I had no idea until a few months ago that people actually wore bamboo. Bamboo to me = Pandas; not handbags, clothes or accessories. But in the good ‘ol days, strips of bamboo were commonly used for structuring clothing such as the ribs of corsets and bustles. FYI, bustles were used around the mid to late 19th century when the fashion of the time was to have a derriere akin to J-Lo (or as the Victorians protested, to keep the backs of their dresses from going “flat”). These bustles needed a sturdy framework – hence the bamboo. The Chinese and Japanese on the other hand would use bamboo to weave hats and shoes; a tradition of rural life for the farmers and fishermen. Now however, bustles (which were known for accentuating the important female curves) are not à la mode because it seems we all got Kate Moss fever and, I will quote: “nothing tastes as good as skinny feels”. However, technology transformed and suddenly people realised that bamboo could be used for more than just Panda food and underwiring. They realised that bamboo could be their new comfort equivalent to cashmere and silk.
And then, 65 years ago, bamboo met Gucci. And from this introduction came a girl’s paradise: lots and lots and lots of beautiful handbags. It was 1947 and with the war-time rationing of materials, the design directors at Gucci came up with an innovative idea. By importing the bamboo cane from Japan, they were able to heat and bend it into a semi-circle to create the unique handle for the A-list bag; a design which continues to clock up thousands of pounds in high-end fashion. The original Gucci Bamboo bag was a modest handbag crafted in pigskin but in 2010 Gucci’s creative director Frida Giannini unveiled a revitalised collection called “New Bamboo”, recapturing the classic Gucci style but with a new twist. Made in Italy, the bags continue to rule the fashion world and the arms of fashion-conscious celebs.
But 2012 brings another year, and another successful Gucci line-up. The haute-couture designer has recently announced its new plan for this Autumn: the unveiling of its India-exclusive collection. Yes, Gucci has hit Bollywood, joining leading fashion houses in a global drive to celebrate India’s cultural influences. “I wanted this collection of handbags and accessories to celebrate India’s time-honoured tradition of gifting, especially for weddings and trousseau” Gianni commented. Gucci follows the likes of French designer brand Hermes who last year brought out their chic and elegant India-exclusive saris.
Prices for the bags range from the oh-so-affordable $1750 for the original GG canvas model to $15800 (who knew crocs could be so darn expensive?). The bags come in a variety of exceptional leathers and hues, each with the neatly embossed ‘India Exclusive’ metal plaque inside. Plus, each handbag has been beautifully crafted with bamboo fringe tassels, a bamboo turn-lock closure and an elegant handle.
And what’s more, earlier this year the Indian city of Tripura announced plans to create India’s first ever bamboo park with a price-tag of 7 million US dollars. The city which is host to 25 different varieties of bamboo (also known as “green gold”), will be relying on the park’s revenue to help expand bamboo-based industries. The park which is set to cover 70 acres will facilitate India’s export of the produce, taking advantage of the country’s natural wealth. Now seems like a more poignant time than ever to bring India’s vast expanse of Bamboo to the fashion stakes.
But that’s only one side of it! If million dollar handbags aren’t within your price-range but you’re still keen to try out the eco-friendly produce, why not try bamboo clothing? As I’ve already mentioned, bamboo fibre is super soft. It’s also better for the environment so it’s hard to see why we aren’t seeing more bamboo-based clothing on the high-street periphery. Bamboo is a dry material which means it absorbs and evaporates sweat in a matter of seconds. So you can forget about developing unpleasant yellow rings while sunbathing in your favourite white tee. Believe it or not, bamboo also has UV protection, cutting out 98% of harmful UV rays (great for red heads – aka me). Plus, the fabric is highly breathable in hot weather as well as keeping you nice and toasty in the cold. It’s also antibacterial – keeping you smelling fresh for longer (sorry, this is starting to sound a bit like a commercial for deodorant). It’s also anti-static which means it sits well on your skin but doesn’t cling = bumps and bulges are less visible. For the sensitive-skinned among you, bamboo is a great choice and the fabric works well for those prone to skin allergies. I’m really starting to think that bamboo is the fashion equivalent to acai berries.
Cotton: you have been warned.
Watch this space.