As a confirmed accessories aficionado
, I thought it couldn't get any better than the Bata Shoe Museum in Toronto
-- until I visited Amsterdam's Tassenmuseum
, which is the Museum of Bags and Purses. Like Bata, the Tassenmuseum has a permanent collection which tells the history of the handbag via a collection of some 3,500 purses which date back to 1500, up to the present moment.
On display now until August 23 is "Beastie Bags"
, a small exhibition of handbags made from, or inspired by, animals. There are bags made from the usual suspects, crocodile skin, for example, and there are older bags using materials from animals that are now protected or endangered, including ivory and tortoise shell.
Contemporary bags include those made from the leather of sting rays and toads, but the most compelling contemporary bags of the collection are by Netherlands designer Evelyn van Oosterhout, who has made handbags from fish -- in the bag pictured here, sea bream lined with hare fur. The exhibit notes that fish leather is thin, but extremely tough. (She also made a very witty, if totally gross, bag made from used fly paper, also on display.) Carrying one of these on your arm will certainly be a conversation starter.Van Oosterhout's site
is in Dutch but has many more photos of these purses, including the fly paper purse, and other accessories. Warning: some images not for the squeamish. Van Oosterhaut says her bags range in price from €280 for a small red snapper bag to €550 for a sea bream bag.