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Catherine Buckland, Handbag Historian, on Handbag Designer 101 Podcast every Tuesday

Updated: Dec 21, 2023




Emily Blumenthal

Host

00:00

Hi and welcome to the Handbag Designer 101 podcast with your host, Emily Blumenthal, handbag designer expert and handbag fairy godmother, where we cover everything about handbags, from making, marketing, designing and talking to handbag designers and industry experts about what it takes to make a successful handbag. Welcome, Catherine Bucklin, to the Handbag Designer 101 podcast. So happy to have you here. I'm so pleased to be here.

Catherine Buckland

Guest

00:30

It's an honor to be here.

Emily Blumenthal

Host

00:32

So, Catherine, you are a handbag research expert, correct?

Catherine Buckland

Guest

00:38

Of course. What of many, I'm sure, yes.

Emily Blumenthal

Host

00:41

So well, today you're the only one and that's all I care about. So there's that fact that I said only one in our room and that's all that matters. So I discovered you and started history handbags talking you when you were at the TassenMuseum RIP, the handbag museum that was in Amsterdam and you just told me a fun fact that you got your masters in handbags. What did you get in masters in what? What was it like? Handbag, what? Well?

Catherine Buckland

Guest

01:08

it was a hand masters in museum studies technically. So that's how I ended up at the TassenMuseum in the first place. So I was just saying I knew I really loved fashion history. I really was interested in that, but I also loved kind of curating and kind of the museum world as a whole.

01:20

So I'm currently based in Amsterdam and I kind of came here to do my masters in museum studies and I knew I wanted to do we had to do an internship as part of the course and I wanted to do something in fashion history and, shockingly, there are no fashion museums in Amsterdam at all. There are no dedicated museums, and the only one at the time which no longer exists, of course, was the handbag museum in Amsterdam. So I did an internship there, completely fell in love with the topic. It's just so wonderful. Like you know, it pushes all my buttons. It's got so many interesting aspects to it that I ended up, yeah, writing my entire basic mind to a course of study on handbags. Particularly, kind of my thesis was about how you do the museums, how do you present them, like open clothes, whatever. Wow, emanuel Persis, that was. It was Shreddingersburg and was the title of my thesis Wow.

Emily Blumenthal

Host

02:02

Wow, you know that is wackadoo, because right now let's see the one in Amsterdam shut. Did the one in Korea shut as well? Yeah, I didn't know that. Oh my goodness. No, I'm asking you, do you know if it? I don't think it did, that's a really good question.

Catherine Buckland

Guest

02:17

I don't know. I hope that was still open Because I yeah, I know I've got the catalogue of that one still Right, but I don't know if it's still open, I wouldn't know, and there's one in Arkansas, yes, which you know totally tracks.

Emily Blumenthal

Host

02:31

So if you're ever to find a hub of fashion, those are the places I would assume Amsterdam, Seoul and Arkansas.

Catherine Buckland

Guest

02:39

So we actually had in the Tussian Museum. In our little like kitchen we used to have a mug from Arkansas. I've no idea how it got into the museum but like it was like a little coffee mug in the morning we used to use it like in the office was mugs from the American handbag.

Emily Blumenthal

Host

02:52

Tea cheers from all the way there Rebetteville. So this is like my kind of crack talk, because I could talk about this all day long. So, in terms of what you've studied and so forth and recognizing the history of the handbag and how it's evolved and so forth, and I would love to just talk a little bit about what you studied and you know the key points in your takeaways of this incredible thesis that, in my mind, should be published and everybody should get their hands on it.

Catherine Buckland

Guest

03:20

It's incredible. Online you can read it for free, if you want, through the University of Amsterdam's website. I can send my LinkedIn if yeah.

Emily Blumenthal

Host

03:26

Well, yeah, I well start counting those downloads, honey bunny, because they're coming. But I'd love to talk about what your angle was in terms of what the history was, because in my opinion, history is absolutely repeating itself, specifically at least to what's happening here after the Spanish flu, and in terms of what's going on with trends and how bags back then, because everybody there was still covered up. It was the first pandemic, first international pandemic. It affected trends and then, once the masks came off and, funnily enough, if you look at those pictures from that pandemic, their masks were under their novos, that over their new ones. Yes, isn't that wild. There's like 20 code things as well. Exactly, oh, my God, those are terrifying looking.

04:11

But the bags back then, post pandemic, one per se, were really really interesting because there were lots of color, lots of patchwork, lots of finding things in the home, because nobody had been out, so everybody had to be very creative and thrifty. There was a lot less structure, there were cross bodies and it was really about fun and whimsy. And so, yeah, and having made myself faux handbag historian in order to speak about this intelligently, in terms of even the evolution of a handbag, like so many people don't even know that the advent of the pocket was revolutionary and how that pissed off so many people and how that affected handbags and how there was a tax for handbags that people don't even know about. So it's pretty wild. So if you could speak a little bit about you know, what you studied and what you know, because I'd love to dive right in- yeah, you've covered a bunch of stuff there.

Catherine Buckland

Guest

05:05

I mean, in the first chapter of my thesis was on the pocket. My thesis was three chapters and I kind of started with the pocket because for me, you know, as I just said, it kind of is the beginning of the handbag. The single carried fashion bag was like to find it all academic, like right, which, yes, that was my first chapter was like kind of the fact that for the first time people were carrying things and accessories. Because you just don't see that for our history. You know, if you look at I mean, as I'm sure you know, if you look at silhouettes, pre-regency period in the UK and kind of all the early 1800s for the rest of the world, I'll do it. Don't refer to that as by the way, because I know like saying we should see in the Victorian era is very British of me.

Emily Blumenthal

Host

05:38

But I think that's that one. No, I think it's amazing and I think maybe, if you can throw in what years? Victorian era, because a lot of people don't know.

Catherine Buckland

Guest

05:46

No, it's right Nor should they technically, I know, completely mad because he's also dating a Brit and always like oh, who's Victorian, who's George? I don't know what the Georgians mean, so I'm always very aware of it.

Emily Blumenthal

Host

05:58

Yeah, not the little George, Not the little tinky George that's out now. No, if you do anything?

Catherine Buckland

Guest

06:04

Yeah for sure. Yeah, but that's kind of where my research started was, yeah, really in the pocket because of the first time. So of course the silhouettes pre-the early 1800s, 1900s, early 1800s, 90th century silhouettes were big enough that you could kind of hide whatever you wanted under your skirt, if you want to, under your dresses. A woman.

06:22

I found this wonderful anecdote that's because this is amazing, like records of all these criminal cases in the UK, kind of in the 16th, 1700s, and of course it's a really useful record seeing what people carried on them, so like pickpockets or like thefts, kind of petty crimes. So you can really see what people had in their pockets and what they had with them. You know it's all the regular stuff, you know your house keys and a bit of change and then some usual whatever. But there was this wonderful case where this woman was caught stealing ducks and she'd put a duck in each pocket and then run away across the fields or whatever with ducks two live ducks in her pockets. So I kind of use that to illustrate quite how big these things are. So you think of pockets particularly, you know, women's pockets. Nowadays you can barely fit your hand in there. Right, right, right, or yeah, in the 1700s, 1800s, you could steal a duck and you could put a duck in your pocket.

Emily Blumenthal

Host

07:06

I mean, if there's ever an inspiration for a silhouette, let me tell you that's it Absolutely yeah.

Catherine Buckland

Guest

07:12

So I kind of I thought that was a really interesting place to start because, yeah, if you suddenly switch from having, you know, enough space to carry whatever you want on you to being kind of very restricted to how small it is, and what I find really interesting is, of course, that you know, if you read kind of popular fashion history or like kind of simplified fashion history and of course I understand why it's very clear, like first we got pockets and then we didn't and it went away completely, it was, of course, not really true. What actually happened is the fashionable silhouette changed and so fashionable women started wearing handbags and so of course it became a class thing. Like this is really do you know the work of Barbara Berman? She did a whole book on pockets. She's fabulous. He hadn't read all of her books the blue one.

Emily Blumenthal

Host

07:50

Yeah, I think I, yeah, I'm sure you you know Of this one.

Catherine Buckland

Guest

07:54

Yeah, yeah, exactly there we go. Yeah, yeah, yeah, that's all my pocket information comes through her, of course, but she makes a really good. There's a really good book, I think, written at the end of the 19th century, which is where the younger woman makes a very disparaging comment that grandma's always in her pocket, she's always digging in her pockets, like it's a very kind of, it's very class-based, it's very kind of unfashionable. You know, you're kind of weighted down, you're carrying all these things with you and kind of the reverse of that is therefore, if you're a fashionable woman, if you're a woman of wealth, you don't need to take things with you. You know it suddenly becomes a thing of oh no, it's fine, I don't need to take my life possessions with me because I can leave them in my house that I own, and I think that's.

Emily Blumenthal

Host

08:30

Well, that's you know, I tell you, to that point I've had this discussion because the first handbag that I invented and I say invent because I got a patent on it and then that made me this reverse handbag historian, because when you get a patent they have to cite all of the other silhouettes per se that can be extrapolated from what you've created.

08:52

So it was like something from 1960, something from 1950, had this piece or that piece and this piece, and recognizing that, because mine wallet-reslip fusion, it shaft over your hand and there was a middle finger ring, whatever. But the whole essence of class and handbags was that you didn't need to technically carry anything because you would buy things on credit, so you wouldn't need to carry change and you had people working for you, so you didn't need to open up your door. So, unless you wanted to have a little undercover lipstick which you didn't want to because you didn't want to stand out too too much theoretically or you'd have someone with you carrying all your stuff Well, exactly, there was a kind of feminist angle of you know, women don't need anything on them Like we've got.

Catherine Buckland

Guest

09:36

We, I'm sorry, no longer work for the handbag museum, but the Tussian Museum had this wonderful like arms person I think it was 1600s that had written on it for the poor and the whole idea was you took it to church and you gave your coins out to the poor on the way to church, but also this beautifully like beaded purse. So of course it was also to show off to everyone. Look how good I am, look how charitable I am, but also look how pretty my handbag is. Like that was way before they had the handbag and it says for the poor. So I mean, everyone knows, you know it's not just you know spending on ice creams on the way home, yeah, yeah, it's essentially the other side.

Emily Blumenthal

Host

10:09

I always say smoke buys mirrors. So there you go. Yeah, exactly.

Catherine Buckland

Guest

10:14

So yeah, so I always find that really interesting kind of entry point into the handbag as a concept, because it really is built out of that idea of class. You know you as a woman, you don't need to open your own front door because you've got footwear to do that. You don't need money because, yes, everything's bought on credit to your husband's name, right, you don't need anything on you really at all, and so you can show off exactly how tiny your handbag is because you know, you see all the poor women, the lower class women weighting down. They carry everything Exactly. I mean, I think Barbara Burma makes this comment or this link that you know, if you think of like waitresses nowadays they're wearing basically pockets. If you look at like you know not just where, you know waiters, people who work in restaurants, people who work in kind of markets.

Emily Blumenthal

Host

10:52

Yeah, because they have the abrens with the bibs and they have right and they have the pockets where they shove everything in and they get really gross.

Catherine Buckland

Guest

10:58

They're so useful, like, oh my God, having one on holiday is insane, but like it is that idea of like your weighted down by the stuff you need to take with you everywhere, which, yeah, if you're like a wealthy woman of fashion, you do not need that. So, any purse you have, anything you're carrying on, you know exactly exactly kind of finger rings, little delicate, tiny things and it does to show how pretty your hands are. They're just definitely what you don't have.

Emily Blumenthal

Host

11:20

Yeah, with the zipper being invented I think it was in 1929, the late 1920s, like that was the whole game changer in terms of what that would mean for handbags and the purpose of protection, because I believe I've misquoted this so I don't want to say it incorrectly but I believe the first zipper on a bag was used through Ford, that it was Hermes who was going to the factory the Ford factory and saw zippers or something and then came back and put it on one of these, the first travel bag per se. That wasn't a box case, you know. So because his wife was like I want one of those, I want to use it to make it with this and I want to zip and da, da, da da. So it's a cool modern.

Catherine Buckland

Guest

12:00

It is interesting. I don't know that story. It sounds it checks out to me, though we had this. If this academic comes to look at our collection of Just Museum a couple of years back and she was doing a whole lot on, like 90th century traveling bags, if you look at adverts from that period, they're amazing. They're amazing, you know, like we had. You know, if you go into, you know, if you start digging through, if you find one like an antique shop or whatever, they're just so full of little tiny pockets and little things like hidden thief proof areas, like it's this real kind of idea of like you know, kind of hiding things, like keeping it secret from thieves and from other people. You know it's that kind of like traveling bags, and so, absolutely I would honestly believe that the first zip was used to protect a travel bag because, yeah, it was this real obsession and I think kind of rightly so that you know a pickpocket would take your precious goods whilst whilst out and about. Certainly, yeah, once he starts becoming more mobile.

Emily Blumenthal

Host

12:47

Yeah, they didn't have the Apple AirTax.

Catherine Buckland

Guest

12:50

They didn't know.

Emily Blumenthal

Host

12:51

No, that's not how it works. So, in your opinion, what created this evolution of carrying the minod years and the drawstring bags and turning it into a movement going from the poor to commercializing it, that everybody then realizing oh, I can embellish what I'm wearing. I?

Catherine Buckland

Guest

13:12

think we've always, certainly you know, as what I was, cisgender women. You know, women have always liked embellishing what they have. You know, if you look throughout history, every woman of every class is. You know, if you think of, like Austin Heroines buying a little bit of ribbons made their bonnet pretty. You know, you see that throughout history people are very you know women particularly very good at changing things a little bit.

13:32

You know, if you look at the 19th century, which is kind of easier, very few women can afford to buy the fashion plates straight out. But you know very few women can, you know, go to Charles Worth and buy a gown. You know that's not really. Except you know you can't really get that. Let's say, nowadays not many of us can go to Chanel and buy something off the catwalk. It's just not really worth a price point as a handbag academic. But you know, in the 19th century you can go to a seamstress with a fashion plate and say, hi, can we make this together? You can do your sack Exactly, yeah Point is a much higher rate of that, and so I think I would say with handbags it always comes from the top downright, Like if you see fashionable women carrying their pretty little drawstring bags. You're going to say, well, I can probably make that myself at home.

14:12

You know there's a big trend, setting towards the late end of the 19th century, of little mesh purses made of like gold mesh. They're incredibly expensive. You can't afford those until the 1920s, yeah, but you can crochet it. You know there are a lot of crochet purses, you know. So that is, I think, throughout history and up until today. You know, if you look at TikTok and all these girls making jeeps of whatever, the same idea I can't buy the thing off the catwalk, I can't buy the thing off the fashion plate, but I can make it my own. I know how to do this. I can add a bit of ribbon this season, I can change the height of this heel or this purse or whatever. And certainly with accessories they're smaller, they're cheaper. You know there's another thing about. You know, during the recession people buy more lipstick and more accessories because they can't afford a full outfit, but they can afford the little things.

Emily Blumenthal

Host

14:52

The inelastic trend of that. But yeah, I think they said that this was the first, obviously the first time the economy dipped with lipstick because we were wearing masks and there's only so much people would invest in if you were indoors. And you know, handbags took a good stabbing during the pandemic because who needed them?

Catherine Buckland

Guest

15:11

But I wouldn't know necessarily, but I would guess that's probably. I think I've seen the uptick in a lot of very impractical accessories post pandemic, because we're all buying things because it's fun. That is too much, I think. You know that definitely. I think we're seeing the switch now is that everyone is, you know, wearing very impractical clothing because the first time we can like, I think it's yeah, I love that concept. You know all these again, you know all these things coming from TikTok and all the rest of these. You know you can wear these impractical fairy grap gowns, you know, full of tulle or whatever, because suddenly we're fantasy dressing, because we can, because we've realized it's very scary and horrible to be stuck through a pandemic. So sod it, let's wear what we want. But have you seen those amazing like dinosaur wicker baskets? I'm obsessed with them. I might have to buy one. I love them.

Emily Blumenthal

Host

15:51

Oh yeah, Well, again that so much speaks to again after the first pandemic, where people were taking household items and weaving them into whimsical bags, especially ones that were item driven, or front and party shapes and so forth. That's back, and everything that everybody said didn't make sense is now technically worthwhile, purely just to stand out.

Catherine Buckland

Guest

16:19

Now, I think so yeah, but wasn't there something about, yeah, people wearing impractical shoes again like high heels, are back in a big way after you know, the last 10 years of wearing everyone wearing flat shoes all the time because suddenly we're like no, I want to wear party clothes, and definitely. You know, if you think about the end of the 1910s, beginning of the 1920s, yeah, you've got a global pandemic, you've got a massive world war that's just ended. You've got what knows how much. Sod it, let's go out and party. There's nothing else left. Yeah, I mean, there's no socialism. That, I think, is kind of coming back as well, given the state of the world right now, oh God.

Emily Blumenthal

Host

16:48

Well, the construct of novelty. And this is the thing that, in terms of learning curve, we as Americans are very limited in terms of the information we are taught or shared with, beyond the fundamentals of world history, that got us to the United States. I really don't know much about the Great Depression's parallel in terms of how that affected handbags, the UK and Europe, and because I know there are a lot of parallels, but there was definitely, from a historical angle, there was definitely a lot going on from the other side of the ocean that we were not privy to.

Catherine Buckland

Guest

17:20

Well, of course the problem with Europe post war was that it was quite literally flattened, which I'm also not saying, coming from the UK. I grew up in the UK and British, and of course the war didn't happen in the UK either. If you come to Europe, everything's flattened. If you look at pictures of Belgium in 1918, there's nothing left. So I think that certainly it's a slower process of rebuilding because you've literally got to rebuild everything from scratch. But I still think there's quite a lot of the same mentality oh, thank God that war is over. Oh, thank God everything's gone, much normal, let's try and have some fun while it lasts, let's try and get back to life as we know it, which I think again has a parallel to trying getting back to life as we know it.

17:56

Now, post-1993 is going on, it's very much. Yeah, this is the first year that kind of certainly anecdotally announced I'm seeing a lot of international tourists. In the last couple years I've had a lot of German tourists, a lot of European tourists, but this year I've seen a lot of American tourists come back to the city. I've seen a lot of Asian tourists come back killing people from outside of. Let me tell you, it's getting.

Emily Blumenthal

Host

18:16

Everyone, as far as I saw, was in Europe this summer. If they weren't in Greece, they were in Portugal. If they were in Portugal, they were in London. If they weren't there, they were in Paris. It was like everyone wanted to be seen. I get it.

Catherine Buckland

Guest

18:28

Yeah, last year was still a bit kind of scary in terms of I forgot, because I went to Italy last year and I looked at my whole big pictures and I was like, oh my God, we sold to first face masks on the train. That's insane. I worked that for a million years ago. I think this is definitely the year where people from outside of Europe are coming back to it as holiday makers. I think vice versa as well. I'd say, but yeah, I think that's also that thing of is it safe? Do I want to Again? I'm sure that's true as now, as it was 100 years ago.

Emily Blumenthal

Host

18:55

In terms of the evolution. You were speaking a little bit about travel bags. Can you speak a little bit about the trends, of what those bags look like, like, what the assets were that made those bags, the unique selling points of what made those bags interesting? Yeah, well, I mean yeah.

Catherine Buckland

Guest

19:11

So I think my personal theory is that I think the handbag comes very much from the 19th century traveling bag. Because if you think about the handbag, if you try and imagine a handbag now, look at the emoji for a handbag. It's kind of this leather purse with a little top handle. Like you know what a handbag is, you get a five year old to draw it and they'll probably draw you something that looks a bit like yeah, it's got a top handle, it's leather and you'd see, leather bags definitely come from travel.

19:33

So in the 19th century, of course, there's an explosion of travel because the first time we have steamships, we have trains, we have all manner of ways of getting around, and again it's suddenly for the middle class. It's not just the upper classes go on their grand tour. Middle classes in Europe and America can go to the coast, they can go. You can cross the ocean. Lots of people do that too. You know, even the third class passengers can still travel great distances. And so of course for that you need something to hold your stuff, obviously, and the way that works is you have your big old steamer trunk that you pack full of all your gowns as a woman and that goes in the hold but you still need stuff to wear or to take with you on deck and then you put things on the train exactly carpet bags. Yeah, that's more kind of working class but exactly the same concept. But if we stick with the upper class woman because she's just I'm just kidding to go.

Emily Blumenthal

Host

20:15

She is not. The upper class woman is not having a DIY bits and bobs, pieces of rug. She is not.

Catherine Buckland

Guest

20:22

And so what she does is she has her steamer trunk, which goes in the hold with her name on. She has her deck steamer, which is the one that goes in her cabin. Her maid will unpack that for her. And of course you also need something herself to carry her stuff with, because the first time this woman herself you know she needs stuff on her, she needs Because she's traveling alone, or she's traveling meeting her husband or whoever Exactly.

20:44

So, for the first time, you haven't got that thing where women are entirely dependent on their, they're on their father's, on their, whatever their male protectors are. The first time, women are taking trains for themselves, they're taking boats and they need stuff with them, and so certainly, if you see things that are described as kind of railway bags, 19th century, that's a handbag. It's a handbag. It's a little leather purse with a little top handle. It's what we understand as a handbag and it's like no, it's basically your trunk, but made small, yeah.

Emily Blumenthal

Host

21:10

So that's the one that they carry in the crick of their arm, exactly, exactly.

Catherine Buckland

Guest

21:14

There you go. So you're watching a steamer board. You're watching one of the fancy people go on board and you're seeing all these fancy ladies with their little curses in their hands. You're like, oh, I want one of those. That's so cool Cigarettes and lipstick, exactly, exactly. So that's kind of end of the 19th century is you get the emergence of the handbag properly. You've got pockets, you've got all these different things, you've got a shat lens also. Yeah, you've got different things before that, but the handbag proper.

21:37

I would definitely trace quite strongly to travel To women's independence. In many ways it's that kind of aspect of, yeah, women are traveling by themselves. Okay, so they've got a maid and they've got, they're on the first class, but they're alone. But they're alone, exactly, and while they cannot rely on their husband's credit because they're on a boat, you know all those kind of things that suddenly you have to consider, right? So that's where the handbag comes from by the 1920s. It's also all about fun. So you know, if you were thinking about your work handbag, the one you take to wear to work every morning, the way you know, the way everyone, every woman, does at the moment, you know you have your work bag and that's got your luncheon, it's got your book, it's got your house keys, it's got your shoulder, it's got your water bottle. But you don't tend to wear that bag out in the evening, right, it's so heavy and it's too bulky or whatever.

Emily Blumenthal

Host

22:17

I just interviewed someone and my favorite line to debunk is when a designer said it's a day-to-night bag and there's truly no such thing. No day and bag really goes tonight, because it's like saying I'm going to wear my backpack to a cocktail party and I'm going to look good, you're not. No, no, no.

Catherine Buckland

Guest

22:37

So and of course kind of well. But the kind of idea of going out in the evening, particularly as a woman comes out, the 1920s you know of course there's things before that but the really kind of the idea of the nightclub and drinking and women's independence again kind of comes out of this post-war concept because quite literally there are fewer men around. You can't wait for a man to shop around you because they're not around, they're all in Belgium ground. So for the first time in 1920s, you see, in all aspects of life, certainly in the UK, it's where women start, which women get the vote post-war in the UK, because of the fact that they've kind of they had to contribute so much during the war effort Took us a little bit longer. So I learned this week that in Belgium it was 1948, so you didn't do that badly, it was.

Emily Blumenthal

Host

23:16

Wow, if I quote Phoebe from Friends, women's suffrage sounds like a bad thing, but really wasn't, so yeah.

Catherine Buckland

Guest

23:23

Well, it wasn't no, it really wasn't Not pro-suffrage person, but yeah. So like in this post-war I think, if you look at I mean, I don't know my history well enough, but I would, yeah, if you look at kind of first world war, that is when a lot of countries start giving women the vote because they're female independence.

Emily Blumenthal

Host

23:37

With this move of female independence, I think, they also needed to, because so many men were killed like they needed somebody to make a decision Powerful voters.

Catherine Buckland

Guest

23:44

You need people, yeah, but, yeah, active women, yeah, for sure they, you know they're fictitious in the population. Maybe they're important, yeah, yeah. But so with that of course comes a news trainer of women and female independence. You don't even need a night bag, you've got a day bag. But now you suddenly need a fun little thing to take in the evening. And oh, we have some wonderful ones in the Tasmian's In Collection.

24:02

I didn't actually have one of these, but I remember reading I forget the actress Tula Banks or someone, had a powder puff that she wore around her neck and then it kind of also held her lipstick. You know all these like ridiculous spritters, yeah, yeah, yeah, whatever you want to. Yeah, you know all these fabulous little toys. That's where the Minier de Air comes from. That's what the 1920s back with in our polls was was painting that term All these kind of silly, little, pretty sparkly things that you want to wear in the evening, which of course you still see. You know, if you look at a red carpet, they're not carrying their day to night bags. Oh, they're carrying little sparkle things. It's, it comes out. It's 1920s idea of women can go out in the evening and have fun.

Emily Blumenthal

Host

24:38

No, and you know we honored Judith Lieber at the Handbag Awards before she passed. She was there with her husband and she actually RSVP'd herself. Well, what had happened was that the Museum of the City of New York had a. I was doing something to honor her, if I'm not mistaken, and I piggybacked on that and orchestrated to honor her and turn into this whole thing, and you know, as a Holocaust survivor, and you know we have to say it is. And but the flip side of that, you know obviously where her creativity and she and her husband were together did the business together and the creativity I think it was a good 30 years until they were actually profitable. So you know, all of that labor and so forth to create this beautiful product didn't actually mean anybody was making money.

Catherine Buckland

Guest

25:25

No, but I think it's also really interesting looking at Judith Lieber and Judith Lieber was again. It's such a silly little, you know her things are so frivolous. You know, in the most respectful way possible, because I love her design 100%.

Emily Blumenthal

Host

25:37

No.

Catherine Buckland

Guest

25:39

If you had to say you know what kind of bags will Holocaust, survivor make? You know, survivor, the Polish ghetto, or whatever you know, and it's this beautiful, sparkly joylessness, it's this froth. So again, I think it's that thing of you know, we all just want something pretty and we want something frivolous. And you don't want to always think about serious things and I think, yeah, again, you know we talk about 90 days, but also certainly post-second more. I imagine that sending is happening. You want that. You've got the deal and you look, you've got all this extravagance. You want to feel pretty, you want to feel extravagant in bigger, small ways. So yeah, I think that's a really good example of exactly, novelty and, yeah, it's thoughtful.

Emily Blumenthal

Host

26:11

Do you know something interesting? And again, I can't speak to this from a UK angle. As a result of having this handbag patent, I have kind of developed this hobby of researching the USPTO the US Patent and Trademark Organizations handbag patents, and it is so fascinating to go down that rabbit hole of seeing when an interior pocket was created and then looking to see what was going on at that time. I had found and I'm still on this hunt, I'm going to turn this into a movie at some point but there was a woman who came from Mississippi who developed a cotton picking bag, but she was not of color, but she managed, but she was a widow. And then she left Mississippi and then married someone in DC who happened to be a patent lawyer and patented a cotton picking bag that was used for the slave trade, for slaves to pick cotton.

27:16

And this whole narrative, what made this woman in particular, giving her the right to actually protect something that had already been used? So and why, and who gave her the right? And trying to decrypt her story and all of these things have so many backstories that tied back to what was going on during that historical time and I think that's why learning more about history, specifically in our case, handbags, has so much value because the why answers so much about the design, and I always challenge designers answer the why, like, if it doesn't answer a why for a solution, like a solution even meaning, like to make you feel good at that moment. But if you can't carry anything she can't afford it, or it's too rigid to fit in now her phone or her lipstick or everything, then you are designing it for nobody. Yeah, definitely.

Catherine Buckland

Guest

28:11

I think that's, but also I think it's unasscessive to scratch that. What was it? The Jacomu one from a few years ago, which just all I see anybody at work carrying one of those. She was just at the office and I was like what a power play to come to the office with a purse that does not carry an absolute thing. It wouldn't even fit my full ring of keys currently.

Emily Blumenthal

Host

28:28

Right, Well, did you the brand recently? They're the ones who developed the red shoes that kind of looked like big bird feet, but they developed I know what you mean, but I don't know the name of it. They developed a handbag that fit on your finger.

Catherine Buckland

Guest

28:42

Oh, brilliant, brilliant, I mean, yeah, I think, ones in circles. A mischief is what people Mischief.

Emily Blumenthal

Host

28:47

Right, right, right, it's MSCHF or something, but it has to always answer a why. And in developing a product, if we go back, everything that was created at that time served a purpose, because there was no such thing as wastage. Right, nothing could be wasted. Which is so wild that now people are getting applauded for using scrubs.

Catherine Buckland

Guest

29:11

Yeah, yeah, I mean the history of fashion. I mean it's always amazing looking at historic clothing, because I think I might be getting this wrong, but I'd say the first example of like underwear, like under clothes and undershirt that we have, certainly in the Netherlands I forget which, james, but it's a King's undershirt from like the 1600s. It's in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. It's insane and the only reason it exists is because it was owned by someone really important, because fabric is so expensive that your goal is cut it down and you're going to use it again. You're going to use it again and again and again.

29:41

So if you look at historic clothing collections of all kinds, usually the stuff that survives are, as with our parents' attics, baby clothes and wedding dresses and stuff that's too small but really expensive. So it's going to be stuff that's so cute and you just can't. You've got an emotional attachment to it or God, I spent so much money on that wedding dress. It has to stay in its box forever. I can never get rid of it.

30:01

So if you look at, like, the collections of any major fashion museums the Rijksmuseum, the V&A, the Met, all of them their early costume collections are mostly really important stuff that people just couldn't try to throw out. So royalty is a really big one, obviously, but also, yeah, a lot of wedding dresses or the baby clothes, a lot of stuff that was too small to be recut into something else, because, yeah, fabric is really expensive. Sewing and making something again is also incredibly precious. So even the wealthiest women will not be earning a lot of dresses in the 17, 800s. So, yeah, we just keep remaking and you remake it until it falls to absolute rags.

Emily Blumenthal

Host

30:37

Yeah, catherine, I would love to have you on again. And then I say no, just because there's absolutely so much for us to cover that I would love us. I'm not even kidding, because I can literally talk about this, and literally is the most overused word right now. I could talk about this all day and all night, I do. I mean, people get so bored of my desire and like, wow, and then what happened the next year? And then, yeah, and that, like I did a TikTok about Loose Sight and the evolution of Loose Sight bags, I have a policy in the hell research post on Loose Sight, I can get her on.

31:15

Yeah, hey, let's rotate the friends, because I knew that the essence of you know, loose Sight was created for airplane windows, but as a result of DuPont having access and someone realizing I could melt the shiz down and turning it into a bag. But, by the way, let's not inhale it because that might be a little dangerous. Let's just make it into a bag, yeah.

Catherine Buckland

Guest

31:38

We had a bunch of Loose Sight in the Tussimus in collection.

Emily Blumenthal

Host

31:41

It's so heavy.

Catherine Buckland

Guest

31:42

It's so heavy, but also like it's insane, because I'm not a chemist, I would not ever pretend to be a scientist of any kind, but my God, like not all of it survived Like we had. So there's this amazing project, these restorers in Amsterdam. They were based around plastic and they're doing this whole exhibition currently on the smell, because you can apparently tell a little about what kind of plastic is based on the smell. And some of our bags were in such a poor state because not all plastics are made equals. They were.

32:07

Now we had bags that were just melting into puddles and we were like, can you do anything? And they're like no, but what do they smell like? Because, oh my God, and they got really excited because, like this one smells like nail varnish. They're like, oh my God, can we borrow this? Like they took, like a bunch of other things, specifically in Loose Sight TM, but definitely our plastic bags from that period, because everyone was just seeing what would stick, because it was such a trend that everyone wants to make a similar version, and plastics are not always particularly shelf stable or whatever you call that. You know, they just do not last. So we had all these bags that were just like melting into just nothing. It was horrid but well interesting.

Emily Blumenthal

Host

32:43

And you know, with old things making comeback, there are so many brands that now claim that they're making Loose Sight bags, but the only part of the bag that's loose site is typically the handle. Because there's no way for the best.

Catherine Buckland

Guest

32:54

I don't, I don't know. I don't love loose sites of material. No, I'll talk to show purses. I don't mind imitation. Now I don't need the tortoise to be in the bag, yeah.

Emily Blumenthal

Host

33:06

No, I actually had a conversation with a designer who was speaking to me about my thoughts on exotics and while Nancy Gonzalez just had a thing about a scenario with exotics I don't know if you're familiar about that that's a scandal to research, very short scandal, but it goes spans many years.

33:24

And I said, if you're going to do exotics again, my opinion I think you're better off doing leather that looks like an exotic, just to avoid anything. And it's so cost prohibitive that you might as well do something that gives the look of, because at the end of the day, you know new designers now have you know, don't always go in thinking you know what. I'm going to research the best place to get affordable materials that give the look and feel of ex. No, they go straight to buying leather that's from Italy, made in Italy, everything's Italian, like who cares if it's the cousin who's originally from Albania doing it on the border? They could still say it's Italy, but meanwhile the price of that is X10 once you tack on the word Italy and the end customer doesn't care until she knows who you are and the why and you've established yourself. So all this goes back to how these bags were made and how they were sought after and how these brands became developed. These fans to carry this lineage For sure.

Catherine Buckland

Guest

34:24

Yeah, it is funny we had so much exotic leather in the Tosem museum collection because so many people would donate it, because they would have. We had so many like complete crocodiles.

Emily Blumenthal

Host

34:34

We have like a bunch of oh, I know the crocodile bags that fold over with the hands and the feet. Yeah, yeah.

Catherine Buckland

Guest

34:39

Yeah, we also had complete armadillos, like it was just an armadillo but you could open it was. It was quite horrifying. And then, like one of its little paws was the handle, we had multiple. I know it was really quite distressing. A lot of glass eyes. It's a little bit haunting. But because you know it was such a fashionable thing, I mean I remember the day my, my colleague and I, because after the museum closed I then spent a year and a half registering the collection, which was a whole thing in my hands. All eight thousand bags went on my table. It was amazing. But my colleague bless her.

Emily Blumenthal

Host

35:08

That should have been an Instagram account. What bag is on my down at table?

Catherine Buckland

Guest

35:12

Yeah, I did not, did not get on that one, but my colleague opened a box and I just heard her kind of like scream and I was like, oh my God, I was out. It's because it was a complete fox, fur pelt Like it was one of those stoles in the 20s, but it's the complete fox, like the front is like the paws and the head and the tail and the paws and it's very lifelike, like particularly not expecting to meet a fox in a museum depot Monday morning, she was. It was quite a shock. We have quite a lot of those because, again, yeah, it was such a fashionable trend to wear, you know, full fox stones or you know carrying armadillo, I don't know.

Emily Blumenthal

Host

35:46

Listen, if she saw it on a Tuesday it would make more sense, but not on a.

Catherine Buckland

Guest

35:50

Monday. You know it's just this Monday, like foxes, it really not a Monday. But yeah, and what we really also saw was a lot of people would kind of write me and this is my grandma, that she bought it on holiday Like there was a lot of kind of put into the 50s and 60s, people would go to Egypt, turkey and in Dutch, indonesia it was a Dutch colony, right Like all these Dutch people would go over there and buy an exotic handbag and then come back and be all proud of their exotic leather, right, and the generation later, their daughter or grand-aunt. So like I don't really want this entire crocodile in my house but I don't want to like chuck it out because, right, right, right, we had boxes full of kind of older exotic purses that just people just didn't want in the house. Because I get it. But yeah, you know the illustration of how much trends can change within a whole generation of like this is exotic or this is creepy and weird, right, let's get it out of the house.

Emily Blumenthal

Host

36:36

Well, I was just in Portugal and you know, again, I consider myself mildly intelligent in terms of which countries and colonies and so forth, but did not know, unfortunately, that Angola was a colony of Portugal and found this antique shop because I like going places where there's dust and scent yes, fact, by the way, can you see it? That's all people, oh, distanch. And his man owned this shop and he's like, yeah, this is all stuff from Angola. And I'm why. And he said well, you know, during when it was a colony, and things that were from Angola, we brought them back and forth and it was just fascinating to see some of the stuff from Angola that was not obviously native to Portugal. And, looking at the stuff from a historic perspective, like you know, what did you bring in from there to here, specifically, much like what you just referenced.

Catherine Buckland

Guest

37:30

Wow, it's really interesting, I suppose, certainly from kind of a fashion perspective, it was cheaper. You know, if you're trying to buy a crocodile leather bag in Amsterdam, that's going to be God knows how many 10 times the price of a crocodile leather bag you buy in Indonesia or in Egypt or in all these places that you can get to quite easily on the steamership.

Emily Blumenthal

Host

37:48

So you know, literally on the steamership like this crawls on and you leave with it on your shoulder.

Catherine Buckland

Guest

37:53

So yeah, it seems to me by. They just kind of hop in and forth. Oh my God, certainly that kind of idea of like cheaper, cheaper materials coming from abroad is definitely like something you see in the 50s and also before, but certainly in terms of the dozen others.

Emily Blumenthal

Host

38:07

Yeah, oh my gosh, Catherine, it has been an absolute pleasure. I'm having you and your loose sight friend. Come on at some point. How can people follow you learn more about a tale called handbag in a dusty museum?

Catherine Buckland

Guest

38:20

So I'm not particularly active in handbags currently, just kind of. I'm currently working for a different museum. But definitely, if you will look at the collection of the handbag museum, the Tossin Museum is online. The most part it's at evocollectioncom. They're currently looking for a new home. So if anyone out there would like to rehouse the collection of the former handbag museum of Amsterdam, they're currently hunting and also, even if you're not, we've got some good pictures up there, so you can, definitely you can stalk and, you know, go some imaginary shopping for sure.

Emily Blumenthal

Host

38:47

And people can follow you on LinkedIn at Catherine Buckland.

Catherine Buckland

Guest

38:51

They can. Yeah, that's true, and I'm also a work for a Dutch fashion platform, Muldermuse, which is fashion and museums editor and sometime blogger there. I blog in English, so if you want to know more about Dutch or Belgian museums that work in fashion, we've also got some good stuff over there, so check out Muldermusecom as well.

Emily Blumenthal

Host

39:08

So that's absolutely brilliant. Thank you, Catherine. We are going to have you back on because we're going to talk decades. I think we just have to go back over. We were all over the shop, but we're going to be more focused the next time, all right, thank you so much and talk to you soon. Thanks for listening. Don't forget to rate and review and follow us on every single platform at Handbag Designer. Thanks so much. See you next time.


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