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Last Updated: Friday, 31 October, 2003, 18:15 GMT
Laptop bags go from geek to chic
By Jo Twist
BBC News Online technology reporter

Fashion designer Julien MacDonald is used to dressing some of the world's most beautiful and chic women - from Kylie Minogue to Joely Richardson.

Model with the Julien MacDonald laptop bag for Intel (Image: Richard Bush)
MacDonald has dragged the laptop bag into the 21st Century
Now the House of Givenchy designer has turned his hand to technology with a creation that could have thousands of women leaping with joy in their Manolo Blahniks.

He has teamed up with Intel to take the laptop bag out of the world of geeky black nylon and into the world of chic.

MacDonald describes the three laptop bags he has created as "fashionable, funky and functional at the same time".

Only 500 have been made, with 100 available in the UK. The good news is the profits will go to a children's charity, something that MacDonald thought women would appreciate.

Funky

Most pleasing for gadget freaks is that they are full of zippy and popper-buttoned compartments for phones, PDAs (Personal Digital Assistants), batteries, and memory sticks, never mind lipsticks.

He created them when he realised that although laptop bags already served their function well in protecting the goods inside, they did not exactly look good.

"My girlfriends would turn up for a night out with bags stuffed with everything with a laptop whacked on the top," he explained to BBC News Online.

BAG LADIES
The three Julien MacDonald laptop bags for Intel (Image: Richard Bush)
Three bag models to suit different women
Classic Black: For the woman who wants the classic understated look
Glamorous Fuchsia: For the woman who likes to be noticed
Modern White: For the modern, creative, sophisticated businesswoman
Many of them would be going out straight from work, but did not want to lug around heavy "nylon, ugly, horrible" laptop bags.

"So I thought I should do one of those," he says.

"I realised there was a real niche in the market for a lightweight stylish bag that had the technology in it to hold a computer, but also the technology in it so that if you dropped the bag, the laptop wouldn't break."

As laptops get slimmer and lighter, many working women are finding it increasingly essential to carry them around.

With wi-fi hotspots, allowing high-speed net access without wires, popping up around the country in bars and cafes, staying connected on the move is becoming an important part of the job.

"Computers and laptops are becoming a fashion accessory in their own right now," MacDonald explains, particularly for aspiring Sex and the City chicks.

"But you don't want to turn up to work in a gorgeous tailored suit then carry around this horrible ugly bag", he says.

They have inhabited the world that fashion forgot for so long because the demand for style has not been there until now.

"All the design that went into laptop bags was focused on the travelling businessman.

"People never thought women were just as business orientated as men and that they have those roles too," he says.

Now that they are, women are demanding the accessories to accompany their hi-tech get a touch of hi-tech fashion too.

Geek to chic

"People want their computers and phones to be functional and fashionable and there is a real crossover in products at the moment," MacDonald argues.

Fashion designer Julien MacDonald
MacDonald: Technology is the future for everything
"People want products that also associate them with a brand, an image."

To MacDonald, people make choices in what technology they buy based on the "feel good factor" and what it says about image or personality over what it can actually do.

Which is why he decided to design the bags in different colours, for the sophisticated, the understated and the loud.

The fashion industry in general is waking up to technology and is being forced to change as tech gets smaller, portable, part of a fashionable image and essential.

Technological developments in fabric, with Teflon coated clothing repelling rain and Lycra that needs no ironing, have successfully been adopted by the fashion industry.

But things are moving slowly towards wearable technologies and creating garments that will accommodate them.

"If something has added value, customers will respond well to that," says MacDonald.

As for the laptop bags, MacDonald predicts they will be copied on the High Street soon, a relief for those whose busy working lives do not pay sufficiently to afford such a luxury item.


What does your laptop bag look like? Do you care what it says about you or do you just care about what it does? Tell us what you think

Love it. About time there was a designer laptop bag. And you don't wander around dodgy streets with a designer handbag either, some of you guys are missing the point...
Lizzie, Manchester

I use a brown paper bag to hold my tiny laptop. It's what I call ghetto camouflage so that I don't get mugged on the streets.
Joe Spence, USA

I love the idea of an all purpose laptop bag, but I wouldn't want one of these that announces to the world that I am carrying my laptop, either. Make a bag that looks more like a purse...or anything that I would wear with my business suit. Less is more
Nicole, USA

I am personally thrilled with the design of this bag. I love compartments, zips, and anything functional. It's attractive colours and design means it will definitely be on my wish list this Christmas. As to whether it serves the purpose as a laptop carrier, I have no comment. I do not enjoy carrying one around no matter how light or small. The bulkiness of them and their accessories just make looking effortlessly fashionable and groomed difficult. A mobile phone is more than adequate for me to keep in touch, which means my Julien MacDonald laptop bag, will have plenty of space for the essential beauty/fashion items and I would not be weighed down by the pressures of work. My verdict - this is a fashion item, which does not mean practical or sensible.
Angelique, New York

You know people, we really must learn that it's what's inside that's important - I know the fashion industry needs the opposite. Concentrating on the outside is vacuous and superficial.
Steve, UK

The look great but I'm not sure I'd go for them myself. With laptop bags in general, I have a problem getting anything to fit comfortably. My 12" iBook is half the size of any normal bag so, even strapped in, it rattles around. Usually I have to sling it in my rucksack but it comes to no harm. Great to see a few Mac users here by the way!
SarahJC, UK

Nice bags! For years I have carried my laptop in a specially made backpack with padding and straps for protection. I was interested in the comments from Mueed. You claim your laptop is less likely to be stolen in its manufacturers case. As someone who has worked with loss prevention for IT, I would like to let you know that it is your type of bag that is most likely to be nicked... it practically shouts LAPTOP!! Unlike these new ones that just look like handbags (albeit large ones). My message for years has been to leave the standard bags at home and get something less conspicuous
Martin Nash, Manchester, UK

Leopardskin laptop bags please sweetie.
Steven, UK

My laptop bag is my Burberry courier bag, which as it's not the standard one means it disguises the fact that it conceals my PC. Also the standard bags seem to quadruple the weight of the laptop. Good idea, although I did think of this five years ago but not enough made and probably too expensive. Why would women want to have the money sent to a children's charity? How patronising - I'd rather it was sent to a animal shelter if your asking Mr MacDonald.
Anne Marie, UK

Who needs a designer to come up with an original look? I use my work laptop bag (plain black) but I have customised it with a collage of my favourite images: Sydney Harbour, the Aberdeen Football team squad, Michael Bolton. It cheers me up no end, and often sparks a conversation on public transport. In fact, I met my current partner this way.
Iain Spittal, Scotland

I agree with the comment that it looks like something from a market stall. It seems big and bulky, and definitely not something I would want to carry around. At the moment my lap top is my computer so it doesn't move, but I've personalised my own case, and I think that's fine. I like the idea of a strap for a geological hammer thou - functional!! Heehee. The pink one is just horrible- and I love the colour...grrrrrrrr
Gemma, Switzerland

OK, I'm male, and not really fashion-conscious, but I do want certain things from my laptop bag. It MUST be a safe environment for the laptop (of course); it must NOT look like a laptop bag (otherwise it's too obvious a target for thieves); I DON'T want to look like I buy my stuff at an army-surplus store; and I do want it to be comfortable to carry and hold - no awkward handles, please! But should it look REALLY good? Probably not. If I don't want thieves to target it for the laptop inside, I don't want them to target it for the chic either.
Lance, UK

My laptop bag looks like a normal backpack. I travel internationally, and having a bag that doesn't scream "I'm carrying a laptop! Steal me!" is worth more than style. My husband even uses it instead of his regular black nylon bag.
Trisha, USA

It's amazing how so many women want something so hideous. Stylish? Kitsch I think.
Barbara, UK

Hmm, ugly bag. I'm inclined to agree with Mark in Spain. Mine's carried in a rucksack which is great for lugging about and also disguises the fact it's a laptop which is the top priority in Lima.
Cayley, Peru (ex-uk)

I think they are fab - fun and desirable. Yes someone might recognise them from all this, but hopefully this is the start of something great for us girls....
Yvonne Skinner, England

My laptop bag is the standard one that came with the machine. As a result the emphasis is on comfort as opposed to looks. This is ideal because it is unlikely to attract the attention of would-be muggers. These designer laptop bags are asking for trouble with the attention they will attract.
Mueed, London UK

Mine was a boring black laptop bag until some eight months ago when my five year old boy decided it needed brightening up without my knowledge. He then dragged it where I was with his lunchbox and said that I now had the same bag as he did. My initial reaction was of horror and anger. I walked over and saw the smile and delight on his face as he compared the two and said that his was still better. My anger turned quickly and I asked why his was better. Then we sat down and I helped him completely destroy my bag. Now I walk around with various colours and umpteen cartoon characters on my bag. My son tells everyone that he made the bag for me and seems proud of it.
Kane, Switzerland

I don't need a bag for mine, it has been integrated into my contact lenses and uses a neurogenic interface. Ooops, sorry, wrong decade!
Tony Kenny, UK

I've got two bags, depending on what I am doing. I have an expensive laptop back-pack with load dispersing straps because if I'm carrying my tools with me then I'm carrying a lot. And I have a neoprene pouch which means I can stick my laptop in any bag it will fit in, normally my Louis Vuitton courier bag, which a laptop fits in perfectly. I wouldn't buy one of those bags mainly because like other people have said, it would weigh a ton, and I'd end up walking around like I was 60 years old. Maybe a computer company should hold a design awards for laptop bags and let the public choose who has the best design.
Emma, UK

My God! Has no one got any imagination or style! I can't believe how many negative comments there have been. I think the new laptop bag from Julien MacDonald looks great. And as a mature, working woman, I would absolutely love to have one. I realise that my "laptop is a tool, not an accessory" but that doesn't mean that I want to look like I'm off to school when I carry it around. As for the colours, well, personally, I love the Fuchsia. Women don't get mugged because they're carrying bright coloured bags. More because they're not aware enough of what people around them are doing, or they leave themselves vulnerable. That's what muggers watch for. If lived in London all my life and, thankfully, have never been mugged. But if that's a real worry, then why not simply go for the black.
Janet, UK

We do need more attention to the design of these bags. One of the problems seems to be with the straps. Maybe with a little ingenuity there one day they might actually comfortable to carry.
Glob, UK

We have been bombarded at work this week with security alerts about increasing laptop theft in the city where I work. The local police are saying don't advertise the fact that we are carrying laptops, so to design bags specifically for them is not the most sensible idea is it! You would be just as well sticking them in a shopping bag with a loaf of bread and a tin of baked beans.
Candy, UK

My laptop is a battered leather flight carry on bag. It holds my (small) laptop, leads and essential papers. I use a USB Flash Drive to carry any work I need to transfer elsewhere rather than floppies. If necessary I can carry my DVD RW as well. It is functional, useful and does not scream "steal me, I am a Laptop".
Donald, UK

I think you guys have missed the point - it's for women !
Linda, UK

I've a very distinctive quilted fabric pouch, hand-made by my boyfriends mum out of a colourful material in an Indian pattern. No-one would guess it held a laptop. It also fits neatly inside a much more practical and sturdy courier bag, which is not exactly elegant but very terribly sensible. Julien's is very desirable though.
Liz, Reading, UK

Mine is a black nylon rucksack to prevent back and shoulder strain. No branding so doesn't look worth stealing and lots of space for other items.
David Bradbury, UK

It's a fun idea (I love JMcD's designs) and probably will cost a few hundred pounds at least considering there are only 100 available. I have a bag designed to look like an ordinary bag rather than "come and steal me I contain a laptop" bag which also protects it from damage. Should we be interested in this lovely design as the people who'll have one can afford a hefty bodyguard to avoid theft! I don't really care what carries my laptop as long as it blends in - I'd rather spend the money on another cute handbag that I can use all the time!
Elle, Wales

With everyone's negative comments, it's a good job there are only 100 here.
Mog, UK

I've got two. One's a record bag, which hopefully prevents me getting targeted by muggers. The other is a standard black case - the best type. A laptop bag is not a fashion accessory, it's a tool. Geeks are quite cool enough already.
Russ, UK

My girlfriend's 12" powerbook fits neatly into an A4 portfolio case. People presume it's just a bunch of drawings.
Paul-Michael Doherty, England, London

My laptop bag is five times the size of my Dell Latitude D600. I think the idea of bringing out more chic bags is a great idea!
Claire, UK

MacDonald's bag design looks clumsy and heavy. I rather have something light, sleek and not weigh a ton before I even put my laptop into the bag. It also needs to look discreet. I'm a small person and I don't want my bag to look bigger than me.
Lucy Tyler, United Kingdom

Mine just goes into a standard expandable briefcase along with all my business notes, files, pens and associated junk. I see so many people lugging around a briefcase and a laptop bag on their shoulder and I think ... why ?
PaulC, UK

I carry my laptop in a backpack because I travel around during the day and it is only sensible option. I hate two things about it. First it ruins the look of my business suits and second it is obvious that I am carrying a laptop. I'd love to have something more discreet.
Philippa, UK

Are there only 100 professional women in the whole of the UK then? A bit sad that he has spent all of this time and effort for women today and then just provides a hundred. Not that I would want one, it looks like a jazzed up gym bag to me - I think I'll stick to my boring but functional laptop case thanks.
Mary, Manchester, UK

The MacDonald bag looks like an old fashioned grip bag that my grandad used to have. The bright colour of the pink one is a magnet for street thieves. A lot of manufacturers are making bags that don't look like laptop bags and are being marketed as being less likely to attract attention from undesirables.
Barton, UK

Me and my boyfriend used to hate carrying our boring black laptop bags around after work, so we decided to make our own, pink with sequins you can do what you want. People started to ask about them, and now we are thinking of opening our own business together.
Craig Coleman, England

My laptop bag is grey with straps and a handle on top and a pocket at the front and a loop for an ice axe or geological hammer.
Martin Gratton, UK

Hmmm...what a good idea; let's make women's laptop bags bright pink so that they're easily spotted by would-be muggers. The best laptop bag is one that doesn't look like a laptop bag. I know some professionals who carry their laptops around in sports bags; who'd want to steal 'sweaty socks, mouldy trainers and a bottle of shampoo'!?
Nigel Kendrick, UK

The most important thing is that the bag hasn't to look like a bag for a computer, my G4 travels in a discreet LowePro. I would rather have my keys swinging from my belt next to a holstered mobile phone that be seen with Mr MacDonald's effort.
Mark, Spain

This guy should stick to clothes ... it's an appalling piece of design, it has an aesthetic close to what you find in a cheap market stall. I can't see many business women rushing to buy this exclusive piece of tat, which is a shame as the profits go to charity and they could sell a lot more with a well thought through piece of design
Dan King, Spain

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SEE ALSO:
Technology to make you go 'wow'
14 Oct 03  |  Technology
Chic gear to suit net generation
10 Sep 03  |  Technology
Coffee 'wi-fi' break for shoppers
26 Jun 03  |  Technology
Prêt-à-porter computers
21 Jan 02  |  Science/Nature
Computers as clothes
04 May 00  |  Science/Nature


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