A model with the Mini Le Chiquito during the Jacquemus show at Paris fashion week last month.

Farewell totes – a truly tiny bag is the ultimate status signifier

Tiny handbags from the French label Jacquemus became big news when they appeared on the catwalk during Paris fashion week last month.

The Mini Le Chiquito is a small-scale version of Jacquemus’s Le Chiquito bag, a runaway hit for autumn/winter 18. The minuscule bags were initially sent out as invitations to the brand’s show and weren’t for sale, but they did point towards a developing – or shrinking – trend in accessories. When it comes to bags, petite purses rule this season. Forget micro – it’s all about the nano.

The Mini Le Chiquito, with room to hold little more than a couple of mints or a single AirPod earphone, looked like a joke – but then French fashion house Louis Vuitton launched its own nano bag, designed to hold no more than a lipstick. With a long chain, and described as an “elegant homage to 1920s makeup boxes”, it is available in two colours – both currently sold out online. Last month, in Milan, Prada also showcased mini pouch bags – which might struggle to hold more than an iPhone – worn on straps around ankle boots.

The Le Chiquito bag seen at Paris fashion week.

The proliferation of micro bags has been interpreted as a signifier of status: there is nothing glamorous about lugging your worldly possessions round in an oversized sack. Carrying next to nothing implies that someone else is doing your heavy lifting.

On the high street last summer this translated into everything from small sporty bumbags to petite beaded grab bags at retailers including Asos, Topshop and Zara. But is the extension of this trend into “nano” territory a sign of (even smaller) things to come, or just a marketing gimmick? “Small is certainly beautiful when the impact and the conversation are so big and spread so far, as we have seen this week for the Jacquemus micro bag,” says Jane Allan, a consultant at PR agency Borkowski. “The bags have the novelty factor, which makes them instantly Instagrammable. Brand value is amplified as soon as the fashion pack join in. In turn, this leads to awareness spreading of the brand without them investing a penny on marketing. Clever.”

Louis Vuitton’s lipstick-size bag on a chain

It has not been made clear if the Mini Le Chiquito bag will be available to buy, but designer Simon Porte’s vision appears to extend beyond marketing ploys. Speaking to the Observer in Paris last month, he said: “I wanted to show the arty and conceptual mood I had at the beginning [of my career].”

That the trend for nano bags might have a place on the high street – which is traditionally more interested in “wearable” than “conceptual” when it comes to fashion – is not beyond the realms of possibility. In an increasingly cashless economy, many shoppers are finding they need to carry little more than a cardholder on a strap.

Given this and the resurgence of gowns with pockets – such as Gemma Chan’s Valentino dress at the Oscars, worn by Max Mara models in Milan, and even for brides – bigger bags could soon become redundant.

“You could argue that a small bag has that Marie Kondo answer to simplicity,” says Allan. “The less you carry, the further you travel. Perhaps it makes us think more about what’s important.”