Not all bags are created equal. With unparalleled construction, attention to detail and chic styling, quality is the name of the game when it comes to becoming a must-have “it” bag. No matter the resulting cost or rumored six year wait list, statement purses have a way of finding their way on the shelves and on the arms of Hollywood’s stars and socialites alike. While most trends fall to the wayside, a true “it” bag, more than any other component, must be timeless and generally cross many decades and generations to come. A few of these purses, the Chanel flap bag in caviar leather for one, have the ability to last the test of time if properly cared for, and with the price tags attached to these iconic bad boys, care and upkeep are a definite must.
Whether images of Princess Grace Kelly with her Hermès bag or the latest Prada release of their sturdy saffiano leather, all these purses evoke an effortless cool. With decades of history behind the fashion houses and designers, the creators of these “it” bags, as well as their muses, have a very special place in fashion’s hallowed halls. Only time will tell which designer has the next big thing on their hands, or rather, slung over their shoulder.
Photo via Chanel
Coco Chanel practically invented the notion of an “it” bag when she added a chain strap to one of her clutches. Tired of holding her purse in one hand with a glass of Champagne in the other, Chanel revamped the rectangular box and attached an appealing side-strap to free her hands. With a quilted design taken from a polo jockey’s coat, and Karl Lagerfeld’s addition of a turning “CC” clasp for the 2.55 version, reissued after he took over as Chanel’s head designer and creative director in 1983, the Classic Flap Bag still has all the appeal and significance of the original version, but with a modern and fresh twist. Chanel, as a brand, not only adapts to the current atmosphere but somehow also retains the same original elegance we expect from Coco Chanel herself.
The Paris-based luxury goods manufacturer, Hermès, knows how to craft fine leather goods and make them special. Renamed in 1977 for Hollywood starlet and Princess of Monaco, Grace Kelly, the originally dubbed Sac à dépêches, was first constructed to be a saddle holder. Soon after in 1956, though, Kelly was rarely seen without one and quickly became the unofficial spokeswoman for the bag, covering her budding pregnant belly with the purse as she traipsed through Monaco and owning several versions of the same clean-lined construction. To this day, the Kelly is sold in eight different sizes and a perennial favorite of actors, socialites and fashion bloggers alike.
Photo via Louis Vuitton
With its signature gold and brown color scheme, monogrammed initials and classy ease, Louis Vuitton’s Speedy is a great carry-all with history and clout to match the simple design. Just the right size for travel or daily use, the Speedy was originally created to carry Champagne but, reportedly, when Audrey Hepburn got a hold of the bag, she convinced the fashion house to downsize their original to better fit her proportions. As the story goes, Louis Vuitton answered with the revamped Speedy 25 and an icon was born.
Photo via Bottega Veneta
This fashion house rooted in the Veneto region of northeastern Italy was put on the map in 1966 when they introduced their leather braiding technique, named intrecciato. Invented in-house, Bottega Veneta’s signature method of weaving together fine strips of high quality leather evokes an understated elegance and simplicity with each design. Rather than embossed monogramming, Bottega Veneta’s woven shoulder bag, in multiple hues and styles, embodies their slogan perfectly: When your own initials are enough.
Photo via Prada
Prada was founded in 1913 by Mario Prada of Italy, and from the get-go their focus was ready-to-wear leather and accessories. Their Saffiano Bag is named for the style of treated leather the fashion house patented by Mr. Prada himself. Made initially from calf skin and marked with a simple cross-hatched pattern, saffiano leather is known for its durable design. Resistant to scratches, these bags are the epitome of Italian craftsmanship and ooze an understated chic vibe with their high quality.
Quite possibly the most recognizable bag on this list, the Birkin is the absolute apex of statement bags and has been since its release in 1984. As the story goes, Chief Executive of Hermès, Jean-Louis Dumas, was seated beside France’s then “It” Girl, Jane Birkin, on a flight from Paris to London when her straw bag and all of its contents spilled across their seats from the overhead compartment. Birkin described her difficulty in finding a suitable weekend bag and Dumas got to work once the flight landed. Made in various sizes and hides-calfskin, lizard and ostrich for starters-the Birkin is known for a six year wait list, incredibly high price and two day construction period. Though most will never own a Birkin themselves, they are truly the absolute definition of a statement bag.
Photo via Coach
With an all-American design element, rooted in cowboy tradition and artisanal leather focus, the New York-based fashion house Coach has a history of making purses built to last. With a simple, square box silhouette, turn-lock closure and side-strap, these bags and their urban elegance can be spotted anywhere. The Coach Classic City Bag was originally released in 1987 but has been a staple for most women’s closets ever since. Approachable and on the more affordable side of the spectrum, Coach’s iconic statement bag is a great every day use kind of item, just right for city-dwellers and country roamers alike.
Christian Dior’s empire, known most commonly as Dior, is another French-based luxury house focused on ready-to-wear, leather and accessories. In 1995, Dior hit the jackpot when, as legend has it, Bernadette Chirac, France’s former first lady, gave Princess Diana the Lady Dior bag in black with stitched leather and four charms. Princess Di fell in love with the purse and would later go on to own various colors and sizes for herself, quickly making this bag one of the most iconic bags of all time. Known for its simple construction and small size, the Lady Dior is another bag with a storied history but relatively effortless cool making this small piece appear timeless no matter the decade or occasion.
Photo via Fendi
Founded in 1925, the house of Fendi was originally a fur and leather shop in Rome, Italy. From there, Fendi grew to be one of the highest regarded fashion houses in Italy with a keen eye for current trends and style. Their 1990’s offering, the Baguette, named for the French loaf and similar way one would carry the bag under their arm, quickly became the purse of the decade. Nearly every episode of Sex and the City featured Carrie Bradshaw with a Baguette tucked beneath her arm. The current, sleeker version is the same size and idea as the original baguette as well as the perfect foil to a little black dress.
Photo via Balenciaga
The brainchild of Spanish-born Cristóbal Balenciaga, Balenciaga very quickly established themselves as a force to be reckon with in the fashion industry. A whimsical yet approachable aesthetic with a feminine yet starkly contrasted modernity gives Balenciaga’s look a fun twist on traditional girlish staples. The Classic City Bag, as well as their Motorcycle and Lariat versions, melds these two worlds together and ultimately in 2001 became the must-have purse during the double aughts. With distressed leather and battered tassels, this bag has widespread appeal, being just casual enough with a twist of fancy and would ultimately become the ideal off-duty model carry-all. These Classic City Bags come in a variety of color and sizes, just right for any and all hoping to bring a little edgy chic to their look.