Once a necessity that helped us carry everything around, bags have now become a luxury. The nineties gave us a new term: The It Bag.
A bag is one of the most sought-after accessories in the world. It allows you to carry everything around with you, but it’s also an opportunity to reflect your personality and tell the world who you are. Throughout history, thousands of bags have come on the scene, but only a few have earned the coveted designation of “It Bag.”
Bags first became popular in women’s fashion at the end of the 19th century. Previously there had been no need for bags because women’s dresses had hidden pockets underneath the skirts that allowed them to carry all their essentials whenever they left home. As fashion evolved, and the silhouette of women’s garments became more stylish, designers had to stop putting pockets into dresses. The first bags were called “reticules” and they were silk, drawstring wristlets worn by women in high society. At first, bags were not well received because it was like the equivalent of a woman carrying around her underwear around in her hand, but later, with the invention of trains and more travel during World War I, bags became a necessity.
In the early years of the 20th century, bags went from small silk satchels to leather accessories with handles and brooches. This new design was a great success, allowing women to carry more with them. Luggage and trunk brands, like Louis Vuitton, quickly saw an opportunity to enter this new market, and they began making bags to meet the needs of women of the time.
In 1935, one of the most iconic bags of all time, the Hermès Kelly (renamed in 1956 in honor of the Princess of Monaco, Grace Kelly) was created. It’s a clear example of the popular bag style of the time. During the 1950s, Gucci and Chanel revolutionized the world of bags with the launch of their Jackie and 2.55 models, respectively.
Then, over the following decades, we saw several bags conquer the fashion world–thanks to their design, functionality, and celebrity status. Some key examples are the Hermès’ Birkin Bag (1984), Prada’s nylon backpack (1984), and Christian Dior’s Lady Dior Bag (1995). Each of these bags became synonymous with status, luxury, and style. But even with the popularity of these bags, the concept of an “It Bag” did not yet exist.
The term “It Bag” appeared in the late 90s, referring to an exclusive bag that prioritizes form over function. In 1997 Silvia Venturini Fendi designed what is considered the first “It Bag,” the Baguette. This small bag fits snugly under the arm and holds just the essentials. It is said that more than 100,000 Fendi Baguette bags were sold in the first year. But, an “It Bag” is not just about popularity and sales. Journalist and writer Plum Sykes said it best: “An It bag is an It bag, only if you’re unlikely to possess it.” And, at the end of the last millennium and the first decade of this one, certain bags began to achieve that status.
The Fendi Baguette
Created in 1997, this bag has been made with over 1000 different colors, fabrics, embroidery styles, and embellishments. This bag rose to international fame after making an appearance in Carrie Bradshaw’s wardrobe on Sex and the City. Today, it is one of the most recognized and sought-after bags ever produced by this Italian brand.
The Dior Saddle
In 2000, under the creative direction of John Galliano, Dior launched its Saddle Bag. Inspired by literal horse saddles, this new bag with its peculiar, modern shape became a favorite of celebrities like Paris Hilton, Courteney Cox and Sarah Jessica Parker, making it an object of desire for bag lovers.
The Balenciaga City Bag
A year later (in 2001) came a bag from Balenciaga that captivated the world. Originally just a prototype that Creative Director Nicolas Ghesquière gifted to 25 of his supermodel friends (Kate Moss among them), this bag rose to unprecedented popularity. It forced Balenciaga to get the bag into production and out for sale.
Graffiti (2001) and Murakami (2002) from Louis Vuitton
During his time at LV, Marc Jacobs decided to invite different artists to have some fun with the classic Louis Vuitton monogram. The bags created were a fusion between art and fashion, not to mention favorites among consumers. Classic models from the brand, like the Pochette, Alma, or Speedy, became very sought-after.
The Paddington Bag from Chloé
In 2004, Phoebe Philo launched the Paddington Bag, and she strategically decided to gift it to celebrities. This marketing move made the bag one of the most photographed ever, which generated an increase in sales. This bag is instantly recognizable and has now reached cult status among fashionistas.
The Chanel Reissue 2.55
In 2005 Karl Lagerfeld decided to relaunch the classic Chanel 2.55 model to commemorate its 50th anniversary. With a minimalist, versatile, classic design, it became the bag of the moment. New generations loved it because of its understated elegance and mark of timeless luxury, giving this Parisian brand a new, young following.
PS1 from Proenza Schouler
In 2008, Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez created a bag that they considered the antithesis of the “It Bag.” This satchel bag was practical, durable, and discreet. But thanks to these qualities, it caught the attention of celebrities of all ages and soon became the most sought-after bag of the year.
Luggage from Céline
In 2009, one year after joining Céline, Phoebe Philo designed the Luggage Bag. This bag was the epitome of sophistication and cool. The designer wanted to create a versatile but elegant bag for modern woman. Her followers loved this new piece, and in a short time we saw it in the hands of all women around the world.
Many of these “It Bags” have kept their status up until today, and many others have been relaunched in recent years. In addition to those on the list ,there are a few others worth mentioning like the Stam Bag by Marc Jacobs, the Alexa from Mulberry, the 360 by Valentino, and the Roady from Yves Saint Laurent. All of these bags were so popular, there was a waiting list to get them.
Today’s fast-paced fashion cycles and fads have made it difficult for a single bag to dominate a season, much less an entire year. Plus, the bag industry is one of the most lucrative, which forces brands to offer more and more options to entice consumers, so the term “It Bag” is a holdover from a bygone era.