From Prada’s S/S00 bowling bag to the iconic Fendi Baguette
The beginnings of the new millennium saw the ‘It’ bag born into our everyday vernacular, referring to those luxury bags which suddenly became requisite accessories for any woman with even a passing interest in fashion – and spawned rafts of copycats in their wake. Loosely divided into those which delighted in early aughts excess – the Fendi Baguette, the Dior Saddle bag, for example – and those which propositioned a new kind of practicality – the Prada bowling bag, the Balenciaga City bag, the Chloé Paddington – each has fallen out of favour at one time or another in the decade since. That noted, a recent nostalgia for the dubiously fashionable era is changing that – in this spirit, five brink-of-the-2000s ‘It’ bags, ready for rehabilitation.
1. The Prada Bowling Bag
Appearing in a collection described by Miuccia Prada as the “ABC of fashion”, Spring/Summer 2000, the Prada ‘bowling’ bag – deemed so for its resemblance to those used to carry bowling balls in the 1950s and 60s – was a flyaway success, selling out when it arrived in stores the next year. (Such was its initial success it was reissued to celebrate the Met’s Impossible Conversations exhibition in 2012, alongside eight other “greatest hits” bags by the house.) A semi-circle shape with panels of punched airtex-style leather and large enough to carry all of one’s belongings at once, it demonstrated Mrs Prada’s knack for elevating the banal to the covetable. A raft of copycats followed – though none matched the elegant simplicity and subversive sportiness of the original design.
2. The Fendi Baguette
In 1997, Silvia Venturini Fendi was tasked with creating a new bag for her family’s house. “I was asked, among other things, to come up with a particularly easy and functional handbag. In a certain sense, it had to be technological and minimal, just like the times,” Fendi remembers. “My response – fortunately I am indomitably disobedient – was the Baguette.” Named for the way it was designed to be carried, thanks to its small strap, under the arm – just as a French person might carry a baguette – its petite size, instantly recognisable double-F clasp, and more than 1,000 iterations made it the perfect embellishment to any early-2000s get-up. It was the arrival of HBO’s Sex and the City which saw the Baguette inducted into the ‘It’ bag canon proper, with protagonist Carrie Bradshaw owning several versions (even toying with purchasing a fake out of the boot of a car in Los Angeles, before deciding she would “rather wait for the real thing”.) It is best remembered, though, as the purple bag stolen from Bradshaw at gunpoint during a mugging on a New York backstreet. “Give me your bag,” says the man – “it’s a Baguette!” she replies, incredulous.
3. Louis Vuitton’s Stephen Sprouse Collection
The bold, graffiti-like stylings of New York-based fashion designer and artist Stephen Sprouse first adorned Louis Vuitton luggage – and bags – as part of the house’s S/S01 collection, designed by then-creative director Marc Jacobs. (They opened the show, carried in the arms of Vuitton-clad porters.) Jacobs first encountered Sprouse’s work in 1984 at a one-man show in New York – a time when the multi-hyphenate was also designing clothing for Madonna and Keith Haring – and was quickly fascinated. “It was incredible decadence – dark, punky, edgy,” he told Sarah Mower in 2009. “And the audience was downtown club kids sitting next to Vogue and New York Times fashion editors.” This juxtaposition of worlds was the spirit of their collaboration at Louis Vuitton, with “Stephen Sprouse” scrawled across the house’s storied monogram. It marked a turning point for Jacobs at the brand, creatively and financially – and the first time the designer credits following his instincts. “I had been trying to follow the rules and do what everybody told me,” he said. “Until it got to the point where I realised that’s not why I was brought in here.”
4. The Dior Saddle Bag
Few bags prompt such a visceral reaction as Dior’s kidney-shaped Saddle bag – created by John Galliano and recently revived at the house by current womenswear and menswear creative directors Maria Grazia Chiuri and Kim Jones respectively – which for some time existed as an effigy of bad taste. (Early proponents numbered Paris Hilton, Nicole Richie and Mischa Barton, and was often seen worn in tandem with a Juicy Couture track suit.) First shown as part of Galliano’s cowgirl-tinged S/S00 collection, the equestrian-inspired, top-handle bag was instantly evocative of early aughts excess, much down to its adoption by ‘It’ bag harbinger Carrie Bradshaw of Sex and the City – “[Bradshaw’s] sporting of Dior’s neat, pochette-style Saddle bag in that same season – in seemingly endless permutations of colour and fabric – helped propel it to cult status,” wrote Alexander Fury on the show’s 20th anniversary. Since, renewed nostalgia in the era has seen resale interest grow – much down to the collectability of the numerous iterations – an appeal cemented by the bag’s revival in Chiuri’s and Jones’ latest collections for the house.
5. The Chloé Paddington
Phoebe Philo channelled a certain joie de vivre during her tenure at Chloé, whereby her lissom woman, clad in floating, barely-there dresses with girlish details – lace, ruffles, bows and the like – was grounded with hearty, practical accessories inspired by the designer’s British roots. Showing an early knack for covetable leather goods which would continue well into her time at Céline, alongside wooden-heeled shoes and simple waist-cinching belts, it was her bags which ensured a financially successful period at the helm. In particular the Paddington – a slouchy, oblong-shaped bag defined by a padlock and key fastening – which spawned numerous copies and a waiting list each season previously unseen (all 8,000 made for Spring/Summer 2005 were pre-sold before even arriving in stores).