As Anna Wintour and assorted members of fashion's international elite filed into Fendi’s AW16 show in Milan, they were joined by two unlikely guests: Piro-chan and Bag-Kun, giant fur mascots who had been ‘invited’ by Karl Lagerfeld and Silvia Fendi to celebrate the label’s launch of Japanese-inspired statement mini bags.
After the Fendi show, stylish mini bags (or micro bags) became an overnight trend. A profusion of iterations emerged from the maelstrom, initiating a mini bags trend. Here’s a quick guide to 10 of the best.
Keeping it Kawaii
It’s impossible to talk about the mini bags trend and not start with the Fendi bags that started it all. For Fendi, the trend was the culmination of a three-year experiment with the Japanese idea of Kawaii (which roughly translates to ‘cute’), which began in 2016 with a line of clip-on ‘monsters’ (think Piro-chan and Bag-Kun in miniature). In 2016, Lagerfeld and Fendi took the Kawaii approach to bags, shrinking them down to something little bigger than a credit card and coating them with witty Japanese embellishments such as fur, fluff and sequins.
Chloé bags followed Fendi’s lead with the miniature Drew bag. Launched in the Chloé Resort 2016 collection, the Drew, a compact, organic design that draws the eye to its shapely, saddle-shaped contour, was an immediate success. Embellished with tassels and rough suede, the bag reflects the Americana influences of some of Clare Waight Keller’s previous Chloé collections, and it quickly became a must-have elaboration on the Kawaii trend.
Shrunken style classics
Kawaii wasn't the only way that houses incorporated mini bags into their collections. As the trend gathered steam, many labels simply shrank their most iconic bags. In response to the mini bags trend, Mark Cross shrank its much-loved 'Grace' bag to miniature size and launched its boxy shape into the eager arms of the fashion world. Sophie Hulme bags took a similar approach, rendering the house's iconic, geometric handbags in miniature. Conservative in construction, crafted with a simple envelope design and embellished with understated golden clasps, the Sophie Hulme Albion and Milner mini bags are a classically British companion to their Kawaii-crazy cousins.
Michael Kors' foray into the statement mini bags trend was always going to be one to watch. The house went the route of Mark Cross, redesigning its trademark monogrammed bags in miniature with little alteration. The statement from Michael Kors bags comes from their size alone, showing that styling mini bags is indeed all about referencing the size. It’s not a trend about minimalism – it’s about the luxury of not really needing a bag. As fashion director Marina Larroude said of the trend: ‘All through my life, I’ve seen Carine Roitfeld and Anna Wintour arrive at fashion shows and never carry a bag.'
Keeping it colourful
With such a small canvas, many mini bag designers have used swatches of vivid colour to give their bags added punch. Marni bags made a powerful entry into the world of statement mini bags, in particular with the Trunk bag shown at its AW16/17 collection, which reworked some of the house’s signature tropes (punchy prints and metallic embellishments) into a rambunctious and colourful miniature bag. Also playing with vivid colour, iconic Mansur Gavriel bags were scaled down to tiny versions. The label's famous bucket bags come in a range of vivid primary colours and pastels, perfect for a colour-blocked look.
Departing from colour blocking, but staying with the theme of vivid contrasts, Dolce & Gabbana bags explored the mini bags trend with stylised references to the designers’ Sicilian homeland, a narrative the house has explored since its AW14 'Enchanted Sicily' collection. Adorned with bold, colourful prints and rough tactile detailing, the Dolce & Gabbana Sicily mini bag stylistically reworks and repackages the label’s great themes.
The old guard responds
The mini bags trend even received attention from two classic French houses. Perhaps unsurprisingly, these labels opted to reproduce existing classics in miniature. Saint Laurent, a stalwart of French style, shrank some of its most iconic designs down to size. Its diminutive 'College' chained wallet and mini envelope clutch replicated the trademark Saint Laurent bag with its time-honoured craftsmanship: artfully quilted leather, golden straps and the unmistakable YSL monogram.
Givenchy responded to the trend in a similar fashion to Saint Laurent, shrinking down the iconic Antigona and Pandora Givenchy bags. Constructed from inky black leather, Givenchy’s bags (both regular and miniature size) have always been a dark and tempestuous, typically Parisienne, accessory to any outfit.
Statement mini bags have become one of the defining trends in recent memory. From their Kawaii beginnings, the style has gone down two distinct paths: creating Japanese-inflected looks based on a house’s existing styles or simply shrinking classic bags into miniature. Either way, this signature trend has fuelled a profusion of diverse styles and ultimate freedom in the myriad ways to wear them.