Bag Charms Are Back And They’re All Grown Up

5 min read
Balenciaga SS24

Inspired by Miu Miu, Coach and the one and only Jane Birkin, i’m revamping my luxury bags with intention, purpose and, most importantly, personality

I invested in my first ever luxury bag exactly one decade ago. It was a Louis Vuitton Alma PM City bag — a special edition from the brand’s Autumn/Winter 2014 collection, with biker-style bordeaux black leather corners. It cost a good chunk of my salary and has spent most of its lifetime stashed away in its beige dustbag. Don’t get me wrong, I love what it stands for — my independence; my autonomy. But while the bag might be a symbol of my self-determination, what it does not convey is my personal style. It boasts the brown monogram print, the silver padlock and everything else that makes it a quintessential Louis Vuitton. But it isn’t quintessentially ‘me’. Thankfully, a new micro-trend from recent fashion weeks has brought my Alma back into action — with a little makeover, that is.

Coining the term ‘excess-ories’ for the trending, over-the-top aesthetic that embraces individuality and promotes personal style, Net-a-Porter market director Libby Page said that “overstuffed styles are becoming the must-have for work and play,” during a recent presentation. Sure enough, on the Spring/Summer 2024 catwalk, Miu Miu’s bags were overflowing with random items and had chains and knotted ropes fastened to handles, while Balenciaga’s were dripping with keychains — keys included. The trend transitioned to the Autumn/Winter 2024 runway at Coach, where mini bags, apple charms, yellow taxicab ornaments, figures of the Statue of Liberty and even ‘I Love NY’ mugs were all dangling from larger bags. An ode to New York City, these attachments weren’t merely aesthetic (for who in their right mind would affix a bulky ceramic mug to their handbag?) but conveyed deeper messages about identity and heritage — Coach was, after all, founded in New York in 1941.

Coach AW24

This personal element was just what my bag had been missing, so I got to work hunting around my house for prospective charms. In my opinion, shopping for bag charms negates the purpose — they should be conversation-starting items you already own, with stories behind them. Take a look around your home, open your jewellery box, sift through your dresser drawers, look underneath the seats of your car, shake out your kids’ baskets of toys, probe your trinket bowls and clear out any crevices containing knick-knacks — you’re bound to unearth treasures and talismans to affix to your bag.

Dubai-based multidisciplinary artist Elisa Arienti, who recently hosted a bag personalisation workshop with Turkish brand Les Benjamins, believes that the bag charm trend is ideal for showcasing personal style ‘up-close’, be it through the colours, shapes, materials or messages of the charms used. “I like the idea of maximalism in general, and this trend reflects that, adding a three-dimensional look to a flat bag,” she explains.

A simple search of Instagram will show some seemingly bizarre amalgamations of charms dangling from bag handles. Shoelaces tied in sloppy bows, tangled necklaces and a flock of furry animals — oversized plush Pokémon, Tweety Birds and Mickey Mouse characters included — are enlivening luxury bags. AirPod cases and hand sanitisers are some of the more practical additions, and I’ve even seen a pair of stylishly oversized reading glasses slung over a loop attached between two bag handles. Needless to say, inspiration isn’t lacking. And the best part is, there are no rules.

Miu Miu

Charms now attached to my Louis Vuitton include a yellow crochet duck — the first animal name my almost-two-year-old son learned to say. I’ve secured a flower-shaped charm flaunting a blue evil eye bead from my Turkey bachelorette trip on to the strap, as well as a letter H crafted from resin and filled with rose petals and gold flakes. There’s also a small silver charm emblazoned with Allah in Arabic calligraphy — a memento from my grandfather’s New York home, which burned down last summer. Manifesting my dream Sanrio x Louis Vuitton collaboration that may never officially materialise, I’ve completed the concoction of charms with a Hello Kitty-shaped compact mirror — for functionality, of course. The final finishing touch is a tortoiseshell hair clip secured on one of the sturdy leather straps.

Decorative but also utilitarian (and not to mention, a refreshing antidote to the quiet luxury aesthetic that has taken over fashion of late), this micro-trend is a marriage of sentimentality and storytelling. Sought-after luxury bag styles rarely illustrate ideals beyond wealth.

But charms — the ones that are thoughtfully curated — can be a window into the soul of the bag holder, beyond the surface-deep logos that signify little more than status.

Moschino SS24

Creating arm candy out of the seemingly mundane is what gives this trend novelty. It’s also addictive. At a recent playdate, my son toddled over holding my friend’s disorderly clump of keychains, which included a measuring tape and a pastel-coloured kid’s ‘Pop It’ toy, and I had half a mind to ask her if I could take these to add to the handles of my Louis Vuitton — which are growing increasingly cluttered and chaotic. Social media has shown me that more real estate for bag charms can be easily achieved with a carabiner, a piece of equipment most associated with rock climbing.

While it may be a part of the Y2K revival we’re witnessing in the wider fashion industry, the bag charm trend isn’t just for young consumers. For evidence, one need look no further than one of its most prolific proponents: Jane Birkin, who would often decorate her namesake Hermès leather bag with keychains, ribbons, bracelets and even rosary beads. Seeing an image of the latter strikes me with a lightning bolt of inspiration — I own countless rosaries, and like Jane Birkin, I too shall wrap one around the handles of my Alma. Accessorising one’s bag is, after all, a deeply spiritual experience.

Images courtesy of launchmetrics/spotlight

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  • Words by Hafsa Lodi