Charlotte Olympia Take Me Away Box-Clutch Bag and Kate Spade New York Hello Shanghai Cruz Mini-Bag: Snob or Slob?

Kate Spade New York Charlotte Olympia Bag

In high school, I discovered that fortune cookies are actually American (it appears the Chinese invented almost everything except these cookies). Growing up, I awaited the close of each meal at my family’s favorite Chinese restaurants for those damn cookies, believing they held the keys to my future. Hopeful, I’d greedily break open each one to pull out that little piece of paper, saving each one, believing that they were messages sent from ancient Chinese ancestors.

Another deceptively all-American invention, appropriated into Chinese culture, the takeout box, is now a style statement of sorts. Sure, everyone loves a little lo mein to go, but let’s be real: somehow it’s socially acceptable to make fun of Asians, even if it’s in the light form of novelty bags. I’m less offended by Charlotte Olympia’s pink satin version. Decorated with irreverent caterpillars, spiders, and snakes, at least it’s got a whimsical, cute feel that would appeal to little girls. But Kate Spade’s variation looks like an actual paper takeout box (I’m almost waiting for it to start leaking sauce), and it features cartoonish Oriental lettering, no less. Not to mention lining printed with a paper fortune motif; the fortunes should read, “You just bought a ridiculous bag.”

I can almost see Suzie Wong (played by an Eurasian actress) in her mandarin-collared Cheongsam delivering this with an exaggerated Chinese accent. Or Holly Golightly’s Chinaman neighbor (played by Mickey Rooney, a Caucasian actor) in Breakfast At Tiffany’s, for that matter. Now, I just can’t help but think if this was an African-American-related item, I’m certain someone would be issuing a public apology in WWD. Let’s not forget the outraged reaction unleashed by Dolce & Gabbana’s ill-advised Moors collection, for example. There’s a fine line between upbeat cultural appreciation and lowbrow cultural appropriation. Now how do you prefer your takeout: with actual food or with a much bigger price tag? Charlotte Olympia Take Me Away box clutch, $1,295, at Bergdorf Goodman, and Kate Spade New York Hello Shanghai Cruz bag, $348, at Bloomingdale’s.


  1. GeoDiva
    October 15, 2014 / 4:58 pm

    I am more offended by the Charlotte Olympia’s price than anything else.

  2. Jennifer
    October 19, 2014 / 6:13 am

    I don’t know why you consider this making fun of Chinese culture or deserving of an apology. Especially if take out boxes were an American invention. The Mickey Rooney character is universally derided as offensive and is so far beyond a conversation about these bags that it really dilutes your argument. Be offended by the prices and utter lack of style in these bags, but there is nothing culturally demeaning in them. Do you believe that a French person should be offended when someone makes a bag shaped like the Eiffel Tower? When J. Crew makes a tee with a French phrase on it? You could make the argument that French culture doesn’t belong in the shape of a handbag or on a tee. Both arguments are ridiculous.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.