There are handbags and there are Vita Cochran’s bags. There are bags whose genesis is in the world of fashion and there are bags whose genesis is in the world of art. ‘It’ bags swim in the river of fashion, they love the spotlight. Art bags have private lives that are as varied and exotic as their individual owners. This is the charm and allure of Vita’s bags. They aren’t for the faint hearted. Oozing confidence, riffing off all manner of literary, artistic and cultural references, they fulfill a multiplicity of roles in their lucky owners’ lives well beyond a temporal moment in the fashion calendar.
I am a collector of Vita’s bags. One bag leads to another. First there was Otto. Small, jaunty with his nautically striped legs and arms, button eyes, donkey-soft ears, the creature is the perfect receptacle for my blackberry. I am continually fishing around in my work bags to haul him out and I’m always charmed by his happy little face.
Next up I got my Wabi bag – which in its shape-shifting, folding principles, plain exterior, plum interior is full of oriental unstated charm. When I am having a librarian moment I pop a Penguin paperback inside and rejoice in the fact that the orange of the Penguin will complement the variegated stitched brown exterior and only I know this fact. A brainy strategy on Vita’s part. Then came the egg and bird hessian bag. It conjures up a Russian fable in which a charmed red bird or two lay duck blue eggs from which emerge twin Russian princesses. Two of everything was just the encouragement I needed to buy a similarly styled one for a friend. Soon after, I fell into a swoon over the ‘nine-handed’ handbag – a very rare species in Vita’s world. For me it is the ugly-beautiful artifact that exerts a fatal magnetic pull. My darling husband observed my malady and diagnosed the cure for my suffering – he delivered the bag up to me as a Christmas gift.
My nine-handed handbag is something a Surrealist would love. Imagine a coterie of black embroidered gloves held together with red beading and Edwardian buttons destined to live in the ‘after dark’ hours. Nine black gloves, a faint whiff of Chanel’s Cuir de Ruisse perfume. I am to dine with Marie-Laure de Noailles, Charles, her husband, the Vicomte, and their guests, Dali, Man Ray, and a mash-up of the mad and beautiful. This is the perfect bag into which to slip my Elsa Schiaparelli shocking pink lipstick. Comte de Lautréamont, sitting to my right would lean over and ask to see it and say ‘as beautiful as the chance meeting on a dissecting-table of a sewing machine and an umbrella’. There would be clever laughter and I would whisper Vita’s name.
The perfect bag is never just something to hold a lipstick or a mobile phone in–the perfect bag is made to hold one’s imagination. This is the kind that Vita makes and that is why I am hooked.