to see outfits comprising fast-fashion clothes accessorised with a luxury bag, shoes or jewellery, showing a definite craze for these items that have the power to transform a look.

Fashion accessories' success is such that, of the top 10 most popular pieces on the global fashion search platform Lyst in the third quarter of 2022, eight were shoes, handbags, belts, eyewear items and the likes.

Faced with this craze, brands are stepping up their creativity to offer pieces that are each more unusual than the next.

Admittedly, as chic as it may be, a classic handbag isn't going to get you noticed on social media, unless you are the only person in the world to own it... But we can't all be Kim Kardashian, so to stand out, you have to go all out.

An observation that has raised the ugly, the cheesy and the extravagant to the top of fashion trends in 2022.

As seen in recent months, handbags have been the first victims of this trend.

There was a pigeon bag from JW Anderson, adopted by none other than Sarah Jessica Parker herself, a dog-shaped bag from Thom Browne, not to mention bags each more eccentric than the next from Balenciaga, one of the fashion houses that has certainly understood everything about social media.

The brand, helmed by Demna Gvasalia, has been busy launching a whole series of eccentric bags, from the speaker bag to the garbage bag with drawstring ties, a bag with an arm sleeve and a bag shaped like a bag of chips.

All come with exorbitant price tags, it goes without saying, and are systematically lauded by fashion fans.

Read more: From low-rise cuts to hot pink, the fashion trends set to lose appeal in 2023

The age of outlandishness

Now, designers seem to be pursuing the extreme, presenting accessories all crazier than ever before.

Handbags and shoes remain the favourite pieces for unusual creations.

Just take a look at Louis Vuitton's dollhouse-like handbag; Moschino's inflatable bubble bag and flamingo stilettos' the Acne Studios bags covered with spikes; the oversized platforms at Vivienne Westwood; or the laced sandals entirely adorned with feathers from Rick Owens.

These were all presented during the Spring/Summer 2023 shows.

But now the phenomenon is branching out to headwear and jewellery, with oversized, flashy, sometimes blinged-out creations, that are ever more Instagrammable.

All these designs won't take long to go viral on social networks, but, let's face it, they're neither practical, comfortable nor especially useful in everyday life.

Riding the subway in rush hour carrying a portable dollhouse or wearing XXL platforms is not the best way to start the day...

As a result, recent months have seen the rise of an unprecedented phenomenon: the emergence of micro-trends that go viral online, but which nobody really wears in real life.

These unusual accessories get hyped up on the internet but have no use, or seem virtually unusable, in the real world.

It's almost like a kind of metaverse before the metaverse, ultimately showing the real potential of these parallel worlds... for the fashion industry, in any case. – AFP Relaxnews

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