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Prague: ARTĚL Style

Expert recommendations and insider tips for first-time visitors and locals alike from ARTĚL’s founder, Karen Feldman, who has lived in Prague since 1994. Click on the links below for detailed reviews – from Feldman’s own unique perspective – of all the best that Prague has to offer...

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Plastic Bags: Socialist-Era Status Symbol

Published on May 30th, 2013 in Interviews

  • Boney M - Photo Courtesy of Socik Style Blog

  • Philip Morris - Photo Courtsey of Socik Style Blog

  • Swiss Design Bag

  • Budapest Airport Tax Free Shopping Bag - Courtesy of Socik Style Blog

  • Abba - Photo Courtesy of Socik Style Blog

  • Swiss Shopping Bag

  • Vilan - West German Shopping Bag

  • Mavel Airline - Photo Courtesy of Socik Style Blog

  • Beatles - Photo Courtesy of Socik Style Blog

  • Progress Shopping Bag

  • Koospol Shopping Bag

  • Zboži Shopping Bag

 

These days the plastic bag is a bit of a pariah, cast aside in favor of the infinitely more stylish and eco-friendly reusable shopping tote. But if you lived in communist Czechoslovakia, plastic bags carried (no pun intended!) a certain kind of cachet. Kristýna Dvořáková ARTĚL’s office manager—and de facto historian—explains:

 

“Before 1989 items with interesting designs, prints, or colors were scarce. Forget neon or pastels or graphic prints on T-shirts; everyone wore the same hideous clothes in a limited range of dull colors. As a result, anything that came from the west (mostly West Germany) was a hot commodity. But western goods were tough to come by. To attain them, one had to leave the country (a near impossibility for regular folks), and, upon returning, get purchases through customs which would typically confiscate everything—except the shopping bags they came in! Thus plastic bags bearing logos from the west became widely coveted. Women lucky enough to have one often carried it in lieu of a handbag. I had quite a few myself including bags from Rifle Italian jeans, Lee Cooper London denim and, a very rare collectible, Levi’s.”

 

 

We asked a Who’s Who of the Czech design community to recall their favorite bag from this era:

 

“Definitely Marlboro – the classic red and white plastic bag.”
- Jana Zielinski, Designblok Director

 

“I was collecting bags, of course. The more colorful the better! I mostly had ones with the logotypes of trade unions.”
- Maxim Velčovský, Designer

 

“My favorite plastic bag was the one with the beautiful young lady on it wearing her WildCat jeans. I took really good care of it, folding it up neatly every day.”
- Klára Tománková, Stylist

 

“All the plastic bags used by our family in the 70s and 80s came from my aunt Jitka who emigrated to Germany in 1969. My favorite was from the Munich sports shop Schuster (green bag with dark purple letters). It had handles made of chunkier plastic which could be joined together. Once the handles were joined together you stuck them through a hole in a fold of plastic that came over the top of the bag closed it. It was the BMW of plastic bags! And it lasted me forever...”
- Janek Jaros, Founder/Former Owner of Modernista & Founder/Owner of Chalet Chalupa Charmonix

 

 

 

** images courtesy of  Socik Style Blog

 

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