Stories behind iconic luxury handbags

If you are a luxury buff and enthusiast, this article is your key page in the luxury bible of most iconic luxury handbags and the stories behind them.
For a handbag to be iconic, timelessness is a vital factor to punch in – since many bags do lose their momentum over a period. Only a few of them seem to get better with age – remain as strong as ever. Most of these come from iconic legacy luxury fashion houses and have established themselves as the most classic, timeless, and iconic bags of our day and age.

Do you know the stories behind each? How some of the most famous celebrities and social figures have played a crucial role to make these handbags classic and iconic? Let’s learn.

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Hermes – Kelly (Grace Kelly)

One of the most coveted luxury handbags is the Hermes Kelly, initially coined as ‘Sac a Depeche’ meaning ‘a mail bag’. It is noted that this bag was designed by Hermes’ son-in-law – Robert Dumas, in the 1930s. From a design viewpoint – the bag left out the embellishment trend and focused essentially on crafted leather and simple lines.

Edith Head, a costume designer in Hollywood, supplied the set of To Catch a Thief, 1955, with some Hermes accessories – via the approval of Alfred Hitchcock. This movie was featuring the infamous actress, Grace Kelly. It is said that Grace Kelly loved the bag so much that she carried it almost everywhere off-screen to events and gatherings including the announcement of her engagement to Prince Rainier of Monaco. During her pregnancy post her wedding, she is widely known to cover her baby bump with the Hermes bag from the media, one of these photos made it to the Life magazine and people who were following her story and every move coined the handbags as a ‘Kelly’.

Officially the bag was renamed after her only in 1977 as Kelly bag. Today, Hermes Kelly is one of the most popular, sought after and desired handbags.

Hermes – Berkin (Jane Berkin)

Considered to be the top bag in the hierarchy of handbags by several world experts in luxury, Hermes Berkin is named after the actress Jane Berkin.

What we know about its origin is that in the early 1980s during one of her air travels, Jane Birkin, accidentally met the then Hermes Chief Executive, Jean-Louis Dumas. On this specific flight journey when everything fell out of Jane’s bag with Dumas sitting next to her, he said to her to have a bag with pockets, to which she replied – ‘The day Hermes makes one with pockets, I will have that’.

Dumas was quick to reply, ‘But I am Hermes and I will put pocket in for you’. This is where they together began to design a brand-new bag and Dumas proposed to Jane that he will design and produce the bag in exchange of her lending her surname to the design.

1984- Hermes Berkin hits the shelves and is an immediate success. One of the most expensive, luxurious, and desirable bags today, it is one bag that needs you to be on the waitlist before you can own it. It’s an ultimate status symbol today, with unique and rare Birkin bags that are seen selling at astonishing prices at auctions. Some experts have even gone ahead to say that today it’s better to invest in a Hermers Birkin bag than in gold.

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Louis Vuitton (LV)- Speedy

LV is a popular luxury brand globally and one of their iconic creations has been its Speedy bag. A legacy brand that started by selling travel accessories like curated trunks and spacious duffel bags – Speedy was their first ever purse in the 1930’s.

The Speedy bag was first coined as ‘express’ to pay homage to the brand’s travel revolution. What was designed as a smaller version of their iconic bag Keepall – a travel bag – is now more commonly known as Speedy 30 – which is 30 cm wide at the bottom.

This is one bag that changed the direction of the luxury house making them leaders in the handbag market with just one strong connection – Audrey Hepburn.

In the late 1950’s to early 1960s it is said that the infamous actress Audrey Hepburn personally requested for a mini version of the Keepall duffle for her daily use, one that is only 25 cm wide to suit her body frame. This is how the Speedy 25 came to be birthed. Audrey was snapped multiple times by the paparazzi carrying this bag which instantly became the IT-bag for the generation and still is one of the most iconic handbags to add to your luxury collection.

Dior – Lady Dior

This bag has royal connections. It represents status, class, and elegance.
This classic by Christian Dior was offered as a diplomatic gift by the first lady of France, Madame Bernadette Chirac to Lady Diana (also known as Princess Diana) during her visit to Paris in 1995.

The tote was designed by Gianfranco Ferre and coined as ‘Chouchou’ meaning ‘favorite’ in French. Lady Diana is known to have loved the bag instantly. She was the main reason for why the bag became a major hit considering how she was the most photographed woman in the world and during this phase – she was almost always seen carrying the iconic bag everywhere. A magazine called Marie Claire also claimed that Lady Diana loved the bag so much she ordered the bag in every colour. There are many photographs of her carrying a variation of the bag at many occasions such as galas, state visits, official events and more.

In her honor, the legacy house of Dior decided to rename their iconic bag and pay their tribute to Lady Diana in 1996, ever since then the bag is known as ‘Lady Dior’ handbag.

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Fendi – Baguette

The Fendi Baguette is a more recent addition to the iconic luxury handbag edition, which surely does not take away how iconic his bag has become over a short period of time.

Designed by Silvia Venturini Fendi in 1997 – Fendi Baguette – was given its name for how easy it was to carry the bag under the arm just like how French are usually seen carrying their baguettes. The bag however gained its popularity thanks to the super hit TV-series known as Sex and the City that featured Carrie Bradshaw (played by the iconic actress Sarah Jessica Parker) in the early 2000s. The show has a famous scene wherein the main character got mugged on the streets of New York and when the robber asks for her bag, Carry refers to her bag as ‘it’s a baguette’.

Sarah Jessica Parker has been seen many times carrying the Fendi Baguette – which made sure the bag was a commercial success and one that would last a lifetime. This was the defining moment for the brand that also started the whole ‘It Bag’ movement. In 2019, Fendi relaunched the Baguette – that featured the purple sequin Baguette, known to be what Carrie from the TV show had got stolen – which became a huge success and iconic piece that almost all fashion bloggers were seen chasing for finishing their Carrie look.

If you need more context, the classic Fendi Baguette – the purple sequined one – was also exhibited in 2020 in ‘Bags: Inside out’ at Victoria and Albert Museum in London and is now a bag that has its own place in the popular culture and fashion history.

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Author: Mankiran