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Laura Craik on saving her forever handbag, when school uniform becomes tyranny and fashion’s ferocious copycats

The first designer handbag I ever bought was a precious and foolish thing, a Chanel quilt that cost me a month’s wages. Precious because I loved it, foolish because it was made of white patent leather — it was the most audacious, impractical purchase I’ve ever made.

I don’t recognise that person. In the intervening 20 years, I’ve gone from blowing a grand on a bag to standing in the crisp aisle wondering whether it’s profligate to treat myself to a bag of Tyrrells.

I loved my Chanel bag. For a while, her shiny white patent surface was pristine, unblemished as new snow. And then the biro marks appeared. Weird black smudges began to blight her corners. Life hack: if you’re going to buy a fancy handbag, don’t buy a white one. White handbags are for women with 103 other handbags and a handbag butler.

She was languishing in a cupboard when I read about the Handbag Clinic, which has been mending knackered bags since 2013. I was cynical. Was it worth spending more money on an already expensive purchase whose best days were behind it? Turns out that it was.

“If you’re going to buy a fancy handbag, don’t buy a white one. White handbags are for women with a handbag butler”

That scene in Grease where Olivia Newton-John rocks up in black spandex trousers and purrs, ‘Tell me about it, stud’? That’s my new bag. She’s black now, because she was painted. She’s also been turned into a cross-body bag by adding a longer strap. Her own mother wouldn’t recognise her. I know I didn’t.

Luxury aftercare is a booming business. Sustainability is on everyone’s minds, and if it isn’t, it should be. According to Oxfam, 13 million items of clothing go to landfill every week, a nightmare it’s trying to fix with its Second Hand September initiative.

At the other end of the scale, extending the life of luxury items is crucial to making the industry more sustainable, plus the feel-good factor of transforming a much-loved purchase exceeds the thrill of buying a new one. Designer fashion is now so fiendishly expensive that it ought to last for life. With a bit of aftercare, it can.

Everlasting love: Laura Craik in 2003 with her Chanel bag.

Rip up the school dress code

A 13-year-old girl has made headlines after challenging a teacher’s ruling that her ripped jeans are too ripped, calling the school’s dress code sexist, racist and classist.

Now that schools are back (aah, but for how long?), girls all over the city are feeling similarly vexed at having to wear strict uniforms that feel all the more prescriptive after spending months locked down at home. While some of their complaints are melodramatic (truly, you are not being ‘strangled to death’ by your shirt collar), others feel more justified. Fan as I am of school uniform, even the strictest establishments should allow girls to wear trousers. If nothing else, it would solve the constant ‘your skirt’s too short’ punishments, which have never felt more contentious.

Fashion’s clone of contention

And the winner of this season’s Most Copied Designer award goes to… JW Anderson. Have ever a pair of shoes been more ripped off than his chain loafers?

The distinctive oversized gold links he’s made his trademark (as it were — though alas not legally) are all over the high street, cropping up on everything from lookalike loafers to handbags, albeit in far cruder, uglier form. As London Fashion Week plays out, a reminder to fast fashion retailers to credit/pay the designers they’re using as inspo, for never have they needed the money more.

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