The History Behind Our Favourite Iconic Handbags

Kanak Devnani , 27 Aug 2020

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A woman considers her handbag to be one of the most valuable possessions. And as we all know, a great handbag can really elevate your entire look. While fashion trends come and go, a classic practical handbag is one you’ll never regret purchasing. Over the years many designers and timeless fashion houses like Louis Vuitton, Chanel and more have introduced us to countless styles of handbags and purses. However, only a few have stood the test of time and gone to become legendary or cult bags. 

Possessing a luxury handbag is every woman’s dream. Many people have a desire for these beautifully crafted handbags, as they also are a status symbol for many. The quality and attention to craftsmanship really make these items worth their price. A timeless luxury bag can last for decades and in recent years are even considered to be a solid investment piece. But do you know the history behind some of the fashions most iconic bags? Like the muse behind the Hermes Birkin bag or the reason for the creation of LV’s Speedy. There are some fascinating stories on how these bags were named and how they came to be. 

Keep scrolling to check out the amazing stories behind some your favourite iconic bags:

1. Hermès Kelly

One the brands more exclusive bags, the Kelly first debuted in 1892 and was originally named Haut à courroies for its high handles. Its design was for it to be large enough to fit a saddle but small enough to fit in the back of a car. The bag went through redesigning in the 1930s as a travel bag for the wealthy and known as Sac à Dépêches. When the 1950s came along Hollywood star Grace Kelly fell in love with the bag during the filming of an Alfred Hitchcock movie which the bag was purchased for.

However, the bag gained worldwide fame when Grace transitioned to Princess Grace Kelly of Monaco. She heavily used this bag to hide her pregnancy from the paparazzi. Grace was a fashion icon in her own right at the time and the minute photographs of her with the bag emerged, it gained immense popularity. Dubbing it as Kelly from then on, Hermès only officially renamed the bag to the Kelly in 1977, forever cementing its place in history.

Hermes The Kelly Bag (Source: www.hermes.com)
Hermes The Kelly Bag (Source: www.hermes.com)

2. Hermès Birkin

While the Kelly bag was the first handbag from Hermès fashion house to gain fame, following it many years later came the Birkin. It’s an iconic bag and deemed the holy grail of handbags. Even those who don’t know much about luxury fashion have heard of it. As per the story on their website, the bag was inspired by British actress Jane Birken in 1984. On a flight from Paris to London, Jane was seated next to the Executive Chairman of Hermès at the time Jean-Louis Dumas. Jane was a new mother and he heard her complaining about not finding a bag suitable for her needs. He immediately began to create a carry-all bag to fit all her needs including space for baby bottles. And that’s how the fashionable tote came to be.

We constantly see this on many celebrities arms in various sizes and forms. Its exclusivity and long waitlists have cemented its place as a legendary bag that’s considered to be a sound investment piece as well.

Hermès Gris Asphalte Togo Birkin Bag (Source: www.madisonavenuecouture.com)
Hermès Gris Asphalte Togo Birkin Bag (Source: www.madisonavenuecouture.com)

3. Louis Vuitton Speedy

In the 1930s Louis Vuitton introduced a duffle luggage bag called the Keepall designed for the more elite travellers. Audrey Hepburn who was a huge fan of the bag at the time was often photographed carrying it and specially requested the French brand to create a smaller size that could be easily carried every day. Thus the Speedy was born. Plus with the growing need for portable versions, the demand went through the roof once Audrey was photographed using the smaller size. The timeless Speedy 25 is now available in many different iterations and range of sizes. It has gone through alterations several times in different colours and finishes. The brand continues to reissue new styles every season and often using the shape for collaborations.

While the original Speedy design with LV monogram is iconic to this day the Damier Ebene and the Damier Azure checkerboard versions have caught on to be equally as popular. One of the brands signature bags the speedy is still a go-to bag for many women and carried by many It girls and celebrities today.

Louis Vuitton Speedy 25 (Source: www.louisvuitton.com)

4. Chanel 2.55

When you think about a classic handbag the Chanel 2.55 comes to mind. A bag perfectly made for those special events or just to spruce up your casual look on the daily. The quilted design, chain strap and logo closure make it the most instantly recognized bags in the world. Coco Chanel made some wonderful fashion inventions with the Chanel 2.55 flap bag being her most legendary. The inclusion of the shoulder straps in 1955 when it launched was life-changing for so many women. In that era women only had limited choices of handbags with top-handle totes or pocketbook and clutch styles. This design allowed them to carry the bag on their shoulder and keep their hands free.

An interesting fact—the bag gets its name from the year it was born, February 1955. Inspiration for all the details you notice on the bag, such as the lining and chain, are elements from Coco’s life at a convent school where she grew up. When Karl Lagerfeld joined Chanel in 1983, the 2.55 took a break for a bit while its sister bag gained popularity. In 2005 Lagerfeld revived the bag with a modernized look named Reissue 2.55. To this day it’s one of the brands most best-selling styles and classic that many high-street brands try to emulate.

Chanel 2.55 (Source: www.chanel.com)
Chanel 2.55 (Source: www.chanel.com)

5. Christian Dior’s Lady Dior

Another handbag named after a style icon, Princess Diana, The Lady Dior is a very chic bag with timeless elegance. The original bag was born in 1994 and inspired by the quilting on the Napoleon III’ chairs Christian Dior used for guests at his first fashion show in 1947. However, it gained worldwide recognition when it was gifted to Princess Diana by the First Lady of France in 1995. Instantly charmed by the darling purse with dangling charms, she was often photographed carrying the style in different colours. It is also affectionately referred to as the princess bag in attribution to Princess Diana‘s intense love for the purse.

It eventually became Dior’s flagship bag that’s synonymous with Diana’s timeless style. Thus in 1996, the Dior fashion house renamed the bag from Chouchou to the Lady Dior bag, to pay homage to her. 

The Lady Dior (Source: www.dior.com)
The Lady Dior (Source: www.dior.com)

Which one of these Iconic bags is your personal favourite? Let us know in the comments below.

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