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MSCHF to Unveil Its Microscopic Handbag, a Speck-Sized Tote

MSCHF, the creative collective responsible for the Big Red Boots that clomped across New York Fashion Week in February, is thinking smaller for its next accessory release. A lot smaller.

On Wednesday the group plans to unveil its Microscopic Handbag, a specklike rendition of Louis Vuitton’s OnTheGo tote. The bag measures 657 by 222 by 700 micrometers, making it smaller than a grain of sea salt and narrow enough to pass through the eye of a needle.

From afar, the fluorescent green bag looks like a radioactive poppy seed or a fragment of a sprinkle. Only when it is magnified are its translucent handles and Louis Vuitton monogram clearly visible. This is not the kind of tote bag that can be filled up with vegetables at the farmers’ market: At most, it could be used to carry around a platelet or two.

Kevin Wiesner, the chief creative officer of MSCHF, positioned the bag as a commentary on the impracticality of ever-shrinking luxury handbags. “I think ‘bag’ is a funny object because it derives from something rigorously functional,” he said in an interview. “But it has basically become jewelry.”

He said that MSCHF aimed to extend that trend to its logical conclusion by stripping away all of the bag’s utility, leaving nothing but a brand signifier. “It is the final word in bag miniaturization,” MSCHF said in a statement.

The bag will be sold this month as a lot in Just Phriends, an auction organized by Sarah Andelman, the former creative director of the Paris boutique Colette, which closed in 2017, and Joopiter, the auction house founded by Pharrell Williams.

Mr. Wiesner said that MSCHF had not asked for permission to use Louis Vuitton’s logo or design, despite the fact that Mr. Williams was recently named men’s designer for the luxury brand. “We are big in the ‘ask forgiveness, not permission’ school,” Mr. Wiesner said. (MSCHF settled a Nike lawsuit in 2021, and a Vans trademark suit is under appeal in federal court.)

But he noted that Mr. Williams had shown a fondness for oddly sized objects: “Pharrell loves big hats, so we made him an incredibly small bag.”

This is all in keeping with MSCHF’s history of provocative antics. Officially founded in Brooklyn in 2019 by Mr. Wiesner, Gabriel Whaley, Daniel Greenberg, Stephen Tetreault and Lukas Bentel, the collective has long leveraged parody and controversy to comment on the absurdities of consumer culture.

Its drops have included $76,000 “Birkinstock” sandals made from Birkin bags (released with the blessing of neither Birkenstock nor Hermès) and a pair of “Jesus Shoes,” or customized Nike Air Max 97s containing holy water from the River Jordan.

If those projects allowed MSCHF to poke fun at sneaker culture and organized religion, the microscopic bag trains the brand’s gimlet eye on the luxury handbag market.

When it comes to handbags, size matters. Consider the “ludicrously capacious” Burberry bag considered a faux pas in “Succession.” Or the teensy Valentino tote that Lizzo carried from the American Music Awards red carpet into the meme stratosphere, or the buzzy micro bag that Jacquemus debuted at Paris Fashion Week in 2019.

And although luxury bags are considered desirable in part because some retain their value, new “it” bags are anointed at a dizzying pace — from more minimal luxury offerings like Prada’s mini Cleo and Bottega Veneta’s “candy”-size Jodie to funkier statement bags like Puppets and Puppets’ cookie bag and Simone Rocha’s micro egg.

MSCHF had been discussing the idea of a miniature handbag for several months when Mr. Whaley brought the idea to Ms. Andelman during a visit to Paris. She jumped at the chance to offer a less obvious bag than the ones typically available at auction. “Christie’s and Sotheby’s, they have these Hermès bags,” Ms. Andelman said. “It’s become so usual, which is scary for me.”

MSCHF approached several industrial manufacturers that specialize in biotechnology, which Mr. Wiesner said they found through a combination of asking around and Google. Many said no.

The whole process was an exercise in persuasion, Mr. Wiesner recalled, “because you’re going into a production chain that makes stents and asking them to make a sculpture.” Eventually, they got a yes from a manufacturer that he declined to name.

The bag was created out of resin through a process called two-photon polymerization, a kind of 3-D printing for microscopic objects. The OnTheGo style was chosen because its design — a simple rectangle with a prominent logo — could be reproduced legibly at such a small scale, Mr. Wiesner said. Its bright color and slight translucence are intended to make it more visible when lit from below on a microscope slide. (According to MSCHF, the bag will be sold in a sealed gel case premounted beneath a microscope with a digital display.)

When samples of the bag arrived a few months ago, they were so small that Mr. Wiesner said the team lost some of them. But at least one bag that survived will be on display later this month, affixed beneath its microscope, during Men’s Fashion Week in Paris.

On June 19, it will be auctioned off online to a buyer whom Mr. Wiesner hopes will not treat it with too much reverence. “I almost hope somebody eats it,” he said.

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Mohammad SHiblu

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