What happens in the past stays in the past, right? Well, not quite. Enter: Bella Hadid wearing… Jane Norman.
If you attended a British secondary school in the early aughts, that name is sure to be burned into your memory. High-street hero, proprietor of the unlikeliest womenswear label moniker, and, most memorably perhaps, purveyor of *that* glossy carrier bag.
Who is she? Where did she come from? Where did she go? ‘She’ is actually a she and a he: Norman Freed and his mother Jane. The label was founded in 1952 (who knew!), went into administration in 2011, then again in 2014, before finally closing its doors once and for all in 2018.
But the dawn of 2000s? That was Jane Norman’s world, we were just living in it.
The peak in popularity of Jane Norman is a riddle I’m yet to crack. What marketing genius is responsible for ensuring the brand’s bag (a carrier, no less!) was on the arm of every adolescent girl up and down the UK? How did they do it? Where was the affinity born? How did it spread? Where did it die? Was it all a collective fever dream? My mind is a maze of red thread and cork-board pins, each deviating from the most perplexing of focal points: our mystifying obsession with *that* bag.
Secondary schools were peppered with pops of colour (I favoured the fuschia pink with black font combo). P.E. kits were hurriedly transferred from their drawstring digs to a glazed JN bag the minute one was acquired. The desperation was feverish, but the significance of carting around a Norman carrier was subtle: “yeah, I’ve got a Jane Norman bag… and what about it?”
Our high school days are punctuated with those pops of colour, and that’s where we imagined our relationship with Jane Norman would forever reside: a glorious and unexplainable relic of the past. But does Bella’s Depop-sourced endorsement spell a revival of the brand we so dearly coveted? Is Jane set for a comeback? Have I already trawled eBay for some JN gems? (Rhetorical because: absolutely.)
How does that quote go? “Sooner or later, everything old is new again.” Let the bidding wars commence.