Every bag has a story. There are bags, and then there are bags. All of the true iconic bags will never go out of style and are truly timeless and classic:
Audrey Hepburn toting her Speedy en route to the airport.
Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis with her Constance on a night in Palm Beach.
Princess Diana donning the Lady Dior on the streets of London.
Here are the top iconic handbags of the past century plus.
10. Mulberry Bayswater
Brit label Mulberry has an impressive history of handbags. But the Bayswater is arguably the brand’s most iconic. It was a classic from its launch. As Mulberry’s Creative Director Emma Hill said, “I have a Bayswater, my son’s grandmother has a Bayswater, Kate Moss has a Bayswater.”
9. Dior Lady Bag
In 1995, the French first lady Bernadette Chirac, wife of former president Jacques Chirac, wanted to give the visiting princess of Wales a unique handbag as a gift.
She contacted Dior who provided the bag, then unofficially called the Chouchou, to give as a gift. Princess Diana was seen with the bag many times and it was renamed ‘Princesse’ but later called Lady Dior.
The stitched square pattern on the bag was reportedly inspired by the Napoleon III chairs used in Dior’s first ever fashion show in 1947. Each bag is handmade and each cannage quilted square pattern is handcrafted.
8. Hermès Constance
A favourite of Jackie Kennedy Onasis, the miniature Constance bag made its debut in 1959 – and was reportedly named after the bag designer’s child, born on the day the bag hit the shops.
I find the Constance to be a bag to have a bit of fun with, and favour it in crocodile.
7. Céline Mini Luggage
When a newly revitalized Céline debuted the Luggage Tote in 2010 under the direction of industry heavyweight Phoebe Philo, it wasn’t immediately clear that the design would turn into the industry-altering heavyweight that it has. At first, the bag was relatively easily available on the stores of shelves that had carried the brand before its relaunch, and you could even buy it online. Then, everything changed.
It’s impossible to pinpoint exactly where the tipping point occurred, but soon, the bags disappeared from online retailers and long wait-lists replaced in-store stock.
I favour the Luggage Tote in Mini.
6. Louis Vuitton Alma
In 1934, the distinctive classic shape was inspired by the ‘Squire’ bag. In 1955, renamed ‘Champs Elysees’, it got its current form in a monogrammed canvas in 1992 as a tribute to Place de l’Alma in Paris.
I favour the Alma in PM in Monogram.
5. Louis Vuitton Speedy
Launched in 1932, this classic Louis Vuitton bag might be called a Speedy, but it’s hardly fast fashion. It has cowhide leather handles that patina. The size of the bags varies from 25 to 40. The bag was crucial to the designer’s crossover from luxury luggage brand to fashion house. After the larger Keepall travel bag became popular, Georges Vuitton was asked to create a smaller carry-on for short trips – and the Speedy was born. Louis Vuitton’s first true handbag became a worldwide icon in the 1960s – Audrey Hepburn loved hers so much, she asked them to ask for an even smaller version to be created.
I favour the Speedy in 30 in Monogram.
Saffiano is treated leather that is embossed with a cross hatch pattern, which makes the bag more durable and increases scratch resistance as well as water resistance.
I favour the Saffiano in Lux and in the neutrals – Black, Caramel, Grey, Blush, Rose, and Light Pink.
3. Hermès Kelly
First introduced in 1892 as a saddle bag, the iconic accessory evolved and was ultimately named for Monaco monarch Grace Kelly, when it was given to her in 1954. She used different versions of the handbag to cover her expanding stomach during her pregnancy. Handmade, these bags take between 18-25 hours to create. It is Hermès’ best selling bag of all time.
2. Hermès Birkin
One of the most beautifully constructed bags in the universe, named for actress Jane Birkin, was first created for her in 1984 when she sat next to Hermès executive Jean-Louis Dumas on an airplane and told him she was having trouble finding a good leather weekend bag. Dumas had the bag created for her based on a design from 1892. These bags, which are lined with goat skin leather and then made with a variety of leathers including calf skin, ostrich, lizard, and crocodile, take approximately 48 hours to make by hand. And the flawless quality is glaringly apparent whilst donning a Birkin on the arm. The fashion house issues five per week and distributes via its six-year waiting list.
I favour the Birkin in 35 cm in the classic Hermès Orange.
1. Chanel 2.55 Flap
The Chanel flap bag is the queen of a classic handbag. It is simply designed and crafted. The bag was created in the 1920s when Coco Chanel became tired of losing handheld bags at society events in Paris. Inspired by the straps found on soldiers’ bags, she feminized the concept and revolutionized the way Parisian women accessorized at the time.
Inspired by her time spent in an orphanage as a child, Chanel created the chain straps as a nod to the chains her caretakers would use to dangle keys from as entertainment for the children. The orphanage also inspired the interior color of the first edition bag, as the reddish brown color was the same as the children’s uniforms. The coats worn by horse racing jockeys inspired what has now become the signature quilted leather. Other innovative features included the signature “Mademoiselle” lock, a back pocket for extra money, and a secret hidden pocket in the front flap.
After her successful comeback to the fashion industry in 1954, Chanel decided to update her handbag. The resulting design was called 2.55 after the date it was created, February 1955.
I favour the 2.55 in Medium in Black.