Having enriched our lives with breathtaking possessions, fashion has and will always be associated as a way to express oneself better. Often considered as a woman’s private boudoir, the handbag seems to stand out as one of fashion’s most essential creations. This is one of the reasons why handbags have been regarded as a woman’s best friend. Created in all shapes and sizes, handbags range from simple clutches to tote bags.
Over the years, designers from all over the world crafted handbags but only a few reached cult status. All timeless, iconic handbags seem to have a few common characteristics: comfortable bags that represent the idea of eternal style and are adaptable to every age and taste.
Coco Chanel famously said: “After all, bags are like lipsticks: you never have enough of them.”
The classic handbag, also termed as the ‘It’ bag stood out as the apex handbag of the late 1990s. Its high-quality craftsmanship, the distinguishable design made the ‘It’ bag a must-have accessory. Once described by Vogue as “that totemic accessory that announced you were the owner of all that was desirable in the world.”
Our never-ending appetite for these iconic bags was proved by Fendi when they re-issued their Baguette along with a book about it. Brands like Prada and Mulberry soon followed suit.
To honour the reign of these timeless pieces of luxury fashion, we take a look at some of the most iconic handbags ever designed.
10 Céline Luggage
Designed by ex-creative director Phoebe Philo, Céline has always been known for its intricacy in detail and beautiful bags. The Olsen twins helped skyrocket the popularity of these bags. In fact, they became so popular that Céline had to create new models in varying sizes such as: nano, micro, mini, medium phantom and large phantom. The bag is now available in a plethora of styles and combinations.
9 Gucci Bamboo Bag
Crafted in 1947 in a backroom in Florence as a means to work around shortages in material due to the war, the bamboo handle used by Gucci soon became iconic. Surviving the sands of time, the Bamboo bag became synonymous with Gucci as they used it from prints on scarves to jewelry to wrist watch straps. Donned by countless fashionable celebrities from the day it was conceived to the present day. The iconic handles have been revived in a whole new way by Frida Giannini, the ex-creative director at Gucci.
8 Bottega Veneta Woven Bag
Although Tomas Maier, the designer of Bottega Veneta called the idea of ‘It’ bags ‘marketed’, there is no denying the power of the house’s woven designs. Created by Intrecciato weaving in the 1960s, the leather produced was not only thin but also highly durable.
7 Prada Bowling Bag
The Prada Bowling bag stands out amongst the design house’s many iconic creations. Introduced in their spring summer collection of 2000, the Bowling bag became a cult hit, selling out instantly across the globe. The semi-circle bag has been credited for being both elegant and timeless.
6 YSL Muse
Launched in 2005 by Yves Saint Laurent it has now been renamed to Saint Laurent Paris. The avant-garde chic Muse bag was seen on the arms of some of the most popular celebrities. This made it one of the most iconic bag crafted in the fashion house’s history and is characterized by its signature padlock stitched ‘Y’. Although it had only a few seasonal colours to choose from, the Muse was crafted from different animal skin patterns, like the crocodile and ostrich skin embossments.
5 Fendi Baguette
The Fendi Baguette is termed by some experts as the first official ‘It’ bag. Launched in 1977 by Silvia Venturini Fendi, this modern classic is the perfect example of an elegant minimal purse. A bag made popular by Sarah Jessica Parker’s famous character Carrie Bradshaw from HBO’s Sex and the City. The Fendi Baguette has reinvented its shape and style with various patterns, fabrics, and embellishments.
4 Hermès Birkin Bag
The legendary bag was created in 1984 by Hermès chief executive Jean-Louis Dumas for Jane Birkin, whom the bag is named after. Coincidentally seated in the same flight, Jane mentioned how she couldn’t find a leather carrier she liked. A bag based on a design from 1892, Dumas designed the Birkin, a bag that took an expert artisan almost two whole days to craft. Famed for having a waiting list that extends for over six years, the Birkin bag, depending on its make, can cost up to £100,000.
3 Chanel 2.55
By adding a strap to clutches Coco Chanel transformed evening bags that were popular in high society. The 2.55 by Channel derived its name from its release date which was February 1955. Inspired by the padded jackets of jockeys, Coco Chanel designed these distinctive quilted bags. In 1983, Karl Lagerfeld reinstated the original design back to the 2.55, the only addition being the turning CC clasp.
2 Lady Dior
In September 1995, legend has it that Bernadette Chirac, France’s first lady, gifted Princess Diana a Dior stitched leather handbag. Having been photographed with her Dior, it seemed Princess Diana had fallen in love with the bag. This inspired the house to rename their bag ‘Lady Dior’ in her honour. The stitched square pattern observed on the Dior bag was inspired by Napoleon III chairs that were used in Mr. Dior’s first ever fashion show in 1947. A bag that exuberates royalty, every Lady Dior is crafted by Florentine artisans who work in groups of 4 for approximately 8 hours.
The Speedy was born when Georges Vuitton was asked to create a carry-on bag for shorter trips. Unveiled in 1932, the Speedy played a crucial role in Louis Vuitton’s crossover to a fashion house from a luxury luggage maker. During the 1960s, Louis Vuitton handbags became a worldwide icon. Audrey Hepburn happened to love her bag so much, she requested for an even smaller version to be crafted. When Marc Jacobs joined as the creative director in 1997, he brought with him a fresh perspective. Jacobs introduced seasonal makeovers of the monogrammed bag, from graffiti scrawled all over the surface to pop art.