On February 2, 2023, Xylk Lorena woke up to a nasty surprise. His brand's Instagram page, which had over 20,000 followers desperate to snap up his signature Expensive Grocery Bags, had suddenly been taken down. Shortly after, his Shopify account was shuttered without explanation.

It only made him more determined.

"You only lose when you stop. If I decide to fold, to give up, I lose. I take the L," Xylk told Highsnobiety from his Toronto studio.

"My mentality is, unless they hire someone to come and stop me physically, I’m not stopping."

For the better part of a decade, Xylk (pronounced “Silk”) has been tinkering with fashion and building a cult following but it wasn't until the 2022 debut of the Xylk Grocery Bag that things exploded.

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"The Grocery Bags are ironic. They represent stuff I like, like Clipse's 'Grindin’' video," Xylk said, referencing one of his early hit designs. "That’s why there’s no branding on the bag, I want people to see them on the street and get into them just because they look cool. I want the concept to go beyond the brand."

It's a simple concept executed perfectly. Xylk used sako ("sack") bags — Filipino grocery totes, essentially — as the basis for glorious full-color, four-sided prints of a certain luxury label's certain signature handbag.

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The result is a delicious high-low mix, less pastiche than purposeful parody. Street art, if you will.

Xylk's Grocery Bags are of a kind with Magritte's pipe, Warhol's soup cans, Richard Prince's Instagram screengrabs, and even the Ralph Lauren shirts that Virgil Abloh, one of Xylk's personal heroes, screen-printed with Pyrex logos.

"This is hip-hop. This is sampling," said Xylk. "All these luxury labels getting mad at people like me, it’s a good gauge of them being outdated. Like, get with the times. We’re in the meme era."

That's putting it aptly. Much like how moments in pop culture are remixed, reframed, and repurposed by the culture at large, Xylk's Grocery Bags are speak to how a new generation of fashion-conscious creators bend established fashion codes as they see fit.

Not that the brands who've copyrightd those codes are willing participants, though. Consider the recent Hermès vs. MetaBirkin trial, where the French maison notched a legal win over the NFT project.

Not a concern to Xylk. "Not once have I ever sold something with some other brand's name on it," he clarified. "I just sell 'Expensive Grocery Bags.'

"I never use any copyrighted intellectual property, like the bag shapes or hardware. I'd say we're good under fair use and parody laws. But I’m not a lawyer or anything. The only court I play on is the basketball court," he laughed.

Speaking of lawyers, Xylk asserts that he never received a cease and desist letter or was contacted by a brand representative prior to his social media accounts vanishing. Just, poof, they're gone.

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"They had Instagram just take down our account," he sighed. "Shopify sent me a letter but it was so inaccurate. Like, they said we used copyrighted names but we never did."

It was a bitter pill to swallow, losing this social media presence that he'd built up over nearly eight years. But Xylk is happily moving on.

"No one can stop me, I’ll just do it again," said Xylk. "I want people to look at what I'm doing and feel inspired to fight against Goliath in their own way, whether their Goliath is a big corporate giant or something personal, like stress or anxiety."

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Xylk's still got his TikTok page and he's starting fresh on Instagram with a new handle (@grocerybags.grocerybags/) as the drops continue.

Xylk also promises at least two more drops of the Grocery Bags as we know it: one on March 8, his birthday, and another one on April 8, both through the still-functioning Xylk website.

He is slightly tweaking the winning formula out of necessity, though. Xylks Grocery Bags were initially printed with photos of luxury bags but Xylk has commissioned "hyper-realistic" drawings in their place. The result will be basically the same but, now, he'll own the imagery entirely.

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And it's not just that one famous French handbag that he's got in his sights.

"I have all these other bags ready to go," Xylk smiled. "I've got bags from all the big luxury labels. I’m coming for everyone."

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Xylk sees this as leveling the playing field.

"Like, how dare these brands create this demand and make people go crazy for their stuff but not make it available," he said.

"It’s classism built on racism. Like, we’re gonna make everyone want this but only a certain type of person can have it? The Grocery Bags are me saying, 'No, we can have it too.'"

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In an era where Beyoncé is swapping out her Birkins for Telfar's signature tote, luxury is no longer confined to fancy bags and expensive shoes. Luxury is an idea, a feeling.

"We’ve been taught that 'luxury' means a specific lifestyle but it’s now an emotion," said Xylk. "Luxury isn’t tangible anymore. We, the people, we’re luxury. Without us, Luxury doesn’t exist."

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"These fashion brands have been the focus of everything for so long but I just wanna make fun of them. I wanna make something of my own from them."

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