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High-end designers agree: a reusable shopper is totes the new it bag

The most important thing about a social conscience might be showing you have one, so carry your cool with you and swap single-use plastic bags for a reusable shopping tote

01 July 2018 - 00:00 By Jackie May
Gucci's all-natural material shoppers.
Gucci's all-natural material shoppers.
Image: Supplied

Not too long ago you could walk through a busy shopping mall pushing a trolley laden with single-use shopping bags and nobody would bat an eyelid, other than in admiration of your consumerist status. Packed with newly bought deli or supermarket food, clothing and beauty items, the bags showed off your purchasing power and stylish life.

But, thankfully for the planet, things have changed. Now, we have eco-aware, influencer-celebrities like Anne Hathaway, walking around with farmers' market produce and second-hand clothes purchases neatly packed into reusable netted bags and canvas totes.

In paparazzi images, Elizabeth Olsen and Maggie Gyllenhaal are also striding about with totes across their stylish shoulders instead of gripping single-use bags, proving it's possible to give up these plastic and cardboard bags - one easy way to make a difference.

On the street is not the only place this trend is manifested; fashion runways are full of these reusable shoppers too

And on the street is not the only place this trend is manifested; fashion runways are full of these reusable shoppers too. In his swan-song show for Burberry, Christopher Bailey paraded a handful of totes suitable to use as shopping bags and Gucci recently advertised their all-natural material shoppers as part of the launch of #GucciEquilibrium - an online platform to communicate their commitment to "maintaining positive environmental and social impact".

If you're a follower of fashion, you'll know the iconic Ikea FRAKTA tote - the big, cavernous blue one - in which you could carry your small toddler and a month's groceries. If you do have that bag, you'll know it's likely to last so long that you'll be able to carry your grandchild in it one day.

Balenciaga, Martin Margiela, Raf Simons for Jill Sander, Chanel, Marc Jacobs at Louis Vuitton and COMME des GARÇONS have all released versions of shopping bags, too.

So what is the reusable shopping bag trend about? In some cases, like the transparent Celine bag it's an anti-IT bag statement. But it's also a reflection of the trend to show that we care ... about everything from the planet to the diminishing resources available to many people who live on it.

The National Geographic's Planet or Plastic? cover and the #BeatPlasticPollution campaign have both drawn attention this year to the crisis of plastic waste and its effect on our environment. In South Africa we use eight billion plastic shopping bags a year, most of which aren't recycled. They end up clogging waterways or endangering marine life.

Recent studies estimate that a business-as-usual scenario will lead to our oceans having more plastic, by weight, than fish, by 2050. With this awareness growing, more and more consumers are refusing to use single-use plastic items, like shopping bags.

Last week Minister of Environmental Affairs Edna Molewa said her department was reviewing the country's plastic-bags policy. The Western Cape has announced a motion to pass provincial legislation to ban non-recyclable bags. The Two Oceans Aquarium in Cape Town has been running a campaign for 10 years encouraging people to give up single-use plastic shopping bags.

So what are the alternatives to single-use shopping bags? There are many. Choose well and you'll have one that lasts and looks good.

The canvas tote seems to be the choice of the moment. When stylish South Korean millennials buy out the canvas tote bags on offer at the London Review of Books in its London bookshop, you know something's up. The store told New York Magazine that the Korean tag for the bookstore on Instagram turned up pages and pages of photographs of the bag slung over chic shoulders.

Local brand Mevrou & Co's clever shopper is also bound to impress. A portion of the proceeds of the sale of the reusable denim "Sies, man" shopping tote goes to The Beach Co-op, a nonprofit organisation on a mission to reduce and eliminate single-use plastic.

Don't for a minute think you've given up your status symbol. The single-use shopping bags you've been using may have offered fleeting signifiers of who you are, but reusable tote bags offer branding moments too - except they last forever and tell us about what you read, where you shop and what museums you visit.

SHOPPING BAGS YOU TOTES HAVE TO HAVE

Woolworths Madiba shopper.
Woolworths Madiba shopper.
Image: Woolworths

WOOLWORTHS MADIBA SHOPPER

This reusable shopper, R40, is made locally from recycled plastic to help combat single-use plastic bags. Made by bags4good and available at Woolworths, the bag commemorates Nelson Mandela's 100th birthday. Woolworths is aiming to donate R1-million from the sale of these bags
(R10 a bag) to the Nelson Mandela Foundation's Caring4Girls programme.

Skinny laMinx Alexander Sacks.
Skinny laMinx Alexander Sacks.
Image: Supplied

SKINNY LAMINX ALEXANDER SACKS

Skinny laMinx Alexander Sacks, R695, are designed and made in Cape Town and are perfect as a shopper. The bag has massive capacity, and to hold all those bottles of bubbly there's an extra base panel for strength, to which the straps are attached.

Recycled tote bag from The Joinery.
Recycled tote bag from The Joinery.
Image: Supplied

THE JOINERY'S RECYCLED TOTE

This recycled tote bag, R65, from The Joinery is made from five plastic bottles previously destined for landfill. 

Mevrou & Co's 'Sies, man' shopping tote.
Mevrou & Co's 'Sies, man' shopping tote.
Image: Supplied

MEVROU & CO'S 'SIES, MAN' TOTE

For daily groceries the 100% cotton canvas bag, R175, from Mevrou & Co and is perfect for a last-minute pop to the shops. A portion of the profits will be donated to @thebeachco_op to help increase awareness with regard to reducing use of single-use plastics and cover the costs of their beach clean-ups.

Township's Enka shopping bag.
Township's Enka shopping bag.
Image: township.co.za

TOWNSHIP'S ENKA SHOPPER

The Enka shopping bag, R350 from Township, features the municipality code of Enkanini, or "Land of the Stubborn", the biggest informal settlement in Khayelitsha. Faced with regular forced removals, residents defied police by forming human shields around their homes. All items are fully lined with Khayelitsha print. 

Eco-friendly Hemporium shopper.
Eco-friendly Hemporium shopper.
Image: Supplied

HEMPORIUM SHOPPER

The eco-friendly Hemporium shopper, R75, is made in Cape Town from a 55% hemp, 45% organic cotton blend. Durable and long-lasting, it's the perfect way to reduce your plastic consumption and tread more lightly on the planet.


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