by Ami Kealoha
Dating back to mid-18th century Orientalism, bamboo has long been a staple in furniture and design, but it wasn't until 1947, when Gucci debuted its first handbag, that the Bamboo handle became an icon. The addition was pivotal, quickly transforming Gucci from a shop in Florence that sold equestrian accessories to a label synonymous with Hollywood glamour. In 1992, a Tom Ford-helmed Gucci reintroduced the bamboo handle as a central design element of their handbags, a move that reinvented the brand's identity, rescued it from a tacky downslide in the '80s, and restored its position as a leading fashion house.
Today, this woody, ribbed "grass" form shows up as luxe gold-plated links in Gucci's chain handled purses and plays grownup, accenting shoes and bags, in their recently revived (and extremely popular) Flora foulard (which was created for Grace Kelly by Rodolfo Gucci). Other more mainstream examples include J.Crew, which featured bamboo d-ring belts and replaced traditional tassels with bamboo on leather moccasins and bangles, either in double twists or singly found everywhere from Saks' jewelry counters to Chinatown stalls. One-offs include a vintage necklace at Dane 115 that strings together bits of bamboo, glass, and wood beads, as well as an '80s-era beach bag with bamboo handles at La Reina.
With bamboo becoming an ecological alternative to wood floors and furniture, a green stand-in for disposable plates, and sturdy enough to be used as scaffolding in Asia, it might be the most sustainable trend to date.
Whether it's a flashy "it" bag or prim loafers, bamboo accessories are modern classics in the making.