These Bags Are SICK — Like, With Strep

Photo: Courtesy of SICK.
The closest thing to a literal sick bag since those paper puke sacks on airplanes, Sick bags from Philly-based designer Silvie Altschuler come pre-loaded with germs. Well, sort of.

The 12 designs are understated vegan leather totes on the outside. Inside? The water-resistant poplin fabric is splattered with cartoonish, anthropomorphized illnesses — everything from E. Coli and strep to Coxsackie virus (named for the New York town in which it was discovered). We know what you’re thinking: But...why? I had a guess when the bag landed on my desk, but I asked Altschuler just to be sure.

“I had a really nice Stella McCartney bag that [my two sons] have since destroyed,” she said. “Crackers, a mushed banana in there — and it never recovered.” Ouch. “I had to carry snacks and things, and I didn’t want to carry it in a bag I couldn’t wash.” Parenthood is the mother of innovation, as they say (I think I have that right), and so Altschuler had a thought: “Let me make a cool, washable bag that [won’t] look like I’m carrying an ugly diaper bag.”

So her target demo is herself, but also any parent who’s had sticky substances sabotage an accessory or two. “It’s a mom who cares about style, but doesn’t want to take a Goyard bag and throw it in the sandbox. It has to be a woman with a little bit of a sense of humor, too.”

Oh right, because there’s a drawing of a toilet, a pig, and an infected hand, foot, and mouth on the lining of your bag. And you’re going to have to explain that to people. “[These illnesses] were things that, to me, were very basic knowledge that most mothers don’t have — but they should have...it should be out there. People should know about common diseases that their children can get.” Altschuler tells me that her husband is a pediatric ER doctor, so she was always aware of the scary stuff plaguing kids around the country. “Everyone will get strep throat,” she said bluntly. “E. coli is everywhere… People need to know about this.”
Photo: Courtesy of SICK.
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People should also know that with every purchase of a Sick bag, Altschuler generates a donation to a local hospital. That’s right: Buy one, and it’ll benefit sick kids near you. So far, Altschuler has been able to send money to children’s hospitals in Boston, Texas, and her home city of Philadelphia, as well as to Columbia and New York Presbyterian in NYC. Next year, she’s hoping to pilot a program where a different hospital is featured each month, so she can make more meaningful contributions: “It’s very easy to write a check and donate, but I want to make a difference, so that has been challenging,” she said of the one-bag-at-a-time model.

What’s next for the brand? “There’s a big pertussis outbreak right now in kids, and I don’t think people are aware of it,” she tells me. “I’m working on that, and maybe making it a smaller clutch.”
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