What Happens When You Accidentally Start A World-Wide Fashion Trend

We meet the woman behind this summer's most Instagrammed accessory

Susan Alexandra beaded bag trend

by Lucy Morris |
Updated on

If you were paying attention over the summer you would have noticed that beaded bags were everywhere. On the arm of Alexa Chung and in the shop windows of Topshop, they were hard to miss.

Gaudy little things that they were, they appealed to the magpie inside all of us. Their winking multi-coloured beads made other summer totes, like beach and straw, seem deftly dull.

These little totems surfed the 1970s revival trend, so while the designers brought these vintage-y pieces back into the mainstream for 2018 they already had their own fashion history. That said, when New York-based artist Susan Alexandra hit on the idea to create a series of fruity-themed plastic beaded bags that recalled those sweetie-coloured accessories of the past she had no idea she was tapping into what was to become the biggest trend of this summer. Made using a mixture of crocheting, beading and patience, she came up with the concept nearly two years' ago in early 2017.

‘I found the right woman who could take my sketches and watercolours and transform them into beaded masterpieces’, she tells Grazia, ‘each bag is made by hand with over 1,500 beads'.

While she can’t pinpoint the reason for the surge in interest in her creation, she says, it was all ‘very surreal. Imagine the volume turning up from zero to 1,000 almost overnight!’ Early on she made a fan out of one local influencer with an international following, Leandra Medine who speaks to an audience of 736K people on her Instagram and a further 2 mill on her work account, Man Repeller. By the time Susan’s designs were going global another designer had devised a similar accessory. Hannah Weiland's label Shrimps had devised the Antonia bag. Though it had a boxier, sturdier structure it was still very much a beaded bag. Alexandra tells me she emailed Weiland about the similarity and the sudden surge of copycat designs infiltrating the lower priced end of the market.

‘Recently, I've started seeing other designers developing beaded bags. I'm trying to see that as a good thing, but it doesn't always feel this way. I pour so much of my blood sweat and tears into my work and I believe that authenticity always resonates with people’, Alexandra explains.

Once a trend starts rolling the shopping public don’t have much time to stop, think and buy the original. Price consciousness outweighs in this respect. And, Alexandra knows this. ‘I am now more than ever committed to making things that bring me over-the-top delight. I am thinking about what I really love and making it. What people can never take from me is my vision and what brings me joy!’

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