why does fashion love eastpak backpacks so much? we asked raf simons
As the Belgian designer collaborates with the classic American bagmaker for the sixth time, we asked him about his love of the practical, normcore staple favoured by everyone from Vetements to your dad.
vetements, raf simons (© Andrew Hetherington / Eastpak), christopher raeburn
When it comes to items of utility, fashion has a paradoxical love of practical, dependable brands. Forget the avant-garde couture Celine Dion dances around Paris in; you'll more likely find North Face jackets, Levi's jeans and Dr Martens outfitting stylists, critics and off-duty models during Fashion Week. Defying expectations, fashion loves a staple, reliable brand. Which is probably why Eastpak backpacks keep finding their way onto the runway, and collaborating with the industry's most prolific designers.
"Eastpak is a universal backpack," explains London designer Christopher Raeburn when asked about his affinity with the the bag. Christopher collaborated with the brand for autumn/winter 17, creating a series of sustainable camouflage bags from 100% reused and recycled British Military and Border Force uniform. "The bags are an amazing blank canvas for designers to create something unique." Indeed, while the womenswear handbags synonymous with so many big fashion houses are constantly morphing in shape, size, and material, which then trickles down to the high street, the simplicity of an Eastpak backpack remains intact on the runway and off.
Tapped by Vetements for their last collection -- the masters of unconventional collaborations -- Eastpak went as far to find itself on the Paris couture catwalk for spring/summer 17. Not bad for the modest backpack many of us lugged our school books back and forward for spring/summer Year 7. Little distinguished Vetements take on the classic backpack, save for an oversized handle, a Vetement logo, and a much-inflated price tag, but always looking to subvert the classic codes of high fashion, Demna also presented collaborative clutch bags.
But the designer with perhaps the greatest love of Eastpak, must surely be Raf Simons. Now on his sixth collaborative project, what is it about the bags that keep drawing him back? Firstly, "its connection with youth, the mutual understanding and respect," Raf explains over email. "We wanted to bring luxury menswear closer to the kids in the streets. Then it just evolved from there." This season, amongst his Peter Saville meets Blade Runner collection, Raf introduced transparent Eastpak backpacks and satchels, inspired by "the streets of New York."
"We see the collaboration not as a separate capsule but as a part of the whole show season collection," Raf further explain, eschewing the idea the pieces sit outside his collection. "Based on the seasonal inspiration of the collection, the fabrics, the trims, the volumes. We create the Eastpak collaboration pieces."
As high fashion continues its love affair with reimagining functional items -- Balenciaga's IKEA bag, Christopher Kane's Crocs, Martine Rose's fleeces, Vetements' entire autumn/winter 17 collection -- certainly practicality is in style. In Raf's own words, never has there been a better time to invest in a "Timeless, pragmatic, luxurious, iconic" backpack.
Text Ryan White