"I'm not an overhyped luxury handbag"

The Anya Hindmarch eco-tote finally arrives in the United States. Yippee.

Published June 22, 2007 1:40PM (EDT)

Here's a bit of eco-fashion news for your Friday: The much-coveted Anya Hindmarch "I'm not a plastic bag" bag has finally hit American shores. Hindmarch, a British fashion designer whose offerings typically retail for several thousand dollars, says she created the canvas grocery tote -- emblazoned with the words "I'm not a plastic bag" -- to "raise awareness" about recycling and environmental issues. But the bag became a high-style accessory in Britain earlier this year, after it was spotted on the shoulders of celebrities like Keira Knightley.

When Hindmarch's tote went on sale in Britain in April, trend-conscious consumers lined up outside Sainsbury's grocery stores at 3 in the morning. And Wednesday, a similar frenzy began gripping America -- or at least the portion of America that likes to combine conspicuous consumption of handbags with superficial claims of environmental awareness. Despite a two-bags-per-person limit, the stock at Hindmarch's SoHo store quickly sold out, and the $15 bags have already started popping up on eBay for as much as $300.

Ironically, Hindmarch's buzz has been besmirched by accusations that the Chinese-manufactured bags may be unethically made and not particularly environmentally friendly. Although, as touted, they are made of cotton -- not plastic -- the totes are neither organic nor fair trade. And British newspapers have also raised concerns about factory-worker wages (leading Hindmarch to post a response in the FAQ on her Web site).

For consumers interested in making a different kind of statement, British designer Marissa Vandersee has come up with an alternative. It's unlikely that her "I'm not a smug twat" bag will reach similar levels of popularity, but we can dream, can't we?

By Thomas Rogers

Thomas Rogers is Salon's former Arts Editor. He has written for the Globe & Mail, the Village Voice and other publications. He can be reached at @thomasmaxrogers.

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