Should a firearm be a fashion statement?
Saint Laurent designer Hedi Slimane thinks so, as do other accessories brands that are selling purses or clutches made in the shape of guns—or embossed with weapons logos. Celebrities, too, have been carrying these bags.
Rihanna was photographed earlier this month in Santa Monica with a Saint Laurent clutch emblazoned with handguns—the Gun Pop Clutch, for $600—and a purse shaped like a revolver—the ‘Bo Gun’ Purse, for $1000.
The singer’s no stranger to wearing guns; in 2012, she wore a gold vintage Chanel gun motif choker necklace, and she has a tattoo of a gun on her ribcage.
Most recently, Saint Laurent’s Metallic Gun Clutch, for $1,098, which is part of Slimane’s western-themed fall collection, has been controversial. “I imagine that reactions to this clutch will vary widely from person to person, dependent upon an individual’s views on both Hedi Slimane and firearm culture in general,” Amanda Mull wrote on purseblog.com. “My initial reaction was an eye-roll.”
However, gun control and gun rights advocates alike told Yahoo Style that handbags in the shape of guns were unlikely to mean much in the debate over what Americans think about firearms and if our country’s gun rules should be changed.
“It is pretty much a non-issue in a country where we have somewhere north of 300 million guns and the entertainment industry incorporates guns in everything other than situation comedies and rom-coms,” says William J, Vizzard, professor emeritus at California State University in Sacramento’s division of criminal justice.
Some women, of course, may be completely against guns—and gun owners—but others, experts say, may like the message that comes with a carryall that looks like a weapon. Eugene Volokh, the Gary T. Schwartz Professor of Law at the UCLA School of Law, says that these these handbags could actually be seen as powerful symbols for women who want to broadcast that they’re willing to defend themselves.
“Many women view guns as symbols of their power to defend themselves (and their families),” Volokh says. “Men are often bigger and stronger than women; they don’t need a weapon to victimize women. But women often need weapons to defend themselves, and guns are particularly effective weapons in this respect. A woman displaying gun-related items may be trying to send a message: “I am prepared to defend myself; if you attack me, you will pay the price; and I support other women who want to do this, too.”
In fact, Rihanna has said of her tattoo, “The gun was a symbol of strength. I’ll never be a victim.”
On the other hand, some designers are using gun symbols and parts subversively, as a way to support getting rid of them. Vlieger & Vandam, which makes purses with gun logos or charms, was started by two artists as a way of spotlighting escalating street violence in their native Rotterdam. Recently model Irina Shayk was photographed carrying one of their clutches embossed with a distinct profile of a handgun, and Rita Ora and Rihanna are also fans.
Fonderie 47, a jewelry company based in New York, repurposes AK-47s into necklaces earrings and pendants and uses to proceeds to fund nonprofits working to get assault rifles banned in Africa.
“There’s a long tradition in the fashion industry of making handbags in the shape of other things,” says Dave Kopel, a Colorado-based author, attorney, and gun rights advocate. “For example: clocks, accordions, frogs, footballs, fish, or guitars. So gun-shaped handbags are just another example of handbag designers appropriating things from the fabric of American life. There doesn’t seem to be any risk that an observer would mistake any of these handbags for a real gun.”