In Your Purse: Archaeology of the American Handbag chronicles the first-ever ‘dig’ into the physical and psychological depths of the only physical object that connects the home, where needs are created, and the store, where purchases are made that fill those needs – a woman’s purse.
It is at once a financial center, a medicine cabinet, a pharmacy, a cosmetic counter, a communications hub, a safe deposit box, and a stash for keepsakes of irreplaceable sentimental value. But, for every programmable pda or cell phone there are a hundred little scraps of paper with important phone numbers scrawled on them. For every key, there is at least one key fob or doodad, not so much connecting the keys as marking the territory. For women, who make roughly 70% of all retail purchases, the purse is a vital tool for daily living that is filled with emotional consequences.
A woman’s purse is a bag of contradiction on a string. It is the nerve center of her life – holding all manner of vital and precious things. Yet, most purses are a disorganized pit – mixing the tools of daily life – keys, wallet, phone, everything – with the detritus of living – gum wrappers, expired coupons, hair and general filth of every type. Most women who carry a purse cannot imagine how life would go on without it.
Contradiction is where the genius of innovation lies. This study is a catalyst for innovation in an almost unlimited number of categories. By studying the purse, the innovator can identify unmet and unarticulated needs by paying homage to the contradictions observed and build products to satisfy these needs. The first company to do that will win a spot in the purse and in the woman’s heart as a consumer.