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Before we start, I must reveal a few truths. Firstly, I am not a regular TikTok user. Secondly, I have spent a large part of my career working in luxury fashion. It would seem then, that Uniqlo's viral $20 shoulder bag should be the last thing on my shopping wishlist. But 1.7 seconds into a video posted by @caitlinphillimorvideo and I've forgotten who I am and what I know. She’s already unpacked a pair of headphones and a large packet of biscuits from inside. Is it a clever camera angle, a trick of the eye, or could this small nylon number be the modern answer to Mary Poppins' magic carryall? After seeing the hefty amounts of impressions on this one video, I quickly realized she’s not the only one in awe of the bag's capacity.
The minimal zip-top design might look compact—it's about the size of Gucci’s Marmont shoulder bag—but if TikTok is anything to go by, it holds everything you might need for a long-haul flight, a day in the city, or a 13-hour stint at a music festival. One content creator even highlights its ability to house an entire block of tofu; not something I’d usually carry around with me, but to each their own.
I’m in Paris the next day when I stumble across it in Le Marais. (This is a lie. I've dragged my poor companion there straight from the Eurostar on a noble quest to find it. It’s a venture she does not care for.) The croissants and Notre Dame can wait—this is worth detouring for. The next morning, it's time to road-test this baby. We’re staying at Hotel Rochechouart in Montmartre and we’ve planned a morning exploring the area before heading back to Gare du Nord and home to London. In the interest of experimentation, I go bold and lay out everything I need for both.
How much does it hold?
Despite being on the move a lot, I’m a serial over-packer and rarely go anywhere without a large bottle of water. I’ve long since given up trying to squeeze it into my existing handbags and usually end up carrying a tote as my flight bag with an overspill of items I may or may not need. This game of Jenga is not ideal when the ‘one item of hand luggage’ rule comes into play at Heathrow, or when it takes more than a single bin to house my carry-on ‘essentials’ as they pass security. Could this bag be the remedy to my first-world problems?
The bottle of water fits, as does my wallet, passport, hand sanitizer, sleep mask, mini sunscreen, and my sunglasses case. I’m starting to think Hermione Granger’s cast the Undetectable Extension Charm on this deceptively spacious design.
Can I get my book inside, too? The answer is yes. Mission accomplished, zip closed.
What colors and patterns are available?
The small crescent-shaped shoulder bag was originally only available in a few shades: black, ivory, burnt orange, dark green, and teal. Lucky for fans of the popular bag, Uniqlo is kicking off the new year with a collaboration with design house Marimekko to introduce brand new colorways and patterns. The mini bag is now available in a subtle, cool circular pattern, as well as a variety of fun shades, including beige, blue, pink, purple, yellow, olive, and off-white. These pretty pastels will transition perfectly into spring and summer, making this travel essential versatile enough to wear year-round.
Why is this shoulder bag great for travelers?
Aside from its price, the best thing about this unisex bag is how light it is when empty. A feature often overlooked, especially when shopping online, it makes the weight of travel essentials manageable. Comfort is also key. The curved shape sits close to the body and offers a feeling of security. It’s lightly padded, fitted with an adjustable wide, webbed shoulder strap, and has a water-repellent nylon exterior that can be wiped clean with a damp cloth.
One thing’s for sure, this bag is coming home with me, and I’m glad I got my hands on it before it sold out again. This cleverly constructed, affordable accessory is the perfect travel companion and is now the most practical small bag I own. Much like Phillimore and the rest of the Gen-Z gang, I believe it's worthy of its rise to TikTok fame and overnight cult-classic status.
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This article was originally published on Condé Nast Traveller UK and has been updated with new information. Additional reporting by Meaghan Kenny.