No Holds Barred in New York City

"Back stage" with Artbag owner/manager Chris Moore and his best sellers.
Blair's Most Recent New York Moment, Part II
By Blair Sabol

It seems as if "terrorist chic" has taken over the city.  Wherever I walked during my high Spring visit (with all the pear trees in bloom and Park Avenue in its neon-tuliped splendor) all I saw was that look. And in all ages. New Yorkers are addicted to dressing in all shades of black.

Diana Vreeland was quoted as saying that "black is the hardest color to get right and wear right.” This is odd since every designer is currently promoting "pops of extreme color" and "color blocking." But I didn't see it anywhere except in store windows or on some Sun Belted tourists.

Maybe it has to do with the overall down and out spirit of the city (in spite of stock market explosions). Money is funny nowadays, and no one really is responding to the odd rises to fall. The worst  visuals seemed to be parading down Fifth Avenue. Abercrombie and Fitch had the strangest block-long line – daily – of the biggest slobs I had ever seen. And for what?  To get in for a sale?  
Daily lineup outside of Abercrombie's ... for what?
No one could explain it to me. I thought it was a methadone clinic. And supposedly Abercrombie's is taking a downward spiral of late. Only in New York City! The best-dressed person I saw during  my whole stay was an elderly woman (she said she was 92 and wouldn't give me her name) walking down an Upper East Side  street with her homecare companion.

Best dressed 91-year-old gal with her caregiver in vintage Chanel and vintage Arpel boat shoes.
She was wearing a vintage nice colored tweed Chanel jacket and real Helene Arpels flat "boat" shoes. She was the visual highlight of my trip. Everyone else looked like ... well, big black hoodies, black jeans, T shirts, sneakers and baseball caps on backwards ... and the ever present BACKPACK!!!! You get the picture.

Now many doctors have already weighed in on the backpack issue. (Yes, even the popular Prada parachuted version).  Apparently it is the worst thing for your spine (along with the giant computer sized shoulder bags). But New Yorkers are smitten with the design ... who cares about osteopathic issues.  

Actually New Yorkers have always had a bag fetish that continues to ramp up. Out West we have SUVs and in NYC you have "the status" bag. On every street corner there is a "rip-off" vendor selling hot Chanels, Hermes, Kors, and Cole Haans.  

I noticed that Birkins are no longer the hit. Now it seems to be any kind of tote WITH compartments. I think the baby boom has now had an effect on the bag market since everyone looks like they are carrying a version of multi-compartmental diaper bags.

No one wants one of those soft big bags that puddles to the floor and looks like the black hole of Calcutta inside when you go to find your cell phone. Actually the biggest bag nowadays seems to be the smallest "cross body" that goes inside the tote. But to me "cross body" reeks of "Fanny Packs" and Disneyland tourists. A friend of mine felt that the reason backpacks have made such a comeback is that along with Spanx body-shapers they tend to hide all back fat and muffin-topped fat rolls. I say with all this coverup discomfort, let your  triple decker waist fly free.  
Street vendors selling every knockoff bag and tote for $40
The  first day I was in the city I followed a  spiffy Madison Avenue woman fifteen blocks because she was carrying what appeared to me ... the perfect bag. When I finally caught up to her she was only too thrilled to display the entire bag's inner and outer features giving me a full tour! She insisted I go to Artbag at 1130 Madison Avenue. "It is the best kept secret for all bag fanatics."  

I was thrown, as I remember Artbag as being one of those "old bag" (for the elegant likes of Kitty Carlisle and Brooke Astor) tiny boutiques along Madison Avenue in the Sixties that specialized in very expensive European rare tiny "HANDBAG" designs, and unique repair.  
Artbag owner/manager Chris Moore.
Well, indeed it still is, but it is further uptown and still a neighborhood treasure for all luggage and bag rehab. Now the "old bags" are hip young mothers with SUVs for baby carriages. I stopped in (the line was out the door that day) and manager Chris Moore eventually  was kind enough to let me see "backstage" of his repair and retail divisions (all one area).

His two popular designs are the "Stella" (named after his wife) and the "Street." The latter is his most sought-after and I did see it everywhere ... in all colors. While I was there four women ordered his bags like they were buying bagels. His price range is $575-$800.  
The most popular Stella bag from Artbag. The most popular Artbag tote called the "Street." It comes in every color!
Artbag "repair" division
One of the Artbag groupies standing in line told me that that was "a steal when you consider his version is almost the same as the Loro Piana Bellevue bag for $4,350. I took a breath and ordered the Stella, the one that caught my eye on the woman on the street. By the way, she told me that she had three of them — "a passion and a collection."

I got my mine in bright Hermes Orange! Naturally the most popular color Chris sells is in Black or Taupe. We went over all the necessary inner and out compartments (it was like buying a car). While I was in his shop, another very hip bag fanatic told me that the Tiffany canvas "Seaside" tote in Tiffany blue and white was another current "crave." Imagine a great chic L.L.Bean book bag look-alike for a mere $525. But remember, it has those magic water bottle and cell phone compartments. For bag fanatics, a now Must Have!
Loro Piano "Bellevue" bags for $4,350.
Another current "crave": Tiffany & Co.'s canvas "Seaside" tote in Tiffany blue and white .
Meanwhile when I walked back down Madison Avenue to my East Side hotel I continued to see the terrorist-chic influence. And this had nothing to do with the current Metropolitan Museum show on black leather and body piercings Punk from the 80s.
Clockwise from top left: Backpacks everywhere (3); Madison Avenue backpack; The kind of "muffin top" a backpack SHOULD cover; "Terrorist chic," a now-popular look on NYC streets.
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