I play pretty loose with seasonal stuff. This may or may not be a huge stretch to you, but I wear white jeans year-round and even in July I usually have a cashmere sweater around my shoulders, hanging on the back of my chair (freezing office,) or in the backseat of my car. I have gotten really comfortable wearing my Birkenstock sandals in the dead of winter outside. But there is one thing I cannot bring myself to do, and that is to carry my straw bags all year round. I have a very chic friend who does this and it is kind of her signature. She pulls it off fantastically. But for me, straw equals summer. The very first thing I bought this spring was our market bag with bright green leather straps and a nifty pouch. My season opener! It feels so classically French (although I think ours is made in Italy!) I own a few like this already, but they are larger and more like a beach or weekend tote. This one is sized like a large purse, and better-quality I would say. So yes, I needed it.
One of the go-to images in my mind is Jane Birkin carrying her straw basket around. There are dozens of these actually… solo, with her adorable child, with her husband (very cool – but not so adorable,) at the market, at the seaside.. anywhere you could imagine her, she is there carrying that little round bag. They look like they were taken during the same time period or phase of her life. If someone were to zero in on me for any 12-month period, I, too, would be carrying my own bag of the moment. Or at least MY moment. The crossbody Clara I loved in the summer of 2019. Or in 2016, I exclusively carried this yellow leather bucket bag that somehow went with everything I wore. From, say, 2010-2012, I carried a vintage suede Gucci backpack that I really need to dig up again. Going way back, there was a Prada-ish black nylon tote that I used as a diaper bag in 1990. Being the first of my friends to even have a baby, I was too self-conscious to carry a “real” diaper bag. All of those seasons of my life represented by seasons of bags, and all of them seasonless in material. But straw… straw has a season. For me, that season is summer.
I called up my friend Patty to ask her about the history of straw bags in fashion. (She has this amazing vintage business Chasseur NYC, and has shepherded a constant supply of Gucci and Hermès bags from one loving owner to another.) She immediately texted me back a picture – she happened to be sitting at lunch, holding the VERY original in her hand: a Nantucket basket bag. How had I not thought of that one? She went on to tell me that she didn’t remember Gucci making a bag that was woven straw with bamboo handles until 2017, although it happens to be her favorite. Quelle surprise – the Hermes Osier bags came round in 2008. No ancient basket history from the big guns. My favorite that I found in my online search was one for $32,000. It basically looks like a fishing basket. Wow. I might just try to grab one from Orvis.
I have a very structured Kate Spade bag from the mid 2000s that I love. Even more now of course after her passing. To be honest, that bag and the stiff ones from the fancier places remind me of the ones the girls had in their dressup boxes that I would find at yard sales. They usually had painted wooden tops, maybe with an owl staring up at you. Maybe even with gems for eyes. It would have been lined in a cheery summer check. Happy times, but nothing I would want to carry today. (And not even back then, which is why they ended up in the dressup box.)
What I would tell you now, to scratch that straw itch, are a few of our more refined straw bags that I think are so great. Our Paola bucket bag in navy woven raffia. (I wear this tried-and-true shape of ours most often in zebra calf hair… but the giraffe from 5 years ago is still awesome.) It is a very elevated version of straw… but still straw nonetheless. The natural color certainly looks more strawlike. If you like a bigger bag — the Paola is quite petite — we have the same material in a tote. Still summery straw, but softer and smoother and, to me, more modern than those stiff baskets. And for me, the most refined of all of them is the crossbody. Just a chic small envelope bag. Perfect for travel! Make it a set with the bigger tote. Every single one of these is an elegant iteration of straw… the quality is really important here. You don’t want to look like you have purchased the bag at the gift shop on the border of Florida and Alabama (or maybe you do? I happen to love all of that alligator stuff and the orange blossom perfumes at those places.)
Last thing. Straw isn’t just bags, but shoes, too. We made our Joy Mule in this very chic woven raffia that feels more ladylike than country. The two-tone ones are great too. My daughter has a pair of these and has worn them to death — she came over last weekend and I will say they looked very cool with a bikini. Espadrilles are jute I guess, not straw… but I still I think those count. I have been made fun of quite a bit for my closet which is overflowing with espadrille strings. No one can believe my espadrille collection. To be fair, a good amount were bought in Spain for roughly $15 a pair. And I do have 5 daughters to share. Maybe I went a little crazy on that trip. The ones we have been carrying for ages are the Castañers, which are also Spanish but more fashion and less bargain shop. In the summer months they are truly a lifesaver in your closet… they go with nearly everything. Right now, we just have the more novel, decorated ones. It’s that time in the season where we’ve sold through the more basic solids. They make a perfect (and relatively affordable) pick-me up.
Summer is here, and it’s too hot to think about too many more pieces of clothing. 96 degrees in Atlanta right now. Throw on a t-shirt, grab your bit of straw, and enjoy it.
Fanny's into straw too