Published June 19, 2007
NEW YORK – Paper, plastic or Vuitton?
This season's hottest bags are reusable grocery "shopping" bags that carry designer labels and price tags that run upwards of $895.
Stella McCartney and Hermes are among the designers offering reusable totes with the trip to market in mind. Yet, it is the U.S. arrival of British designer Anya Hindmarch's "I am not a plastic bag" tote on Wednesday that has fashionistas in a tizzy.
"It comes at a time when there's a bit of a backlash against 'it' bags, which is something that I've always hated anyway," Hindmarch told FOXNews.com. "And I hope it's becoming cool to be environmentally aware."
Hindmarch's limited-edition canvas bag caused a sensation when it launched in the U.K. in March as part of a nonprofit collaboration with We Are What We Do, a group that encourages individuals to take everyday actions to change the world.
More than 80,000 people lined up to buy one of around 25,000 bags, which retail for $15. Some of them turned up on eBay reselling for nearly $800.
A few thousand of the bags will go on sale Wednesday morning in New York and Los Angeles, with 20,000 more set to hit select Whole Foods on the East Coast on July 18. Emblazoned with blue bubbly writing that says "I am not a plastic bag," the grocery totes are so stylish, they have found fans among the likes of Keira Knightley, model Petra Nemcova and Madonna.
"People are very desperate for them and I think in some ways the scarcity factor probably does cause awareness, which sort of helps, if you like, what we're trying to achieve," Hindmarch said.
Sara Snow, the host of "Get Fresh With Sara Snow" on the Discovery Health Channel, says that the use of reusable bags in America is finally catching on with shoppers who frequent stores like Whole Foods.
"When people ask me 'What are the top three things I can do to start living greener today?' one of the answers is always: 'Start carrying reusable bags everywhere you go,'" Snow said.
A million plastic bags are used every minute worldwide, Snow said, adding that in America alone, 12 million barrels of oil and 14 million trees go into producing paper and plastic bags every year.
It's become easier for U.S. shoppers to adapt with many retailers offering reusable bags for sale at the cash register, Snow said.
Hindmarch envisions her hard-to-get tote as an advertisement for green living.
"It's more about being a walking billboard to persuade people that the real answer to this problem is to reuse and reduce and recycle," Hindmarch said.
She's not alone. Other designers are also finding fans at the nexus of fashionable and green. McCartney's organic shopper retails for $495, Hermes plans to sell a collapsible silk bag that reportedly sells for $960 and Marni carries a $843 nylon bag.
Even Louis Vuitton offers a "That's Love" satin "tote" that retails for $1,720. Actress Scarlett Johansson carries flowers in hers for the company's advertising campaign.
McCartney's shopper is part of a line of clothing made with organic cottons sold in her Los Angeles and New York boutiques.
"Stella has always had lifelong vegetarian principles and a commitment to help protect the environment," said McCartney spokeswoman Arabella Rufino.
"This season bigger bags are going to be in and with the functionality of a shopper, you can take it to the beach or you can take it out for a day of shopping," said Stephanie Rygorsky, a fashion writer for Life&Style Weekly magazine.
But are Americans ready to spend nearly a grand for what is — in essence — a bag that may see itself covered in broken egg?
"I’m not a big designer person when it comes to my reusable bags, but if that’s what it’s going to take to get people to take their bag to the grocery store, then I say go for it," Snow said. "If you have the means to spend $800 bucks on a grocery bag, by all means do it because you will probably carry it every time you go to the store."
That is, if you — and your tote — even plan to step foot in a supermarket.
"Most of the people that can afford a $900 shopping bag aren't doing their own shopping," Rygorsky said. "It’s novel and people will carry it and maybe use it as their work bag when you just need the extra tote to put your notebook and things in on the way to work."