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The backpack is back!

18th February 2014 Print
Red Herring backpack

This once humble symbol of the budget traveller is the new brief-case, hand bag and holdall, rolled into one.

High Street retailer Debenhams has seen a 114% increase in sales of backpacks which industry observers attribute to the increasing use of smartphones as they leave the wearer’s hands free to text, tweet, or surf the internet.

A Nineties favourite, this utilitarian carry-all has been given an upmarket make-over and become the surprise must-have accessory of 2014.

Model of the moment Cara Delevingne has given the trend the ultimate stamp of approval by unveiling her own backpack as part of her exclusive collection with Brit brand Mulberry this week, while trend-setters like Alexa Chung and Rihanna, have been seen enjoying the benefits of the reborn-rucksack.

According to fashion insiders the secret to this look is to remember - size matters.

Debenhams Head of Accessories Design, Natelle Baddeley explains: “Too small and you look like you are still stuck in the Nineties, too big and you may be mistaken for an actual backpacker! The key size is medium, get that right and the wonderful versatility of the backpack is immediately apparent.

“It provides a practical, fashion forward update to a handbag, and is also a great alternative for both sexes to a briefcase. There is a fantastic choice of styles available right now. Solid colours in nylon, canvas and especially leather,  work well for a smart, business-look, while chic prints with contrasting trim in denim, faux leather and even mini pom-poms are right on trend.”

Designer backpacks alone have shown a 23% sales uplift over the last month with Debenhams H! By Henry Holland range proving particularly popular.

Natelle added: “Backpacks were popular with bloggers at Fashion Week, and high end brands were including them on the runway in top quality leather for work, as well as casual weekend styles using innovative new materials.”

The term ‘backpack’ was first coined in 1910 in the United States with hikers being the first group to adopt this style of bag. Today, as well as becoming a fashion item, it has evolved into a travellers’ staple, and is used by school children globally.

Debenhams’ backpacks are available in all stores nationwide and online at

Prices range from £20 to £45 by designers at Debenhams, H! By Henry Holland and Red Herring.

More Photos - Click to Enlarge

Red Herring backpack