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Balenciaga’s New ‘Ikea Bag:’ What’s the Deal?

by Richard Zakroff on May 08, 2017

Everyone is talking about the new Balenciaga handbag, and though we don’t blame them (its neon blue color, extra-large silhouette, and gleaming gold accents scream “notice me”), its attention isn’t due to the reasons you might expect. The media frenzy surrounding the luxury handbag is tied to a very interesting realization—people feel like they’ve seen this bag before. And if you’ve ever shopped at an IKEA and hastily thrown a set of dinner plates into your shopping bag, then you’re probably one of them.

That’s right, the new Balenciaga tote is an almost identical replica of IKEA’s blue shopping bag, which retails for a whopping 99 cents. Compare that to the $2,000 price tag of designer Demna Gvasalia’s creation, and you’ve just revived the age-old debate about the price of high fashion. (Groan.) Price aside, the main difference between the two bags is their construction. While the IKEA shopper’s bag is an eco-friendly alternative to the disposable grocery bag, made entirely of recycled plastic, the Balenciaga Arena Extra Large Shopper Tote is a full-blown leather dream; an IKEA shopping tote 2.0, if you will.

Last week, handbag lovers and haters alike took to social media to share their disbelief of the undeniable resemblance. Twitter exploded with side-by-side comparison pictures showing the Balenciaga bag and its crinkly muse, and the fiasco has even inspired many to create wearable clothes from the IKEA lookalike bag. And although we admit the similarity between both bags is a bit comical at first, it actually sparks an interesting conversation about the luxury marketplace as a whole and its modern-day influences.

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen a luxury fashion house use an everyday object as style inspiration. In fact, brands like Louis Vuitton and Marc Jacobs have taken the same principles into their designs as well, combining aspects of cheap objects in unexpected ways to create a repurposed, practical, yet fashionable handbag. Fashion as an art has historically taken many risks to make a point—from Warhol to Duchamp, found objects in art has always gotten people talking. The iconic Balenciaga bag is no different—it’s a clever way to make a statement about the subjectivity of good taste and challenge society’s idea of what it means to be a luxury brand. In our opinion, it’s actually pretty genius.

What does Ikea have to say about all of this? As it turns out, they’re actually quite flattered by the imitation shopper’s tote. The retail giant told Today, “We are deeply flattered that the Balenciaga tote bag resembles the Ikea iconic sustainable blue bag for 99 cents. Nothing beats the versatility of a great big blue bag.” IKEA even tweeted a “how to spot a fake” picture, stating the four ways you can tell if you have an “authentic” blue IKEA shopper’s tote. Their tips? “1) Shake it: If it rustles, it’s the real deal. 2) Multifunctional: It can carry hockey gear, bricks, and even water. 3) Throw it in the dirt: A true FRAKTA is simply rinsed off with a garden hose when dirty. 4) Price tag: Only $0.99.” Well, now we know. Thanks for the laugh, IKEA.

If anything, the Balenciaga shopper tote is a fresh reminder to not take life too seriously. It may have made headlines and gotten people talking, but it’s still a true luxury item with a clever and memorable backstory. What do you think of the IKEA-inspired Balenciaga shopper? High fashion hit? Or designer disaster? Let us know in the comments below!