Tuesday, August 08, 2006

The shopping bag collection

This is a post inspired by the ongoing shopping-bags-of-the-world discussion over at Pashmina's cutting-edge chronicle. Here in Sarf Africa we have recently undergone one of our periodic revolutions; people never tire of them since the big struggle, it seems. This one was extremely painful. The government decided to "phase out" the paper-thin shopping bags used in profusion at shopping emporia and subsequently recyled as urban decoration, flapping gaily on power lines, fences, hedges and trees. The plasti-bag industry was outraged, saying thousands of bag men and women would be put out of work.

The government pointed out that it simply wanted 1 sturdier bags; 2 a charge to be levied for every bag provided at checkouts. This went to and fro for some time and then the great leap forward began. Shoppers turned out to have been itching to reuse their bags and what's more to buy doughty holdalls of fabric manufacture.

These days the assistant asks "Would you like a bag?" to which the usual reply is, "Oh no, I have my own [brandishing same]." And those buying, say, just a loaf of bread, a jar of coffee and a newspaper will eschew any bag and simply carry them out of the shop.
So, of course, the bag industry and the retail shopping chains realised they were on to a nice little earner; and now new bag styles appear regularly. Another big plus: the urban ornamental bag is no more.

top left, the original Woolworth's (think M&S) art bag, with works commissioned from artists in the townships and the Cape Flats. Very cool until it gets creased and battered. Obviously this means lots of repurchases.

Top right: the common or garden Woolworth's fabric bag, in various shades including lime, plum, sky blue and blush pink (I once saw a male customer carrying one of the last; women in the queue were speculating somewhat maliciously ...)

Above left: Tesco equivalent Pick and Pay's nucular suitcase. I have one of these, as a completist, but have never used it.

Above right: Woolworth's Stealth heavy transport, my favourite bag, and, I fancy, the most stylish: note the military-style ribbing and the fluted shape. Toughened fabric, holds a week's groceries plus your library books. Indestructible.


Blogger Pashmina said...

The Woolie's (does it get shortened to that in SA?) heavy transport one is good (like you, I admire the shape) but I love their fabric one. I suspect if I lived in your neck of the woods I would have to have one in each colour.

Do they fold up easily?

3:23 PM  
Blogger DavetheF said...

Yes, Pash, it is indeed always affectionately called Woolie's. The fabric bag folds flat; there's a stiff black plasticised (loose) base inside.
I could always send you a couple! M&S often send their store designers out here to get ideas. They were v taken with the Cavendish Square (see archive) instore restaurant, which feels as if it's an outdoor cafe.

7:14 PM  
Blogger First Nations said...

they tried that idea here several years ago and it just dried up and blew away...like a plastic grocery sack.
i still have lots of granola looking hempen ones so that people can tell AT A GLANCE i am a recycling kinda girl.

thank you for the BRILLIANT idea btw (whats hot post) muchas smoochas! *runs off to catch last half-hour of 'Baywatch florida'*

12:25 AM  

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