You can be sure these timeless luxury icons will never go out of style.
The luxury handbag world is vast, with both new handbag brands and new designs from storied luxury houses popping up season after season. Each year, there are countless silhouettes on the market, and consumers are blessed with more options than ever.
While consumers often pay attention to what’s new and trendy, demand will always remain for the tried and true classics – the ones that have stood the test of time. It’s those classics that have helped to shape fashion history contributing to the luxury accessory world we know (and love) today.
So whether you’re new to the world of designer bags and looking to purchase your first one, or are making it your goal to collect all of the classics, today we thought it would be fun to break day the 5 most luxury classic handbags in all of modern handbag history.
The HERMÈS Birkin
We’re kicking it off with one of the most elusive bags of handbag history, the unmistakeable HERMÈS Birkin.
If you love luxury handbags, you likely know the story of the Birkin’s creation, whether you own one or not. In the early 1980s, HERMÈS CEO Jean-Louis Dumas sat next to Jane Birkin on an airplane. In-flight, the duo discussed what would make a good carry-on bag after Jane Birkin was seen fumbling with hers.
One sketch on an airplane sick bag, and in 1984, the HERMÈS Birkin was born. To this day, it spawns waitlists and sells at a premium on the secondary market. It is still widely considered the world’s ultimate luxury bag.
LOUIS VUITTON Speedy
Like it or not, the LOUIS VUITTON Speedy will forever be classified as one of the most classic bags in handbag history, as well as one of the most recognisable. Dating back to the 1930s, the Speedy was conceptualized as LOUIS VUITTON’s first daily hauler and was largely based on another one of the brand’s classics: The Keepall. First introduced in the 30 size, the Speedy 25 was later added in 1959 at the request of none other than Audrey Hepburn. The actress was then photographed carrying her Speedy time and time again.
The Speedy’s range is vast, offering multiple sizes from ultra-petite to extra-large and a wide array of materials and colors. Of course, the brand’s monogram is ubiquitous and has an important history. The LOUIS VUITTON Monogram was already copyrighted in 1896 when it was invented by Louis Vuitton’s son Georges.
Combining Louis Vuitton’s initials with abstract floral shapes, the creation of LV Monogram was a radical move, as prior to this creation any initials typically seen on a trunk were usually the carrier’s own.
The Lady DIOR
The youngest handbag on our list, few other new handbag designs of the last 30 years have been able to stand the test of time in the way that the Lady DIOR has. However, it was basically destined to become handbag royalty since it was named after British royalty herself, the late Lady Diana, Princess of Wales. Few bags boast the versatility of the Lady DIOR, and its classic shape makes it an ageless icon.
Unmistakably DIOR, the Lady DIOR pays homage to the history of the House. While the bag’s charms are an ode to the lucky charms Christian Dior always kept with him, the staple Cannage motif traces back to the Napoleon III seats the House used to set up for guests at fashion shows. Reinvented season after season and forever a beloved choice for handbag lovers of any age, the Lady DIOR has cemented its place among other revered bags of its caliber.
Known by most as the CHANEL Classic Flap, the bag also goes by the CHANEL 11.12 and is one of the most widely recognizable handbags of all time. The name 11.12 comes from the original style code given by CHANEL to the Medium Classic Flap (A01112), the OG of the Classic Flap family. The original was derived from the CHANEL 2.55 bag and came to be what we know it as today in 1983, when Karl Lagerfeld added the now-signature interwoven CC turn lock to the bag.
Despite hefty price increases, the demand for the CHANEL Classic Flap shows no signs of slowing down. It has remained one of the handbag world’s most sought-after shapes thanks to its status, reinvented repeatedly.
While not a specific bag exactly, GUCCI Bamboo deserves a place on this list as few elements of handbag history are as recognizable and inventive as the curved handles of Gucci Bamboo.
The patented method of creation was developed in 1947 by GUCCI craftsmen who realized there was a specific process to heat and bend bamboo in such a way that it would retain its shape once cooled.
The process is detailed and thorough, and you can be sure that each and every Bamboo piece used for a handbag has been hand-chosen by a specially trained artisan who will then mold the bamboo over a fire to bend it into shape. As the bamboo heats up, it softens, making it malleable.
Artisans have meticulously crafted GUCCI’s Bamboo Handles this way for generations. And while GUCCI Bamboo is easily one of the House’s most emblematic symbols, it also happens to be one of the handbag world’s most classic bags, remaining a mainstay for the House since the 1940s. A GUCCI Bamboo bag is one of the most timeless bags a handbag lover can buy.
When it comes to fashion, few accessories command the status and timeless appeal of the CHANEL 11.12 handbag.
In a new campaign entitled The CHANEL Iconic, the French fashion house taps the talents of photographers Inez van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin to capture the elegance of the renewed design. Set in the picturesque neighborhood of Saint-Germain-des-Prés in Paris, model Anna Mouglalis, Rianne van Rompaey, Imaan Hammam, Louise de Chevigny, and Zoé Adjani showcase the CHANEL11.12 bag in a series of artistic photographs.
In February 1955, when Gabriel Chanel first introduced the epochal 2.55 rectangular leather bag.
The origin story dates to February 1955, when Gabriel Chanel first introduced the epochal 2.55 rectangular leather bag to consumers. Creative director Karl Lagerfeld later elevated Gabrielle’s vision in a reinterpretation dubbed the 11.12 bag in the early 1980s. The iteration differs from its predecessor by a clasp decorated with a double C and a metal chain interlaced with leather.
Each stunning detail reflects the maison’s heritage, bearing all the hallmarks of a bag created by a couturière. It is beautiful on the inside and out. The bag in a bag concept works according to the piqué retourné or turn-and-stitch technique, held in place with points de bride stitches. The style also features the incorporation of seven functional pockets. On the surface, diamond-quilted topstitching with the point droit de couturière technique envelopes the top of the bag for ornamentation that takes inspiration from the equestrian world, so precious to Gabrielle Chanel.
“The 11.12 bag is simply CHANEL. It is one of the iconic pieces that tell the whole story, with all the elegance of the maison. It looks like CHANEL,” confides Anna Mouglalis. “I think its iconic status comes from the simplicity of the shape. If you ask someone to draw a bag, this is the one that comes to mind immediately thanks to its ultimate refinement.”
“This bag is just very chic, elegant and feminine. When I wear it, I feel effortless and powerful.”
“I think every girl’s biggest dream is to own a CHANEL bag,” Imaan Hammam resumes. “I was able to buy my first Chanel bag when I was 17, and I remember saving so much money for it, it was a mini version of the 11.12, black on black, and I still have it. This bag is just very chic, elegant and feminine. When I wear it, I feel effortless and powerful,” the Dutch model confesses.
“Everybody, since you’re a little girl, knows what the classic CHANEL bag looks like. It has such a history. And especially in fashion, every season everything changes so fast, it’s nice to see these classic bags that have been around for so long. Reinterpreted every time, but with the same DNA,” says Rianne van Rompaey. “It’s the most famous bag in the world. It has some fairy tale to it.”
“It’s the most famous bag in the world. It has some fairy tale to it.”
Transcending time and trend, the CHANEL 11.12 bag is a paradox – universal, yet intimate. It is designed for every woman and passed on as an heirloom of personal heritage. Imagined for the pace of everyday life, the 11.12 offers unequivocal style and functionality. It boasts delicacy and refinement with supple lambskin leather. Alternatives are also available in grained calfskin, better known as caviar, alongside other materials from CHANEL’s ready-to-wear collections, including jersey, tweed, silk, velvet and denim.
Photographers Inez van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin concur with the vibrant models. “The CHANEL 11.12 bag is part of your life forever. It is pure perfection in its proportion, simplicity, and understated timeless luxury. The five women in this campaign are icons in their own right. They embody the multiple generations that CHANEL has touched.” To own a CHANEL 11.12 bag is truly to own a piece of history. This masterpiece is the perfect companion to the evolving lives of women without the risk of losing its modernity.
First designed by Karl Lagerfeld for CHANEL in the 1980s, the 11.12 bag or also known as the Classic Flap Bag, with its signature turn and switch clasp was actually a reinterpretation of the 2.55 Flap Bag imagined by Gabrielle ‘Coco’ CHANEL in February 1955.
Some consider the CHANEL 11.12 refers specifically to those flap bags with chevron quilting and the interlocking Cs clasp. Perhaps this assumption stemmed from the 2015 ad campaign starring Kristen Stewart below, which featured her with the black chevron-quilted flap bag with black hardware, resulting in labeling any flap bag with chevron quilting, the 11.12.
If you go back to CHANEL’s storied past, chevron quilting actually dates back to the 1960s and was introduced by Coco herself. We’ve also seen this type of quilting with the introduction of the Boy CHANEL, which precedes the 11.12 Flap.
CHANEL is referring to all Classic Flap bags (i.e. those with the interlocking double C clasp) as 11.12. The CHANEL 2.55, is the original flap bag and distinguished with the Mademoiselle (rectangular) turn lock.
Despite this renaming, or rather, “rebranding”, most CHANEL customers still like to refer to the 11.12 bag as the Classic Flap.
There are no brands that rival CHANEL when it comes to buying an iconic bag to elevate your wardrobe.
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Of course, most would probably say they’d like to buy the classic Chanel 2.55 flap bag. The iconic piece was first created by Coco Chanel herself when she got fed up with carrying her bag in her arms. To free her hands, she decided to add straps, an idea she took from a soldier’s bag. As with practically everything the iconic designer created, it was a revolutionary take on a classic item, as all handbags for women up until that point were carried. The 2.55 bag was launched in 1955, hence the name. However, it wasn’t until the ’80s, when Karl Lagerfeld took the helm, that the double-C locks were introduced.
Which are the most popular styles?
The medium flap bags or jumbo Chanel flap bags that were selling back in 2000 are still super-hot today. “But if I had to nail it down to a style right now, I’d say the medium Chanel Boy Bag is the most popular.” Sarah Davis of Fashionphileluxury handbag marketplace was saying.“If you want to be sure that your bag will continue to be appreciated over time, stick with the basics,” Davis adds. “Go with a classic black CHANEL flap bag made in lambskin or caviar leather.
Spot the rare collectible pieces
One of the things we adore about Chanel, they release really cool, collectible, super-limited pieces. You have to hold on to them they will match your style over and over again because they’re special and usually have a higher price point out the gate. Some of the favorites are the minaudière clutches, such as Container Minaudière and the evening bag.
Find out which hardware best suits you
Sometimes more bells and whistles make a bag harder to remain fresh. All the beading and tweeding looks amazing, but if you care about timeless style, all those extra trappings don’t help. Stick with styles that have the traditional chain strap, a visible logo, and you’re good to go.
Chanel’s backpacks have been popular for decades now, but they’re experiencing a particular resurgence at the moment: Here, you can see a fashion blogger carrying one around at fashion week.
CHANEL Gabrielle Bag
Gabrielle is one of the latest additions to the classic Chanel bag lineup. Featuring a double strap that you can wear both on your shoulder and across your body at the same time, it has proven to be an eye-catching version no street style star can resist.
CHANEL 2.55 Bags
Coco Chanel debuted the 2.55 in 1929, updating it in 1955 once more, hence the name. It was first introduced to the market because the designer was sick of clutching a bag under her arm. Decades later, it still gives a girl the same amount of happiness, if not more. You can tell a 2.55 from its rectangular fastening and the chain handle (which doesn’t have leather woven into it, unlike the flap).
Classic Flap Bag
The Reissue and the Classic Flap are easily recognized by their locks, straps, and leather. While the 2.55 has a flat tarnished-looking chain, the Classic Flap has straps that are interlaced with leather. The variety of leather is also a quick giveaway. The 2.55 comes in a more creased, distressed leather, while the Classic Flap is available in lambskin (smooth leather) or caviar (pebbled effect)
CHANEL Boy Bag
First introduced for spring/summer 2012, Chanel’s Boy bag is a more tomboyish, younger alternative to the ladylike, mature bags that came before it. The style—named after Coco Chanel’s lover, Boy Capel—still holds up as a mainstay on the street style scene.
CHANEL Waist Bags
The waist bag wasn’t around in Coco Chanel’s time, but it is a style Lagerfeld has come back to again and again (this season included). Celebs like Kendall Jenner and Bella Hadid are fully backing the fanny-pack trend, choosing dainty Chanel styles to join the hands-free club.
CHANEL Deauville Tote
The evergreen Deauville tote bag has become a favorite recently. It is classic and feminine while being a very functional everyday bag. It often appears in seasonal launches from time to time in unexpected colors and materials. On their website, CHANEL calls it the Tote or Shopping Bag this season.
If there’s just one bag that you would have to get from Chanel’s current collection, the 19 Bag would be it. The bag embodies the very essence of the French luxury house and all its codes, but with a contemporary twist that makes it a modern-day favorite, one’s that perfect for the woman of today and men who are a tad more adventurous.
CHANEL’s ‘Deauville’ Large Shopping Bag matured to CHANEL’s most coveted bag.
Think of CHANEL’s totes and numerous iconic silhouettes come to mind. There was the Coco Cocoon which came in lambskin and nylon variations with a puffy finish that made it a real joy to hug, and of course, the Grand Shopping Tote (GST) that was one of the most in-demand designs from CHANEL back when it was readily available on the shelves.
The spotlight shines on another signature at CHANEL now, the evergreen ‘Deauville’ which often appears in seasonal launches from time to time in unexpected colors and materials. On CHANEL’s website, the name given is Shopping Bag, but if you walk into their boutique and ask for the Deauville, you will be walked to this tote.
Looking for something iconic yet casual and fun, this is the It!
Offered in different sizes ranging from a small square-like silhouette to larger carry all sizes, some pieces come with a pair of leather handles while others do not. It ultimately comes down to personal preferences, and the one pictured above (sans leather handles) is part of CHANEL’s Spring-Summer 2020 Pre-Collection and made available in colors like Beige, Black, and Pink.
Looking for something iconic yet casual and fun without breaking the bank? This is the It!