When I became a mother, the most noticeable change about me was the size of my handbag. Other than my own paraphernalia of wallet, keys, sunglasses, and a hairbrush, I now had another high-maintenance human to carry things for. So in came crayons, a box of puzzles, a couple of Mr. Men books, baby wipes, a water bottle, and I am sure even the kitchen sink. Lugging a bag the size of a small suitcase is a hard habit to break. Which is why I am wondering what this craze for micro and nano bags is all about.
I mean, how tiny is tiny?
Last week at the grand opening of the Nita Mukesh Ambani Cultural Centre (NMACC), the show-stealer was not Shah Rukh Khan dancing to Pathaan or Varun Dhawan planting a kiss on Gigi Hadid’s cheek. It was actually the rather lovely Radhika Merchant, the new bahu-to-be at the Ambani household, and her itsy-bitsy-squint-or-you-miss-it little purse. The little silver purse, a glittering Hermes Kellymorphose micro bag, could just about fit in a credit card and lipstick (one of these is an extra if you are marrying into the richest family of India. The lipstick is a non nego of course). One would think that a tiny bag would have a tiny price tag. No ma’am, this silver and jewelled number is said to cost Rs52 lakh.
The little bag—more bauble than purse—is an homage to the It bag: The Hermes Kelly, possibly the most famous handbag in the world (it even featured in a full-fledged role in Zoya Akhtar’s sleeper hit Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara). Invented in 1930, it was renamed the Kelly after the princess and actor Grace Kelly used it to hide her baby bump once. It remains one of the most expensive pieces of leather in the world.
But now it seems that fashion brands are competing with each other to out-small the other’s bag. Gucci has its Zumi chain wallet, Dior has a Nano Saddle, Balenciaga has a Mini Wallet on a chain. And Jacquemus, who started this madness, recently laughed at himself with bags the size of cars being ferried around the streets of Paris.
Nano bags are obviously impractical, but when was fashion ever about good, old-fashioned common sense? These little things are meant to remind us that we don’t really need that much in life. They also indulge in the current mood of dopamine dressing, wearing things that fix your mood and make you smile. It is all very poetic and purposeful, so long as it looks good on Instagram.
Little bags scream rich. Nobody walks out of their home with nothing on them. There is probably another bag hidden somewhere or a Man Friday lurking in the shadows carrying the real purse. My grandfather—a reasonably successful man and a lover of fine things—never carried a wallet. I went shirt shopping with him once at a popular label. He must have picked up 20 shirts. When it was time to pay, he told the salesman he had no money, and that his shopping should be kept aside. The chauffeur would return with the payment and pick up the purchase. It was the snobbiest thing I had seen anyone do.
Perhaps the baby purse can stay for a minute knowing it has its history linked to the women’s sexual liberation movement of the 1960s-70s. When women abandoned long skirts for minis, soon enough their handbags began to shrink in size, too. Call it mini, micro, nano or petite, the pint-sized party purse is here for a while.