It was a warm day in Los Angeles, when my friend Naz and I decided to make the trek from trendy Echo Park to even trendier Silver Lake. We had just emerged from a dusty warehouse, where I spent roughly three hours trawling through designer goods.
Naz had waited patiently for me, as I fitted a Dries skirt (tight fit, but I forced myself into it anyway), Detacher flats and Jesse Kamm coat.
He was clearly unhappy, sitting between a sea of shoes, as women crouched next to him fitting Jil Sander heels and Acne sandals.
Knowing he was losing his patience, I gently offered a suggestion: “So, I need to get this bag, and it’s only 1 km away. Let’s walk it?”
This bag was already on my list of planned purchases. And it was a controversial one. Whenever I broached the style to friends, actions varied between flinching shock and eye-widening surprise—whether in disgust or total admiration of my bravery, we’ll never know.
Basically I wanted a fanny pack. Otherwise known as a belt bag or “bum bag” as Brits call it, the style has gotten a bum rap since tourists co-opted it.
Yet after Lemaire and Celine came up with their own takes, the fanny pack became celebrated fashion. (See sidebar on page D4.)
Celine offered a more thoughtful, refined take on the belt bag in its resort 2015 collection, with minimalist lines that wouldn’t look out of place on the hip of a billionaire equestrian or an Olsen.
Alexander Wang’s prefall 2016 threw it back to the ’90s with its leopard and brown leather. Balenciaga spring 2016 RTW revealed satin fanny packs in white, while Kenzo offered more modular takes on the style, often in blocks of black or white as an optical retreat from the dizzying prints of its collection.
Yet how did history come to paint the fanny pack as an object of contempt?
It offers hands-free convenience (this must be what it’s like to be a guy: no unwieldy purse, all that arm freedom!), and peripheral obstruction of the stomach.
The belt bag reveals its key benefit after a particularly heavy meal: Nobody can ask about your food baby because they can’t see it.
When chic hits the fanny
Naz and I slowly made the trek past the palm tree-lined streets of Silver Lake. We finally made it to Clare V, the LA-based designer’s retail HQ.
Clare V, bag designer and maker of my ideal fanny pack (compact, but with a pouch that can fit essentials like phone, charger, eye drops, petite wallet), was essentially peak Silver Lake: kind of hippie (the way Gwyneth is hippie), offbeat yet accessible.
As I decided between a black or brown nappa leather fanny pack, I asked myself an essential question: Can a girl have too many fanny packs?
The answer, clearly, is no.
Devotees of the belt bag know that variations of the style exist, and can satisfy numerous dress codes.
Business attire? Go for the Celine. Casual downtown? Aim for Wang. Meeting your sugar daddy? Head for the Chanel.
How to wear it now
“The trick here,” writes Vogue.com’s Rachel Waldman, “is to take this practical, once again fashionable, accessory out of its passé context, add a dash of wit for a look that is 2016 darty (day-meets-party, but that’s another story), and maybe leave the skates and the scrunchie at home.”
The point is not to ignore the fanny pack’s ignoble history, but to embrace it. Pair with mom jeans and a Jurassic Park T-shirt, as I did on a random weekday, or work it with crisp culottes and a turtleneck, as I intend to do for a cocktail gathering.
Over the weekend, I proudly trotted out my new belt bag to Legaspi Market for lunch. My friends were equally skeptical and appreciative of my new purchase—appreciating my sartorial daring while questioning my mental faculties.
“Just you wait,” I gloated. “Soon everyone will look to me for belt bag advice.”
As I purchased a new cotton nightgown from Antukin in the market, one of the vendors asked, “So how were sales today?”
Vendor motions to my belt bag. The realization dawns on me: Thanks to my fanny pack, she assumed I was hawking something at the market, mistakenly assuming that people appreciate fanny packs only for their utilitarian purpose (which I do!) but not for their pure aesthetic value.
“It was good,” I said to the vendor, lovingly fondling my bag.
“What was that about?” my friend asked afterwards.
“Oh, she was just admiring my new bag,” I said. “She thought it looked amazing on me.” —CONTRIBUTED