John Metcalfe was CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, covering climate change and the science of cities.
Danielle van Lunteren's "Infected" bags spread pestilence into the ultra-clean cities of the Netherlands.
Raging infection and pestilence, parasites and raw sewage: These are not things that typically inspire the makers of haute couture. But to someone who's never experienced them before, they can be fascinating enough to underpin an accessories line that would make an epidemiologist throw petri dishes in the air with joy.
At least that was the case with designer Danielle van Lunteren, a graduate of the Design Academy Eindhoven who recently took an eight-month backpacking trip through Latin America. Being from the ultra-clean Netherlands, van Lunteren was captivated by the cauldron of pathologies boiling around her: The American tropical zone, after all, is home to malaria, dengue fever, insidious intestinal parasites, yellow fever, cholera, typhoid, schistosomiasis, various skin-infesting fungi, Chagas disease, and that horrible bot fly that implants squirming larva into living animals (including, ugh, humans). It was quite a change from her European enclave, she writes, where "it seems as if we are afraid of filth."
When van Lunteren got back to her work table, she set about creating a series of chichi handbags that played with the idea of "infected." She started with sheets of beautiful leather, which she subjected to blasts of acid, extreme heat and slashes with sharp tools that ripped and punctured the material. By the end of the stylistic torture, the leather appeared to have fallen off one of the Horses of the Apocalypse. Then, in a squirm-inducing touch, she put the handles inside the bags, so that it looks like people are walking around with bloated, diseased ticks eating their arms.
Photo from the 2012 Graduation Show at the Design Academy Eindhoven.