Why Proenza Schouler’s PS1 Is the Ultimate Back-to-Work Bag

In praise of the PS1.

The schlep from home to office is back. Sooner rather than later, we’ll all be carrying our bags as if they were sacks of potatoes, instead of totes filled with battered laptops, chewed-on pens, and soggy lunches. If that didn’t make it clear, I’m not a huge fan of commuting. Since I have to, I want to at least do it in style. I’m not a tote bag gal; I can’t deal with the flimsy and weak. Of course, a fun pochette is out of the question for corporate 9-5s. Sure, I love to consider a Louis Vuitton Saint Jacques Epi bag, but I need something to expand and contract with ease. The Epi’s rigid leather isn’t the best for stuffing running sneakers in! So what have I discovered? Well, the quintessential, chic back-to-office bag might just be Proenza Schouler’s PS1.

The piece is roomy with a devil-may-care attitude. It’s an elevated messenger bag that isn’t too stuffy, structured, or angular. Still, the PS1 is made from thick leather that can handle the daily wear and tear of a commute. Of course, there is also the nostalgia component. Like the Balenciaga Motorcycle bag, the bag encapsulates the tail end of the excessive noughties at the end of the 2000s.

The PS1 launched in 2008 and was discreetly seeded among designers Lazaro Hernandez and Jack McCollough’s stylish coven of friends, including Mary-Kate Olsen who had a version in suede and python. The bag came at the right time, when a range of not-so-flashy but very durable bags started to make waves, like the aforementioned Motorcycle bag and Chloe’s Paddington. For the November 2008 issue of Vogue, Fashion Writer Florence Kane wrote an article about the boom of the bag. “‘This is the anti-It-bag,’ says Hernandez. McCollough adds, ‘It-bags sometimes lack a certain subtleness.’ So the two have veered away from the usual designer trappings; the pieces aren't ‘littered with logos’ or weighed down by hardware. It is details like the special moiré print lining or the laid-back knot in each strap that ID them.”

Vogue.com Editor Chioma Nnadi describes the bag as, “little bit schoolgirl but downtown….I remember getting a satchel bag, just because the shape was similar.” (She also brings up the rise of Gossip Girl, where Serena Van Der Woodsen notably toted the PS1. That likely added to the bag’s scholastic associations). Fashion News Editor Sarah Spellings remembers she became obsessed with the bag after attending a Teen Vogue panel featuring Hernandez and McCollough. “I just thought it was so cool. I loved that it didn’t have a label,” says Spellings. “It felt like a cleanse after coveting Chanel, Louis Vuitton, and Coach logo bags. Made me feel ‘in the know.’” Senior Fashion Writer and Style Editor Janelle Okwodu notes that she had the yellow version, “which was glorious.” And Fashion and Style Writer Christian Allaire simply says, “it brings me back to Tumblr years.”

Looking at old forums on the beloved late-aughts site thefashionspot.com, I found a trove of threads coveting the bag in its heyday. The user Kimair might have said it best back in 2008. “I love how un-designer these look.” Thirteen years later, I want to scoop up an anthracite medium version for myself. It’s big enough to pack in my laptop and whatever else I need for the day. Sure, it’s a time capsule bag, but it still packs a punch and a lot in it.