Secret Life Of Bags

Secret Life Of Bags: Emily Henson (Me!)

I didn’t think it would be fair to ask anyone else to show me what’s in their bag if I wasn’t willing to do the same thing. So photographer and friend Sarah Hogan came over a few weeks ago and shot the extensive collection of junk that I cart around with me for my very own Secret Life Of Bags reveal. I’ve tried to scale things back recently, but judging by these pictures, I’m not succeeding.

We also had a little fun with my collection of bags, some of which I’ve had for years (although most of them don’t see the light of day anymore), and hold a lot of memories. They tell their own story about how my taste has evolved – ten years ago I favoured vintage leather and kitschy prints. Today I prefer a more refined but still unique look. In other words, I am now a grown-up. Judging by Sarah’s pictures of me, I find the whole thing freakin’ HI-larious! What I’m actually thinking is “Why the hell did I ship all this crap over from LA when I moved back to London?” Ah, sentimentality is a curse.

The first bag I remember having was one of those brightly coloured plastic totes in first year at primary school. ALL the cool girls had them. Along with leg warmers, fingerless gloves, fluorescent fishnet tights from Tammy Girl and a cassette of Madonna’s Like a Virgin, all of which I probably carried in my see-through plastic purse so everyone could see how cool I was.

Times have changed slightly in the thirty odd years since then. Lately I’ve been alternating between two new and very lovely handbags. The big black one is by Liebeskind from Anthropologie and is leather and coated canvas (and I got it on sale). The smaller perforated grey leather one is by Anya Hindmarch, and is the most expensive thing I’ve ever bought myself to wear. I agonised over it for weeks, stalking the bag department at Liberty on a daily basis. I will cry when I inevitably spill something on it or get a pen mark on the leather. There’s a reason I don’t usually have nice things and it’s because I ruin them.

The black one is huge and has about 800 compartments – great for travelling but a bit overwhelming for every day. I travel a lot for work, so I can shove expense receipts in one pocket, ipad and phones in another, books and papers in another and so on. The hard part is remembering what’s where and I am constantly digging around at airport security going “where the f*** did I put my_____?”


PhotographerEverything pictured could fit into that big black beast of a bag with ease, although I try not to be such a travelling hoarder. But the truth is I do use most of what’s pictured with regularity. OK, maybe not the 5 amp fuses and the packets of seeds, but everything else, yes! But when I’m in London I try to just have my little Anya bag and maybe a canvas tote for stray extras.

I love to categorize things. When I’m working on a concept for a client or doing visual merchandising for Anthropologie, I am mentally categorising by style, colour, mood, and any number of things. The same goes for my bag. Apparently my categories are:

Beauty/Health, Tools of the trade, Technology, Food/Drink, Memorabilia.

A few call-outs from my bag clutter:

Two phones. I know, it’s really lame and I actually hate it. But one is mine and one is my Anthropologie work phone. I fell like such a douche when I’m checking both on the bus.

Bottle opener. I like wine. The end.

No, but really it’s because I travel to Paris a lot for work and what better thing to do after a long day of work than grab a bottle of wine and some bread and cheese and find a spot to sit by the river. This particular corkscrew is now in the hands of EasyJet airport security. Whoops.

Dior Nude Air foundation serum. I only started wearing foundation in my thirties and I’ve never liked it. It usually feels heavy and it covers up my freckles and I find it impossible to find the right colour. I want it to look like I’m not wearing makeup, but I just have amazing skin – just like everyone else. But this stuff is pretty fantastic. It’s really light and smooth and evens out my blotchiness and uneven skin tone. This isn’t sponsered I promise. I just genuinely like the stuff.

Canker X. I get ulcers/canker sores from stress. So all the time. This helps a teeny bit when I want to eat without crying 🙁

A favourite photo of my kids taken about twelve years ago when we lived on a U.S. Army base in South Korea. My husband had drawn on ‘I love mum’ tattoos because it was Mother’s Day. This is back when they used to talk to me. i.e. before they became teenagers.

When I look at all the things I carry with me, it does seem a bit ridiculous, doesn’t it? But I swear, the times I’ve tried to scale back are the times when I really need that phillips head screwdriver or those clothes pins. hee hee.

I know I’m not alone – what are the weird things that you insist on carrying around?

And tell me, who would you love to see on Secret Life Of Bags? I’ve got my own little list brewing but I’d love to hear from you. xoxo




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