Revealing how some of our most beloved luxury handbags came to be.
You’ve seen them adorning your friends’ arms, and you proudly display your collection at home. And that is how things are—for luxury handbags, crafted by masters, have for decades enthralled us, both sought after and loved.
But perhaps there’s a question that runs through your mind: How did they come into being? What, exactly, had happened in the hallowed halls of the design houses that created them, the workrooms of the artists who dreamed them up?
Look no further, then, for here are the origin stories of three luxury handbags held dear by us all.
Unveiled in 1984, Hermes’ quintessential handbag gets its name from the woman who came up with its design: British-French singer and actress Jane Birkin.
On a plane in 1981, Birkin deposited her bag in the overhead baggage rack, from which it tumbled to the floor, scattering its contents. The man beside her helped her collect her things and told her she should use a bag that had pockets. Recounting the story on CBS, Birkin said, “What can you do? Hermes don’t make it with pockets.”
And the man—Hermes’ former chairman Jean-Louis Dumas—said, “I am Hermes.”
Birkin suggested Hermes create a handbag roomier than the Kelly and drew her idea on a sickness bag Dumas took with him. Four weeks later, they came out with the prototype; Dumas then asked Birkin if she could lend it her name, to which she agreed.
The matter of the handbag floated out of Birkin’s mind. Then, one day, she was informed that her namesake bag had been grabbing everyone’s attention. On a trip to New York, she was asked, “You mean ‘Birkin,’ like the bag?” She replied, with much good humor, “Yes, and now the bag is going to sing.”
Fendi presented it to the world in 1997. Perhaps its defining moment, though, occurred three years later, during the 17th episode of season 3 of Sex and the City. In a scene, a thief tries to snatch Carrie Bradshaw’s purse. She retorts, “It’s not a bag, it’s a Baguette”—words that propelled the Baguette to celebrity status.
Its name deriving from the month and year of its current incarnation’s launching (February 1955), the Chanel 2.55 by Coco Chanel first arrived (or at least an earlier rendition) in 1929. That moment revolutionized handbags thereafter.
Then, women carried the impractical clutch or held their bags by hand through handgrips attached to the top. Chanel, however, took inspiration from military-issued bags and created one with a convertible shoulder strap.
And so came the end of doing everything one-handed.
Stories abound about the bag’s connections to Chanel’s other interests and personal history. The color of Chanel’s attire in the abbey of Aubazine, where she lived in her childhood, supposedly was the source of the inside’s burgundy color. Men’s horse riding jackets influenced the bag’s quilted pattern, as Chanel herself was a devotee of the sport.
Owning luxury handbags will probably never lose its charm. For, of course, they are testaments to human artistry—conceived perhaps in a flash of inspiration, put together through careful planning, and finished with dedication and care, all in order to create something beautiful.
Banner photo by Godisable Jacob on Pexels.