K/R: comfort object/conceptual art/luggage

I mentioned a while ago that I'd probably be buying a new handbag this year. This is not it. This is something that got bookmarked last summer and since then admired, pondered and coveted but never seriously considered until last week when it came up on discount. 

So I've finally got one of these amazing bags by Christopher Raeburn. I've been stalking his collections for a few years now, and he seldom disappoints. He's well known and much admired for his innovative techniques with reused/recycled materials, but I'm every bit as impressed by his refined interpretations of urban sportswear. 

I'm quite smitten with this little dude. I think he'll be a fun companion for summer festivals and afternoons in the park and I see him working well as a focal point with minimal black and white looks. When it comes to bags though, I'm quite ruthlessly practical if not downright minimalist. I'll save the bigger picture for another post about my carrying strategy but for now, let's just say this is a major departure for me.

Now I need your honest opinion. I have never, ever owned or carried anything remotely like this. Well, not since I was ten. I'm not sure I'm cool enough to throw him over my shoulder like any other bag. What if I accidentally cuddle him in public? I have no idea if I can pull this off.

The return window is generous, but I need to decide before he tries to make friends with me. If that happens there's no way I'll be able to put him back in that box.

This post is also published in the youlookfab forum. You can read and reply to it in either place. All replies will appear in both places.


  • Astrid replied 4 years ago

    I think you're cool enough... And should you feel the urge to cuddle, just go ahead. ;)

    I'm curious, how much can you fit inside?

  • JAileen replied 4 years ago

    I immediately thought of monkey leashes for toddlers. I've seen them used at airports. Your backpack, though, is indeed a work of art.

    To carry something like this successfully, you have to own it.

  • Angie replied 4 years ago

    If it makes you happy, why not! Just make sure it DOES make you happy. And isn't too heavy when you commute by bike -(the main mode of transport in the Netherlands).

  • viva replied 4 years ago

    This is such an interesting post!

    I really don't have any practical questions at all, because what he can carry seems almost beside the point. I'm not sure this kind of purchase is practical in any way.

    But I do have more emotional questions, several of which have already been asked.

    What's the happiness factor? Really high, as in through the roof? Continue.
    Can you really own this look? Yes? Continue.
    How comfortable are you being the center of attention? Very? Continue.
    Then, I'd vote keep.

    BTW, I'm assuming, given the reputation of the designer, that this is an investment piece - and because of that, I've got the bar high. (But if it's not expensive, I would definitely keep because he would be a great house decor piece even if he only occasionally went to market with you.)

  • Dianna replied 4 years ago

    What Angie said!  If it makes you happy, and works for you, go for it!  Life is too short to not wear what makes you happy!  BTW, I think you are more than cool enough.

  • Janet replied 4 years ago

    Agreed with Vivian. I think it's totally cool, as long as it speaks to you and you love the idea of carrying it! It's an instant statement and conversation starter!

  • Angie replied 4 years ago

    I'm not sure if this is something to consider Liz, but maybe ask Mr. Edge. Greg and I hold hands out in public, and hug too. We like to be physically close. A bag like this would literally get in the way - since it's also about the size of me! Just putting that out there too. 

  • Xtabay replied 4 years ago

    You're definitely cool enough, no question about that.  But as viva says, how comfortable are you being the center of attention?  I can see why you like it, it's fantastic!

  • approprio replied 4 years ago

    Ah you guys are always the best! Thanks for the feedback. 

    On practicality:
    Once you get past the head and the limbs, this is a well made lightweight backpack. It's fully lined, lightly quilted and it weighs less than a kilo. Straps are comfy with nice metallic clips.
    I haven't loaded it up yet, but I'd say around 10l. It's the wrong shape for a laptop but it'll be fine for the rest of my kit. So, enough for a day out.
    Angie: I can safely say it ticks all usability boxes and it will be fine on the bike. I will indeed ask for Mr Edge's opinion, but I doubt if he'll veto it, even though he laughed and said it was ridiculous. I need to make up my own mind first. ;)

    On ownership:
    JAileen: I'm mindful not only of the attention, but the messages implicit in "middle aged woman carries giant stuffed animal' Janet: conversation starter you say? That could go one of two ways around here. :D Dianna: it's very kind of you to say so, but it doesn't work unless I believe in it! 

    On provenance and style:
    Viva: you're right, this is not about practicality insofar as it's a collectable, so the bar is necessarily high. I wouldn't call it cheap, but neither is it breaking the bank. Xtabay: we had that conversation about buying fashion as art, after which I decided my rule of thumb has to be: as long as it's wearable. I love it for being more than just a backpack, but if I keep it I have to be happy taking it out once in a while. 

  • unfrumped replied 4 years ago

    Wonders never cease.
    I confess I have trouble with it because " it" or " he" is rather anthropomorphized but does not look like " he" is comfortable or consenting ( him/it- self). Therefore it is creepier as a purse- backpack and puts me in mind of sci- fi dystopian societies. Why I don't have the same reaction to children's kitty, turtle or whatever backpacks, I do not know.
    I realize that's not the same analysis as why not/ what is your love level, but there you have it. Just throwing that out there. Other folks are likely better at separating reality from art.

  • minimalist replied 4 years ago

    There's an expression in English about carrying a monkey in one's back. I'm not good with expressions in any language, and perhaps this is an ape, but is there anything about this that could seem to be making a big statement to observers who aren't aware of the design background? (Or am I the one missing the bigger picture here?)

  • Echo replied 4 years ago

    ^ This was my first thought, too. Despite it being an ape, "monkey on your back" was the first thing that came to mind, so if you buy, be prepared for people to approach you with bad puns on the regular. On the other hand, there are things I own that I rarely even wear/carry that were not inexpensive and I still do not regret buying. I simply love them that much. If this item fits into that category, you will likely regret it as "the one that got away" forever. I'd at least buy and see how the two of you get along and go from there.

  • minimalist replied 4 years ago

    On the other hand, now I'm imagining an outfit with this and the Ann D's as focal points.

    I'm not in a position to dissuade anyone from carrying objects that invite misinterpretation and require conversation to explain. Repeatedly.

    Best I go back to kondo'ing my clothing. :-)

  • approprio replied 4 years ago

    unfrumped that's a brilliant point, thank you! One of the reasons this works for me is this deep ambivalence it inspires. It's a toy, you want to play with it, but it's slightly dangerous at the same time. Maybe there's a desire not only to anthropomorphise, but also confer some agency, or even appease it. I think this is maybe a natural reaction - here's another one wearing a scarf

    minimalist, echo, of course I'm the queen of bad puns, so I'm more than comfortable with that. And you're not the only ones to notice either. I may well accessorise with dark glasses and a scowl though, so as not to encourage too much unwanted attention. 

    Looks like I'm keeping it. Hm...

  • Xtabay replied 4 years ago

    Ha ha, you're going to frighten small children with your bag and scowl!  Have some lollipops handy, just to reassure them.

  • Emily K replied 4 years ago

    One shoulder all the way!!!!!

  • Jenni NZ replied 4 years ago

    Shock Liz! My first reaction was that it's not you. I don't know you at all well, but feel you look very arty in a cool way. This just seems odd and not the same SORT of cool, she says inarticulately.

  • cindysmith replied 4 years ago

    I think it's delightful!

  • Diana replied 4 years ago

    I think he's wackadoodle in the best possible way. definitely not an everyday bag but you know that already.

  • Gaylene replied 4 years ago

    My first reaction was "oh no", but I'm fast warming up to the little guy. I checked CR's website and now I want a bunny--or maybe the pup--or even a fish clutch! Instead of dark glasses and a scowl, I'd domesticate my monkey with a pink scarf--maybe printed with little skulls? If I was still teaching at the university, I'd use him to carry my stuff to class and pop him in a front seat with his own textbook. He's hilarious! And who would mess with an old lady with a monkey on her back?

  • Bijou replied 4 years ago

    This takes bags as a "wardrobe pet" to a whole new level. I love the whimsy of this and think that it is very grown up. If anyone could pull this off, it is you. However, I am partial to items like this - and have a monster bag myself (in finds). I get lots of compliments on my bag, because it is fun.

  • shevia replied 4 years ago

    Would I wear it? Probably not, as the last thing I am looking for is a reason for people to start conversations with me.
    Do I love it? Yes.

  • Deborah replied 4 years ago

    So if I passed someone wearing this, I would notice!  Then I would want to see it up close.  I might even approach you and ask about it.  It's interesting and I think it's kind of funny in a cool and edgy way.  If you love it and think you will use it, then it's a keeper.  

  • Style Fan replied 4 years ago

    I do like the picture of the man wearing it with the scarf.  He is owning it to perfection.  It is a cool piece.  This is definitively having fun with fashion.

  • rachylou replied 4 years ago

    I have a kangaroo backpack, so I'm not the person to ask, hehe. But it has been surprisingly more useful than one might imagine...

  • approprio replied 4 years ago

    Xtabay: hehe  and I can come up a few "moves" for his arms and legs to make it even weirder!

    Emily K, the one-shoulder carry is an option, but he's a little bit cumbersome. I've found a nice hack for fastening the straps at the front so he doesn't sag too much. I think this will be far more compact in busy spaces (and maybe unfrumped would even approve.)

    JenniNZ: hence the question! But it's all in the where and how. I think I'll wear it among friends to begin with, safety in numbers and all that.

     I'd say that's the perfect qualification to answer this question! If a kangaroo pack is useful, then so is a great ape. Bijou: that monster is fab! I'd totally carry that. Go Team Whimsical Carriers!

    Gaylene: I would love to bring this to class! But unfortunately it can't take my laptop which I need for taking notes, so that's out. I have a nice scarf for him (b/w almost-gingham plaid) but he'll be going commando until we're properly acquainted.

    Cindy, SF, Diana, shevia, Deborah: thanks for the vote of confidence! The problem is figuring out where and how to wear this successfully, because there are no practical issues other than flailing limbs :D Otherwise, this is a rather excellent backpack.

  • Xtabay replied 4 years ago

    I would love to make a video of you walking around with it, and seeing the reactions.  Everyone is going to want to know this bad boy.  He looks like he could almost talk.

  • Firecracker replied 4 years ago

    Yes, keep. And I think you should make a point of carrying it with more than "minimal black and white looks." I echo Shevia!

  • DonnaF replied 4 years ago

    Is it only the trunk that you can fill? Maybe purchasing an iPad to replace your laptop is in order. Hope you keep!

  • SarahTheWhite replied 4 years ago

    I am so intrigued! There is something very artsy about this. The simplicity and texture without other details (such as fur and facial features) make it read more sculptural and less stufffed animal. Wearing this with sharp, simple, edgy outfits will make people stop and pay attention. It may first get a laugh, but I'm guessing the followup emotions will be admiration and legitimate interest. I CANT WAIT to see outfits... So. Cool.

  • Momo replied 4 years ago

    Awesome. And yes you are cool enough.

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