Marimekko Cash & Carry Shoulder Bag Review

marimekko ratia

For several years I’ve been casually looking for a bag to carry all my everyday stuff. If I was a woman this would be called a “purse,” but I’m not yet confident enough in my sexuality to call it that, so we could agree, perhaps, to call it a “shoulder bag” or a “carry-all” or, if you must, a “murse.”

Back in the 70s all a guy needed to have on him was keys and a wallet. These days I’m carrying around keys and a wallet and an iPod Touch and a mobile phone and a notebook and a fountain pen and my passport and who knows what else. I don’t carry scotch mints and Kleenex, but otherwise my personal carting-around needs are closer to my grandmother’s than to the Marlboro Man’s.

In the winter I solve this problem with an L.L. Bean jacket with an over-abundance of pockets. In the summer, though, I either end up wearing a coat that’s too warm for the weather or trying to cram everything into my trouser pockets.

I finally decided that enough was enough and that it was worth putting up with the catcalls from the muscled men in Camaros (yes, this has happened to me: “nice bag!”, not a compliment) to solve my problem.

Which provided me with a whole new problem: finding the right bag. I’m particular about this kind of thing: needed to be free of Velcro, small enough to not weigh me down but large enough, and with enough pockets to store and compartmentalize everything I need to cart around.

Being in Berlin for the summer provided me with the perfect opportunity to bag-shop: in Berlin everyone carries a bag, and having a bag on your shoulder offers no assault on your manliness. As such, the skies were full of bags of every design, colour and function.

I ended up finding a lot of bags that almost worked out for me: I’m a big fan of Freitag bags, made in Switzerland of recycled truck covers, but Freitag bags are drenched in Velcro, and I just can’t abide all that scrunching-sound every time I need a pen. There’s a great store on Rosenthaler Straße called Waahnsinn Berlin that sells a good selection of bags, but none of them quite met my specs.

Just as I was on the cusp of giving up, I wandered into the Marimekko store on Alte Schönhauser Straße. I’d walked past Marimekko stores before — the airport in Helsinki seems to be one giant Marimekko outlet and there are branches in Malmö and several other cities we’ve visited — but never been in, thinking them to sell only fabric and household goods. It turns out they also sell bags.

I spent a good 30 minutes looking through their selection until I found the perfect bag for me, the model they call “Cash & Carry.” It looks like this:

marimekko ratia

I bought it — “ah, you’ve settled on a classic,” said the clerk — and I’ve been carting it around ever since. The bag has a lot to recommend it:

  • It’s just the right size for my everyday stuff, and can hold some extra things — a paperback book, or a CD — if called upon.
  • There’s is an outside pocket at the front for my Nokia N95 and an outside pocket at the back that holds my iPod Touch.
  • There’s an outside slot for a pen on the right-hand side.
  • Inside there’s a pocket for a passport.
  • All the pockets, and the main closure, are zippered, not velcro.
  • It’s all made out of a space-age fabric that’s tough, somewhat waterproof, and is easy on the hands.
  • Like the clerk said, it’s a classic: it was designed in the 1970s by Ristomatti Ratia (son of Armi Ratia, Marimekko’s founder) and is free of ornamentation or other superfluous elements.

The bag has worked out well — there’s not really anything I would change about it. My only challenge is learning the everyday skills of bag-management that, I presume, come as second-nature to bag-carrying people (where to put it in a restaurant, how to remember not to leave it behind, etc.).

If you’re ready to take the leap into bag-carrying, I highly recommend this model; it will be easy to find in Europe, and Marimekko has several shops across Canada (including one in Thunder Bay, Finnport, that will ship).


dw's picture
dw on November 5, 2011 - 21:18



Good one.

Seriously, it&#39s too bad you had to travel to Europe to find this bag: MEC does indeed have a vast selection of gender-neutral bags (laptop, backpack, slingpack, etc) that are incredibly well-built (they&#39ll even replace a zipper for you — for free — if you wrench it out of whack 3 years after you purchased the bag!).  And surprisingly well-priced.

I&#39m happy to see that you&#39ve swallowed your male pride and embraced the bag culture.  Should we ever bump into you on University Ave on one of our weekend excursions, you and my husband shall recognize each other as kindred spirits.  For years, he would ask me to carry things for him in my purse.  Now, I do it to him.  Oh, the winds of change!

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