Once upon a time, the relationship between high-end and high street style was more or less one-way. After the big fashion houses sent their creations out onto the runway every season, high street retailers would quickly scramble to produce more affordable pieces ‘inspired’ by catwalk trends. The idea of that influence flowing in the opposite direction – of niche designers taking their cue from major chains – wasn’t just unheard of, it was laughable.
But in the last few years, that relationship has begun to change. An increasing number of designers now look to the mainstream as an unexpected source of inspiration – and the latest fashion house to do so appears to have gone straight to IKEA.
Balenciaga recently launched its ‘Arena Extra-Large Shopper Tote Bag’, an oversized shopper made from “blue wrinkled, glazed leather”.
Featuring a gold-stamped Balenciaga logo and made in Italy, it retails for the princely sum of £1,671 ($2,145), and bears more than a passing resemblance to the classic Ikea ‘FRAKTA’ carrier bag.
Big, blue and foldable, large FRAKTA bags can be bought for 40p apiece at Ikea stores and online. We’ve long known that they’re perfect for lugging our Ikea hauls to the car after we’ve stocked up on picture frames, bed linens and 17 unnecessary packets of tea lights, but it never occurred to us that they also had high-fashion potential.
Clearly, we were missing a trick.
While Balenciaga did not respond to a request for comment, it wouldn’t be the first time that the brand’s creative director has drawn inspiration from a less-than-haute couture company.
As well as his position at Balenciaga, Demna Gvasalia is also head designer and founder of streetwear label Vetements, which gained cult status for its t-shirts bearing the logo of freight company DHL and its collaborations with sportswear companies Champion and Juicy Couture.
Neither would Gvasalia be the first designer to transform plastic carrier bags into luxury leather accessories. For his Spring/Summer show in 2014, London designer Ashish launched a range of sequinned shoppers inspired by carrier bags from Tesco (‘Disco’), Marks & Spencer (‘S&M’), and Coca Cola, each of which retailed for hundreds of pounds.
Marc Jacobs, meanwhile, created chequered handbags modelled on the classic plastic laundry bag for his Spring/Summer 2017 collection for Louis Vuitton.
The similarity between the Balenciaga and Ikea shoppers was highlighted by Emily Slawek at TODAY, who contacted the Swedish homeware company for their take on the designer handbag.
“We are deeply flattered that the Balenciaga tote bag resembles the Ikea iconic sustainable blue bag,” said an Ikea representative in an email. “Nothing beats the versatility of a great big blue bag!”
Ikea’s founder Ingvar Kamprad apparently created the FRAKTA bag in the hope that customers would be able to carry all of the products they wanted as they walked around the shop. The bags eventually became so popular that the company made them available to buy.
Images: iStock/Ikea, Barneys New York, Rex Features