Rants

Even IKEA's Iconic Blue Tote Has Given Into the All-Neutral Trend

June 10, 2016

On the list of things that my mom and I agree on: That I have the best-ever, cutest niece and nephews in all the world (her grandkids), that cheese is a food group, that flats > heels, and that it's time for this whole all-neutral interiors trend to be over with already. That last one might not ring as classic mother-daughter talk, but we're both color people: Every time one of her friends tells her they've just redone the living room to be all whites and neutrals!! she texts me and we swap barf emojis.

Proof that she and I will have to endure the neutral craze a while longer: IKEA has redesigned its iconic shopping bag—that roomy royal blue one made from a material that feels like plastic—in a soft grey fabric with green handles, as Dezeen reported yesterday.

The new FRAKTA. Photo by Dezeen

IKEA tapped Hay, a Danish design group, to overhaul the look of the bag (which goes by the name FRAKTA on their website); it's no surprise that the the all-Scandinavian collaboration resulted in pared-down colorways and softer materials.

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The harsh look and feel of the original bag had felt out of character considering IKEA's other designs, but maybe that was for production reasons. Fast Company reports that at a retail cost of just $0.99, the classic blue FRAKTA can carry up to 30 pounds for up to 1,000 trips (perfect for carrying laundry and moving apartments over and over and over; that is, perfect for anyone living in New York), so maybe it was woven of magic carpet. Can any of your free canvas tote bags with cute screen prints on them do the FRAKTA? Didn't think so.

The new design won't be released until the fall, but word on the street is that they're still going to be very, very low-cost.

The original FRAKTA. Photo by IKEA

I won't deny that the new softer colors are way more up my alley than the crinkly blue version with bright yellow IKEA logos, but I can't help but feel a little bummed about this news. The old bag is weird and scrappy, more like a piece of used tarp than a tote at all, but it's different. It has panache; it spawned memes. You can always spot it across a busy street, slung like a bag of toys (or coal, really) over the shoulder of some sad joe walking his dirty clothes to the laundromat. You identify with him, in that moment—with the plight of all city dwellers despite their tacit refusal to not move out of the city—but you do not envy him.

The utility of the original blue FRAKTA is so undeniable that it's possible to pretend it's a lovelier color blue, a more sumptuous material, than it really is. Redoing it in heather grey and forest green is IKEA—a company known for store layouts that force you to walk for miles, and assembly instructions designed to confuse and humiliate you—giving in. And they never seem to give in.

Maybe it's that a little my way or the highway is refreshing in modern-day retail, in which every consumer desire seems to be indulged if it has a cost attached, but IKEA up and trend-ifying their iconic and unbeatable tote bag strikes me as very sad indeed.

All the color in the design world seems to be fading, fading, fading away. I have to try very hard not to use the word "dusty" on a regular basis to describe colors on this very website.

Chartreuse and burnt orange and stop-light red and bruisey blues and lilac and marigold and even, yes, rich royal blue have a place—maybe not always in fashion, or the best colors for food photography, but at least they say something. Here's to hoping we don't lose sight of that, world.

Do you love or loathe IKEA's classic blue tote bag? Take a stand, in the comments.

3 Comments

SRBM September 14, 2017
My daughter stole my Frakta bag when she moved. I plan to steal it back at my first opportunity. Great for Costco shopping!
 
foofaraw August 8, 2016
Tarp is nice because you can wipe it clean easily, unlike fabric that you need to use water and soap to clean it. I'd prefer the older one due to its functionality.
 
cv June 11, 2016
Both bags are undeniably ugly.<br /><br />I do have the blue bag which I keep in the trunk, it comes out maybe once a year when the large capacity is needed. I view it as a utilitarian object, like a broom, rather than a design statement.