WILARDY ROCKET (1953)

A hard plastic handbag may seem something of a kitsch curiosity today, but back in the United States of the 1950s, Will Hardy’s extravagant yet durable designs were all the rage. Plastic was still the glamorous material of the future, and Lucite (polymethyl methacrylate, to give its non-trademarked name) was the crème dela crème of the plastics world.

Through the 1950s, Hardy produced a series of sleek, tough Lucite bags under the company name of Wilardy, of which the brightest star was undoubtedly the capsule-shaped Rocker. Their sensual curves, rich, glossy colors and lavish decoration (rhinestones and mother-of -pearl were frequent embellishments. made them must-have accessories for starlets and society dames.

The bags were practical, too. Not only were they capacious enough to carry hair rollers as well as make-up, but also the slick ‘click release’ on the hinged lids was legendary.

Wilardy’s bags were expensive because they were handcrafted. They could cost as much as a month’s rent. But by the end of the decade, the development of injection moulding had led to a flood of copies, and the Lucite handbag quickly lost its chic. Today, though, a bona fide Wilardy is eminently collecable, and a few fashion houses such as Chanel have even issued contemporary interpretations.

Who says that fashion does not endure?