Most iconic "it bags" : Exploring Their History, Design, and Impact
An "It bag" is a high-priced designer handbag that has become a popular best-seller. This term was created in the 1990s with the explosive growth of the handbag market in the fashion industry. Designers have produced single, easily recognizable designs endorsed by the fashion press or celebrities.
These timeless bags haven’t lost their momentum since they were first created many years ago. They have an investment-worthy status with their durable styles and appreciation in value with age. As we all know, an iconic handbag has the power to transform and elevate even the simplest of outfits.
BAMBOO BAG by GUCCI
Designer: Guccio Gucci
Introduction: The bamboo handle shape was constantly reinvented and finally evolved into one of the most iconic products of the House of Gucci. Lady Diana, Elizabeth Taylor, Carla Bruni, Beyoncé, and Rosie Huntington-Whitely were fans of this handbag. In 2010/2011, the entire collection was redesigned by Frida Giannini, when she celebrates 90 years of Gucci. The collection, "New Bamboo", was expanded to give the classic bag a modern update.
Backstory: It was the result of the leather shortage in an aftermath of the war. To save materials such as leather, designers had to experiment with other materials. So, Gucci came up with a brilliant idea: bamboo.
SPEEDY by LOUIS VUITTON
Date: Originally crafted in 1930 and scaled down in 1965
Designer: Georges Vuitton
Introduction: in 1932, Louis Vuitton was expanding beyond a luxury luggage brand into a fashion house. Following the development of the Keepall travel bag, Georges Vuitton designed the Speedy as a smaller bag to carry for short trips.
Backstory: Created for film star Audrey Hepburn who asked Vuitton to scale down his enormous ‘Keepall’ travel bag into something more easily carried as a day bag, and that’s how the ‘Speedy’ was born.
KELLY by HERMES
Date: introduced 1935, renamed 1956
Designer: Robert Dumas, Emile-Maurice Hermes and Ettore Bugatti
Introduction: Renamed after movie star and Monaco princess Grace Kelly, who carried it everywhere to shield her pregnancy from photographers. It became popular when costume designer Edith Head chose one for Kelly's character in the Alfred Hitchcock classic, To Catch a Thief.
Backstory: These simple and elegant bags are originally made in 1892 for holding a saddle, in 1923 they evolved and were intended to fit perfectly through an automobile car door. It was designed as a trapezoid shape with two triangular gussets, a cut-out flap, a handle and two side straps, and with it, he brought the house into the era of boldness and modernism.
2.55 by CHANNEL
Date: February 1955; reborn in 2005
Designer: Mademoiselle Gabrielle ‘Coco’ Chanel ; Karl Lagerfeld
Introduction: Named after the month (February) and year of its creation (1955)
Backstory: This quilted (inspired by the quilted padded jackets worn by jockeys), chain-handled, flap bag is probably one of the most legendary designer handbags of all time. The innovation came from the inclusion of shoulder straps, up until 1955, women only had top-handle totes and pocketbooks or clutches to choose from.
JACKIE by GUCCI
Date: designed in 1950, relaunched in 1999 and 2009
Designer: Relaunched by Tom Ford, and later by Frida Giannini (new Jackie)
Introduction: Named after First Lady Jackie Kennedy, who carried it everywhere at any formal event in 1961.
Backstory: This hobo style bag was originally meant to be a unisex handbag and called Fifties Constance, it has remained a popular silhouette and become a definition of timeless style.
BIRKIN by HERMES
Designer: Jean-Louis Dumas
Introduction: Named after English actress and young mother Jane Birkin who needed a roomy carryall with a dedicated space for baby bottles.
Backstory: The story of the Birkin began in 1981 when Jane Birkin met Jean-Louis Dumas on a plane; the two exchanged ideas on how to make a bag that was more functional and practical. Three years later, the Hermès ‘Birkin’ was released and has continued to be one of the most iconic status symbols in the world.
THE BACKPACK by PRADA
Date: 1984, reformed in 1987
Designer: Miuccia Prada
Introduction: This iconic Backpack evolved throughout the years and became the ultimate perfect designer backpack.
Backstory: The material was industrial-weight nylon used for army tents. Miuccia Prada told The New Yorker in 1990 that she wanted “to mix the industrial way of doing things, with the patrimonio of the past, with the artisanal tradition.”
LE PLIAGE by LONGCHAMP
Designer: Philippe Cassegrain
Introduction: Its lightweight design, classic shape and wide range of styles and colours are the main reasons behind this best-selling product (sold in more than 1,000 stores worldwide averaging out to nearly a million and a half per year). Being incredibly lightweight and durable makes them excellent travel companions and school or work bags. In addition to many colour and size options, now you can personalize your own Le Pliage bag from the model to the colour, flap and handles, snap closure, shoulder strap and lining colour.
Backstory: Le Pliage means “folding” in French pointing to the bag’s fold-up design in a distinctive trapezoidal shape, much like an envelope. Its design was inspired by the Japanese art of origami.
LADY DIOR by DIOR
Designer: Gianfranco Ferré
Introduction: Originally named as Chouchou ("favourite") bag, then Dior named the bag ‘Lady Dior’ in honour of Princess Diana.
Backstory: In 1995, France’s First Lady Bernadette Chirac gifted Princess Diana this charming stitched-leather handbag finished with dangling letter charms from Dior. She carried it repeatedly during press trips and magazine covers featured her carrying it around.
BAGUETTE by FENDI
Designer: Silvia Venturini
Introduction: As hinted by its name, a small rectangular shape pochette designed with a strap long enough to allow the bag to elegantly sits underarm, like a loaf of French bread.
Backstory: Its success is not only to its new, short shoulder strap style, but also that it has an ergonomic and soft structure which creates a new attitude look. The Baguette also gained popularity when it was spotted on Sex In The City by Carrie Bradshaw (played by Sarah Jessica Parker).
SADDLE BAG by DIOR
Date: 2000, reinvented in 2018
Designer: John Galliano
Introduction: The bag was shaped like a jockey's seat with a 'C' and 'D' on the handle and a 'D' charm hanging on the bag.
Backstory: Saddle Bag was one of the most popular bags of the mid-2000s. Easily recognizable due to its iconic shape, short shoulder strap and bold hardware. Its popularity has boosted when it was spotted on the television with Carrie Bradshaw of Sex in The City.
THE CITY/MOTORCYCLE BAG by BALENCIAGA
Designer: Nicolas Ghesquière
Introduction: This soft, non-structured, logo-less, very light leather, tote with dangling tassels and well-placed stud details looking like an old, good, friendly thing became so instantly recognizable. The City and Motorcycle bags are similar in design but are different in size. While the dimensions of the Motorcycle First are 33.5 x 19 x 6.5 cm the dimensions of the City bag are 38 x 24 x 14 cm.
Backstory: The chief designer created a few prototypes of the Classic City bag. However, the company management didn't want to produce the bag because it was "too light, too soft and non-structured". He convinced them to just make 25 prototypes to use on the runway as an extra and hand out for free to celebrities and it-girls. The bag kickstarted the trend as it was seen on the likes of Kate Moss and Sienna Miller.
THE GRAFFITI BAG by LOUIS VUITTON
Designer: Stephen Sprouse
Introduction: Stephen Sprouse created a limited-edition line of graffiti-embellished LV monogram bags.
Backstory: It was commissioned by Marc Jacobs who described the bag’s aesthetic as “anti-snob snobbism” and it became an instant success as soon as Paris Hilton began carrying it around.
GISELE by MULBERRY
Designer: Luella Bartley with Stuart Vevers
Introduction: When model Giselle Bündchen carried the bag down the runway for the Mulberry show in 2001, the bag was renamed the Gisele bag.
Backstory: Luella Bartley approached Mulberry to collaborate on a bag that was named the Mulberry Luella, but it has gained popularity by Gisele.
THE MURAKAMI BAG by LOUIS VUITTON
Designer: Takashi Murakami
Introduction: Murakami re-created the classic LV monogram in 33 colours on a black or white background with funky graphics and colourful, cartoonish spins. Those iconic rainbow-hued monograms swung from the arms of everyone from Paris Hilton to Beyoncé.
Backstory: It was commissioned by Marc Jacobs who described his collaboration with Murakami as “a monumental marriage of art and commerce".
PADDINGTON by CHLOE
Designer: Phoebe Philo
Introduction: The heavy, top-handle Paddington bag (instantly recognizable for its logo padlock) rapidly claimed cult status. This unstructured leather bag (with a large lock placed in the front and a key attached), is weighted over 1kg when empty.
Backstory: At the time, magazines declared it the fastest-selling handbag ever made; according to Vogue, all 8,000 of the Spring 2005 bags sold out on pre-order and not even one touched a shop sales floor.
BAYSWATER by MULBERRY
Designer: Nicholas Knightly
Introduction: Named after the area of West London quickly became a bestseller.
Backstory: The Mulberry Bayswater is a staple piece, a simple bag with double top handles. There is less structure to this bag, it feels and looks more casual than a Birkin.
MUSE by YVES SAINT-LAURENT
Designer: Stefano Pilati
Introduction: Among all Saint Laurent’s bag collections, the muse is considered the first true ‘IT bag’.
Backstory: It has become one of the most iconic bags in YSL history with its structured yet relaxed bowling bag shape and subtle hardware it was a sleek, quietly luxe version of the IT bag. The ‘Muse Two’ style, which debuted in 2008, was even more popular, especially because this version included satchel straps and better closure.
STAM by MARC JACOBS
Designer: Marc Jacobs
Introduction: Named after Canadian model Jessica Stam, the popular bag is still considered the classic Marc Jacobs handbag.
Backstory: The quilted leather, kiss lock closure, and chunky hardware made this bag extremely eye- catching.
LUGGAGE TOTE BAG by CELINE
Designer: Phoebe Philo
Introduction: The Olsen twins were snapped carrying the dramatically angled bag on the streets of New York City – and overnight, the ‘Luggage’ tote went from being available everywhere to completely sold out. There are many sizes in the market like Nano, Micro, Mini, Medium Phantom and Large Phantom.
Backstory: Designed by legendary Phoebe Philo, who gave tote bags their luxurious turn in 2009, the Luggage turned Céline into a household name among anyone with even a passing interest in fashion.
THE ROCCO (FKA Coco) by ALEXANDER WANG
Designer: Alexander Wang
Introduction: Designed in 2009, the Rocco became extremely famous as soon as the Olsens got their hands on it, often combining it with equally rock-chic outfits.
Backstory: Alexander Wang is famous for its masculine woman’s wear styles that we can recognize in the handbags like the studs, bold and strong appeal. The strength of Alexander Wang's Rocco is immediately recognizable by its row of nails (incredibly heavy stud-embellished base) which adorn the underside of each model.
ALEXA by MULBERRY
Designer: Emma Hill
Introduction: It combines elements of both of brand’s Elkington briefcase and the classic minimalism of the Bayswater bag to create the perfect combination of a handbag and a briefcase.
Backstory: This satchel-style bag takes its name from the model and TV presenter Alexa Chung , because of her preppy hipster style and preference for rock star boyfriends.
ANTIGONA by GIVENCHY
Designer: Riccardo Tisci
Introduction: This sturdily constructed Boston bag with minimal detailing is named after Antigone of Greek mythology which means “unbending”.
Backstory: With its masculine/feminine design balance, bowling shape and graphic lines, it is easily Givenchy's most popular bag of all all-time and still a constant celebrity favourite.
SAC DE JOUR by SAINT-LAURENT
Designer: Hedi Slimane
Introduction: The name in French means: Bag of the Day. It has been said to look like a more youthful and modern Hermès Birkin because of the tabs and accordion sides.
Backstory: It was released in the year 2013 when new designer Hedi Slimane took over Yves Saint Laurent and renamed it, Saint Laurent.
RICKY by RALPH LAUREN
Designer: Ralph Lauren
Introduction: The idea was to create a statement bag (with a combination of style and comfort) that exuded a refined sense of luxury when women carried the bag.
Backstory: Ricky Lauren, Ralph Lauren’s wife and inspiration behind the Ricky bag was said to represent the stylish, classic American woman. In 2013, it was redesigned and renamed the ‘Soft Ricky’. It was launched again in 2015 featuring a rich purple lining with four internal LED lights that were meant to add a small battery bank to the handbag.
DIONYSUS by GUCCI
Designer: Alessandro Michele
Introduction: This textured, tiger head-closed structured bag was introduced in the brand’s Fall/Winter 2015 collection, called the Dionysus bag which has become one of Gucci’s most loved handbags.
Backstory: The details are inspired by the Greek god Dionysus; according to a myth, he is said to have crossed the Tigris River on a tiger sent by Zeus.
TRAPEZE BAG by CELINE
Designer: Phoebe Philo
Introduction: This structural and simpler silhouetted bag was created by combining the box flap and the luggage wings, called a trapeze bag that became one of its most famous bags of Celine.
Backstory: The brand that started as a children’s shoe business diversified so much that it’s now become a well-known fashion brand which led to so many creations in the world of handbags under its creative designer Phoebe Philo.
LOU LOU by YVES SAINT-LAURENT
Designer: Anthony Vaccarello
Introduction: Named after LouLou de la Falaise, Yves Saint Laurent’s close friend and muse for more than three decades, the LouLou is one of the most beloved bags in Saint Laurent’s arsenal.
Backstory: At the time of its release, the Loulou possessed an important trend in the handbag world: padded leather. Combining expert quilting with a padded, puffy leather finish, flap closure, and chain strap, it’s quite functional.
CASSETTE BAG by BOTTEGA VENETA
Designer: Daniel Lee
Introduction: Lee debuted an exaggerated woven iteration of the classic house code using the reinterpreted maxi weave on giant bags, totes and a flap bag and named the Cassette Bag. The following season he introduced its sister style: the Padded Cassette Bag. The Padded Cassette bag is instantly recognizable because of its puffed and pillowy woven leather and distinct gold-triangular buckle. The Chain Cassette version was introduced at the brand’s Pre-Fall 2020 collection.
Backstory: Daniel Lee made his runway debut for Bottega Veneta, during Milan Fashion Week’s fall 2019 season. The difference in the brand’s aesthetic was felt immediately, and Lee’s new designs were embraced by editors, influencers and celebs almost instantly.
THE POUCH by BOTTEGA VENETA
Designer: Daniel Lee
Introduction: This oversized clutch is stylishly crafted in Italy from smooth calf leather and uses intricate folding to create a voluminous, rounded silhouette that’s the perfect counterpart for any ensemble.
Backstory: While many designers have made the move toward smaller, compact bags, Lee introduced an incredibly oversized clutch that has taken the fashion-loving world by storm with no logo and no shoulder strap. In a world of crossbody and saddlebags, to make a strapless bag that one must carry in their hand is as rebellious as it gets. And it photographed well when the internet is such an important tool. The Pouch was the fastest-selling item in Bottega Veneta's history and at the Fashion Awards in December 2019, the brand won every category it was nominated for.