When a robber points a gun at Carrie Bradshaw’s head in HBO’s iconic TV series ‘Sex & the City’ urging her to give him her bag, she promptly replies, with mildly outraged expression on her face: “It’s a baguette!” Not the safest move, probably, but how to blame her? What she had under her arm wasn’t any bag, it was a Fendi Baguette.
As Sarah Jessica Parker will explain later on, that very bag marked the defining moment that set her character on a path towards what may be most desired wardrobe in television history. Carrie’s beloved Baguette will make several cameos throughout the series, arguably adding to the purse’s pre-existing ‘fashion legend’ status, it was “the It bag that begat the entire It-bag industry,” said Vogue’s Plum Sykes. Since then, other designers started to lend the series their luxury items, hoping for the same fate.
The question is, how does a bag become an It bag? A few factors come into play when creating the magic recipe for the next star: exclusivity, a calculated limited distribution strategy, a prohibitive price, and an iconic woman’s favourable eye (and arm). Whilst the It bag became a legitimately recognised fashion phenomenon around the late 1990s and early 2000s, some purses had earned their ‘cult bag’ status before the term It bag was coined, like the legendary Chanel 2.55, arguably the first It bag, released in 1955.
Defined as “that totemic accessory that announced you were owner of all that was desirable in the world” by Vogue, an It bag is something like the Holy Grail of fashion. It’s a concept, an affirmation of status and taste, a signifier of character and distinction. What usually takes it from being a bag to being the bag is usually a famous owner. Think of Hermès’ Birkin and Kelly, named after Jane Birkin and Grace Kelly, or Gucci’s Jackie, from the First Lady, all retroactively deemed ‘It’. Someone flashes it, suddenly everyone wants it, only few can have it. A new It bag is born.
Here’s our top ten favourite it-bags from the last decade:
Launched in 1997, it was designed to be carried under the arm like the French loaf it is named after. Over 700 fanciful styles were produced since its first appearance.
Originally called Fifties Constance, this shoulder bag was renamed after Jackie Onassis was repeatedly photographed in 1961, causing a Gucci gold rush amongst female customers.
Released in February 1955, hence the name, Coco Chanel’s revolutionary design added a chain strap to evening clutches, allowing women to keep both hands free for the night. In 1983 Karl Lagerfeld took over as creative director in 1983 and reissued the original design with the addition of the logo clasp.
Originally designed in the Thirties, it was brought to fame in 1956 when a pregnant Princess Grace Kelly used the bag to hide her pregnancy from the press. Hermès aficionado Victoria Beckham owns several versions of the Kelly.
Another top bag from house Hermès. History says that the versatile Birkin bag was created after Hermès chief executive Jean-Louis Dumas, sat next to singer Jane Birkin on a 1984 flight, heard her complain she could not find a comfortable leather carryall. One year later, the It bag was a legend.
Louis Vuitton’s Speedy
Audrey Hepburn loved it so much, she asked them to ask for a smaller version to be created for her. Become a worldwide icon in the 1960s , the monogrammed bag fame rocketed from 1997, when Marc Jacobs joined the label as Creative Director in 1997, refreshing the Speedy with seasonal makeovers, including Muramaki‘s pop art designs to the graffiti version.
Longchamp’s Le Pliage
Every modern jet-setter /trend-setter owns one, or more than one, as they come in a variety of sizes and hues. Although this vinyl, leather-trimmed bag has only been around since 1993, it has soon become the travel It bag for the majority of It girls.
Proenza Schouler’s PS1
Inspired by the traditional school satchel, the Proenza Schouler PS1 handbag line was named after the New York City public school system. Designer Lazaro Hernandez described it as the ‘anti-It-bag’, however after having been spotted on the arms of Kirsten Dunst, the Olsen Twins and Jessica Alba, it ended up becoming one.
The maison has released a string of sell-out it bags, from the Bay, Heloise, Edith, and Silverado to the more recent Marcie and Aurore. Phoebe Philo’s Paddington, however, remains the original Chloé’s It bag. Named after one of the busiest areas of London, it was high in price and low in availability: every one of the 8,000 models created for spring 2005 sold out before arriving in stores.
Dior’s Lady Dior
September 1995, France’s First Lady Bernadette Chirac gives Diana, Princess of Wales a Dior stitched leather handbag with a dangling letter charms. Lady D instantly fell in love with the bag, carrying it at her arm during various visits. The bag as soon renamed to honour the princess.