It wasn’t too long ago that what we now know as “It” bags simply didn’t exist. Instead, women usually had one or two handbags that lasted them for many years, and the styles were static and didn’t change much. The idea of ‘celebrity fashion’ wasn’t much of a thing back then either, but now it’s a major driving force in the industry.
Behind the 10 most iconic “It” bags in history are 10 of fashion’s most iconic brands, cementing their forward-thinking values with prescient designs – many of which are still relevant today. Over the past 70 years, these bags have made the list because they’ve either stood the test of time or defined an era – or both.
Louis Vuitton 'Speedy'
It doesn’t get more iconic than the Louis Vuitton ‘Speedy’ bag, which was created for film star Audrey Hepburn. As the story goes, Hepburn asked Vuitton to scale down his enormous ‘Keepall’ travel bag into something more easily carried as a day bag, and that’s how the ‘Speedy’ was born.
Once Hepburn started carrying it, its demand went through the roof, so Louis Vuitton put the style into regular production. As one of the brand’s remaining signatures, the ‘Speedy’ is still carried today by “It” girls, celebrities, and regular women alike.
We owe consummate innovator Mademoiselle Gabrielle ‘Coco’ Chanel for so many wonderful fashion inventions that we still utilize today. Her major contribution to handbags came in 1955, when she created the Chanel ‘2.55’ flap bag – so named for the year of its creation.
The innovation came from the inclusion of shoulder straps. That’s right. Up until 1955, women only had top-handle totes and pocketbooks or clutches to choose from. The Chanel ‘2.55’ is still one of the brand’s best-selling bag styles to this day.
Right at the intersection of social networking and Internet shopping lies one of history’s most famous “It” bags. The Chloé ‘Paddington’ had the good fortune of appearing at the right moment as the internet brought celebrity style to our daily attention, while e-commerce made buying their looks possible.
Chloé’s stalwart branding campaign put the ‘Paddington’ in the hands of the biggest celebrities during the early 2000s, sparking a global frenzy for the bag in the process. Since then, Chloé has been responsible for a steady stream of “It” bags, including popular current styles like the ‘Faye’ and ‘Nile’.
The Balenciaga ‘Motorcycle’ bag was one of the first instances that the specific positioning and look of a bag’s hardware signified its status, rather than a splashy exterior logo. Balenciaga’s block-shaped bag with dangling tassels and well-placed stud details became so instantly recognizable as to create an “It” bag without the brand’s name being front and center.
The Givenchy ‘Antigona’ is one of the more recently created bags on this list, having been created by Riccardo Tisci in 2010 to capture his preference for masculine/feminine design balance. However, it uniquely deserves a spot because it’s still a constant celebrity favorite, the newer iterations of which continue to improve and impress. The ‘Antigona’ – a sturdily constructed Boston bag with minimal detailing – is so named for Antigone of Greek mythology, whose name means “unbending”.
Before the Céline ‘Luggage’ tote became an “It” bag, it had a slow first season when it came to sales and was always readily available on retail shelves. Then, the Olsen twins got a hold of it and were snapped carrying the dramatically angled bag on the streets of New York City – and the rest, as they say, is history. Overnight, the ‘Luggage’ tote went from being available everywhere to completely sold out, with a six-month waitlist at most boutiques and the occasional demand for upfront payment.
Some experts regard the Fendi ‘Baguette’ as the first official “It” bag, made popular by Carrie Bradshaw (played by Sarah Jessica Parker) in HBO’s Sex and the City. Although the shape and style of the first Fendi ‘Baguette’ bags don’t exactly hold up in the present day, the brand has reinvented its look many times over to include all sorts of embellishments, patterns, and fabrics.
YSL introduced the ‘Muse’ in 2005 to much celebrity fanfare, and the bag quickly became the most popular style in the brand’s history. As an oversized carryall with sophisticated hardware, the ‘Muse’ became central to every A-lister’s daily wardrobe. The ‘Muse Two’ style, which debuted in 2008, was even more popular, especially because this version included satchel straps and a better closure.
Dior 'Lady Dior'
In 1995, France’s First Lady Bernadette Chirac gifted Princess Diana with a charming stitched-leather handbag finished with dangling letter charms from Dior. The bag also featured a stitched square pattern that was reportedly inspired by the Napoleon III chairs that Dior used in its first-ever fashion show in 1947.
Although it was a bespoke gift for one of the world’s most famous royals, Princess Diana’s obsession with the design soon caught the attention of the public, who wanted their own version. Dior named the bag ‘Lady Dior’ in honor of Princess Diana – and an instant “It” bag was born.
It’s likely that you know the legend of the Hermès ‘Birkin’ bag by now, but just in case you don’t, we’ll give you a refresher. In 1981, Jane Birkin was seated on a flight and caught the notice of her seatmate, who watched her struggle with her unwieldy carry-on.
It turns out that the passenger next to her was none other than Hermès CEO Jean-Louis Dumas, who asked Birkin if she would act as his muse by advising him what would make a better carry-all handbag. Three years later, the Hermès ‘Birkin’ was released, and has continued to be one of the most iconic status symbols in the world.