A Backpack That Asks: What Is a Backpack?

Fashion Week is back in full force, and there’s a lot to see. Blink (or scroll too fast on Instagram) and you’ll miss the details: tiny bags, tall shoes, feathered hats, leather capes and diamond dog collars. So as part of a new series, Wow Moment, we’ll spotlight things we saw on the runways that delighted or mystified us.

MILAN — Collaborations have dominated fashion for some time now, and there is a particular union that tends to succeed: cool luxury designers joining with classic accessories brands experiencing a cultural renaissance. Birkenstock has worked with Jil Sander and Proenza Schouler. Converse has collaborated with Rick Owens and Telfar. Dr. Martens has partnered with Off-White and Heaven by Marc Jacobs. And so on.

Leave it to MM6 Maison Margiela to release a new collaboration — its second with the backpack brand Eastpak — and mock the nature of collaborations at the same time. The diffusion line held its spring 2022 show at a cafe here on Thursday night, where it provided small, delightfully strange bites (like an egg that was actually solid white chocolate inside a hollowed-out real eggshell, on a menu titled Pleasures of the Pretentious Table) and big, delightfully strange clothes. It was court jester chic, with several variations of checkerboard prints and ruff-collar necklaces.

Of the handful of off-kilter backpacks and bags sent down the runway, one stood out: a flat white trompe-l’oeil style, about as wide as the model wearing it. (Eastpak calls this a poster backpack, after its rectangular shape; it made them in similar dimensions for a 2019 Raf Simons collaboration.) Printed on the bag is an image of a classic silver Eastpak backpack.

A few lines of text below the image provide a description of the bag — inspired by the text in old Martin Margiela look books. The last few lines read: “This garment is designed to be used et le text is for fun. We hope you enjoy this backpack. À bientot.”

No one does humor or trompe-l’oeil quite like Margiela, itself the (couture) court jester of fashion. But the joke here also says something bigger about the industry right now: Collaborations rarely feel exciting or surprising for longer than five minutes, and then attention shifts to the next buzzy collaboration. These drops have become rote, part of the fabric of the business of fashion.

So let’s just acknowledge that: Here is backpack slapped on another backpack. What more do you want?

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