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Xupes - Feature Article

Céline: The ‘It Bag’ of Modern Times

Stripping back to bedrock is always a winner in fashion circles. But whether or not, back in 2010, newly appointed Céline Creative Director Phoebe Philo was consciously calling out an over-fussy fashion scene—when her first ready-to-wear collection hit the Paris Fashion Week—is not entirely clear.

Still, one thing is as lucid as the Caribbean sea: her minimalist vibe was the right wave at the right time. Over the following five years, as the designer brand elite’s “It Bag” tide, which peaked in the early 2000s, slowly diluted into a wash of independent couturiers and fashion houses, Philo’s sleek Céline Luggage Tote quietly stole the show, and changed everything in its wake.   

Philo had already helped transform Chloé into one of the hottest tickets in town before she departed on a three-year exile from fashion to spend time with her family. But it was her comeback with LVMH-owned Céline—where she won the 2010 Designer of the Year award from the British Fashion Council and the 2011 International Designer of the Year from the Council of Fashion Designers of America—that propelled her into the fashion halls of fame.   

image of a celine  Dune Drummed Leather Mini Luggage Tote
Céline Dune Drummed Leather Mini Luggage Tote

In an interview with the New York Times a few months after her highly-publicised debut show for Céline, Philo talked about fashion needing to calm down and clean up its act, and how her taste had become “crisper” since her Chloé days. She spoke of her focus on, “staple pieces, but with a twist” and how focusing on cut and material makes for timeless, investment pieces.   

With its robot-like visage, the Luggage Tote certainly has its share of twist. And, despite not looking particularly worthy of joining a six-month waiting list for, its simplicity is actually as calculated and deliberate as the most elaborate clutch. Take, for example, the understated logo in its clean, effortless font, lightly stamped into the leather. What Philo understands, fundamentally, is a bag’s functionality. She brings comfort and practicality into the equation, and combines masculine and feminine styles to give a sophisticated yet cultivated image.   

What’s notable is that she takes this same level of care on the insides too. Where a bag’s interior is often a showcase of lesser-quality leather and negligence of design, Philo’s emphasis on high standards immediately jumps out at you.   

Image of Céline Faux Leopard Print Pony Skin & Brown Calfskin Mini Luggage
Céline Faux Leopard Print Pony Skin & Brown Calfskin Mini Luggage

Despite today’s market, flooded with a miscellany of first-rate bags, being far more about individuality than the It Bag generation was, Philo’s toned down effect became a style in itself. And it caught on. The Luggage Tote became as widespread as any iconic bag, and competition followed suite; brands such as Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen’s, the Row, softened their shapes; in fact, the Olsen twins were even spotted sporting the Luggage Totes themselves.   

Carried by Oprah, Khloe Kardashian, Hilary Duff, Lindsay Lohan, and just about anyone else in the arm garnish A-league, the Luggage Tote and its many reincarnations slowly became the most in demand carryall of the last ten years. Despite its ubiquity, its discreet, go-with-anything, last forever character means Céline can still churn out subtle colour changes and faint design tweaks that capture public imagination. For the moment, at least, the Philo swell shows no signs of calming. 

image of Céline Blue Calfskin Large Phantom Luggage Tote
Céline Blue Calfskin Large Phantom Luggage Tote

Click here to view our full pre-owned Handbag Boutique, including all the Luggage Totes from the images and a range of the most iconic It Bags from the last fifty years. All our bags are revamped and serviced making them look like they did when they first left the workshops.