How nylon became designer: 12 functional and fashionable bags for you

While high-end brands usually feature luxurious materials like lambskin, the pedestrian nylon has been a surprisingly popular pick — brands like Prada are inseparable from their nylon collections, while Kate Spade and Longchamp have also become famed for iconic nylon designer bags.

How nylon began

First intended as a silk substitute, nylon was patented in 1938 by the DuPont chemical company. Almost immediately, it found itself roped (literally) into the United States’ war effort. The low-cost material proved its resilience and versatility in ropes, parachutes, tents, and even aircraft fuel tanks. Post-war, DuPont’s focus on popularising the fabric proved successful—too successful. Excessive demand even caused the Pittsburgh Nylon Riots in 1946. Part of that effort involved giving samples to designers, and by 1955, nylon found itself used by designers like Christian Dior.

From there, its ubiquity only increased—by 1965, synthetic fibres made up 63% of the world’s production of textiles. But that overexposure also meant it soon began being perceived as tacky, and it soon became a maligned material.

Nylon and designer bags

Enter Miuccia Prada, the first to bring nylon into luxury bags. 

She had just entered the family business, specialising in leather bags. “Back then, I didn’t really like anything I saw. It all just looked so old and bourgeois and boring. I just wanted to search for the absolute opposite of what was already out there,” she would recount in an interview to 10 Magazine. “Nylon started to look more intriguing to me than couture fabrics. I decided to introduce it to the catwalk, and it challenged, even changed, the traditional and conservative idea of luxury.”

Beginning with iconic nylon backpacks, nylon became synonymous with the Prada brand. Miuccia Prada bravely forged ahead with her disruptive experiments with the material into the 1990s. These bags became popular, their functionality, minimalism and bold colours meshing well with the times.

Nylon bags today

Today, nylon bags have seen a resurgence with the revival of 1990s fashion. Nylon bag videos have accumulated over 164.7M views on TikTok. The practicality and versatility of nylon, as well as how it can be recycled and be vegan-friendly, has seen a new generation of adherents.

Your next bag could be nylon too: these bags are lightweight, yet strong and malleable. They’re water-resistant, mould-resistant, easily-washed and durable—making them the perfect everyday bag, suitable for both weekday work and weekend relaxation.

Here are some of the best nylon designer bags of different sizes and functions, all curated for the perfect combination of pretty and practical.

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