Like a much longed-for new season style drop once the dregs of sales are consigned to the discount rack, after so many weeks and months of style hibernation now more than ever we crave a fresh start, the promise of the new. But now is also an opportunity to reflect on the past decade-- those which worked, those that left us scratching our heads, old favourites resurfacing alongside a clutch of brands to watch. By spying through the looking glass of yesteryear we understand not only where the luxury handbag market stands today, but also where it maybe headed.
Casting our mind’s eye to the turn of the millennium, the dawn of the ‘It’ bag emerged from the minimalism of the Nineties. Who can forget the back-breaking, bicep-defining Chloe Paddington launched in 2002? (Weighing in at a hefty three pounds empty.) Or the Fendi Baguette so popularised by one achingly chic Carrie Bradshaw? A dainty pochette slotted beneath the arm like its Gallic epicurean namesake, or dangling effortlessly from the clutches of many an A-list starlet, the Fendi Baguette was, and is again lusted after by celebrities and mere mortals alike. Sticking with impractical arm-candy celebrating form over function, Dior’s Saddle Bag proved another favourite of our aforementioned fictional style-maven, so in demand it’s warranted an encore. (More on this later.) Balenciaga’s City bag adored by Kate Moss and bohemian goddess of the Noughties, Sienna Miller, was desired as much for its distressed vintage patina and telltale tasselled zippers as the brand’s elusive ‘cool’ factor.
Recognisable design, not to mention clever marketing and arbitrary scarcity combined to herald such covetable confections as the ultimate aspirational accessories among the style-savvy. At the turn of the century corporate behemoths targeted individual fashion houses and where after, in a masterstroke of marketing genius, manufactured swathes of logo-littered accessories, brand ‘flag carriers’ --accessible (relatively) entry points for the masses from globally recognised luxury conglomerates. Thus the ‘It’ bag was born.
Fast-forward ten years and the fashion-set slowly abandoned It bags as a passé legacy of the globalisation of fashion. Whilst the Noughties represented the zeitgeist of ubiquitous status-symbol arm candy, the fashion-forward gradually made way for or a more pared back aesthetic, as well as a return to tried and true classics. Hand in hand with the rise of eco-consumerism, the penchant has been toward iconic, classic styles proven to endure the test of time, alongside more individual, unique shapes and styles. The more quirky and difficult to source, the better.
Of course, no serious discussion on bags of the decade could pass without mention of the most iconic of them all, the Hermes Birkin. Indeed, the original It bag before we knew what ‘It’ was, the Birkin represents perhaps the most covetable classic of them all. In a nod to its timeless appeal, in 2010’s Sex and the City 2 man-eater Samantha Jones donned a juicy orange ostrich leather Birkin, similar to Xupes’ Hermes tangerine osterich leather Birkin. The exotic skin and vibrant orange is both versatile and eye-catching. Lauded as safer than gold, the Birkin will always deliver on style and substance for decades to come.
Known for its elegant luggage and travel accessories Goyard is the epitomy of discreet, Parisian cache. Unlike peers Louis Vuitton or Chanel who offer seasonal variations of classic styles, Goyard does not chase fleeting trends, instead sticking to a formula of around a dozen bags all emblazoned with the distinct chevron pattern, the most popular its St. Louis tote. In 2002 the brand unveiled twelve new colours to supplement their traditional Black Chevron colourway and since around 2012 has steadily established itself as a cult brand for fashionistas. A brand to watch and we believe in which to invest offering practicality, understated elegance and timeless allure.
Before modern handbags, we carried our effects in dainty drawstring purses worn around our wrists. Today’s wristlet clutch is the purse’s, or ridicule's contemporary successor. Xupes’ Gucci pouch is a quirky example of the individual charm we have come to covet in recent years. We also love the Chanel pochette, with signature leather threaded chain. The clever loop is both aesthetic and practical, solving the problem of many a clutch that become too uncomfortable to grip in the hand or tucked under the arm. Whilst not terribly practical day-to-day, who cares when they’re this much fun?
Ok, ok, time to call as spade a spade, we know well and good these are bum bags by another name. Bum bags perhaps, but not as you know them. Cast aside images of visor-clad tourists disembarking a Carnival cruise ship, you won’t find this chic Chanel chain belt bag on anyone queuing for the all-day buffet, more like sipping Moet in St. Moritz. As spotted on the likes of Swifty, the Hadids and many a Kardashian, from around 2018 the belt bag has enjoyed a cult revival among the uber stylish. These ‘belt bags’, ahem, epitomize character, irreverence, irony and worn well are surprisingly cool. Wear as the name suggests, or else flex your street-style cred and wear cross-body. Whilst not for everyone, wallflowers need not apply, they make no apologies and command attention. Moreover, their fuss-free, function-over-form design render them remarkably practical for everyday. Don’t knock it until you try it.
Not only styles, but how we wear our bags has evolved. Strictly shoulder varieties have given way to off-duty cool of cross-body. Finger on the pulse, in 2011 Karl Lagerfeld introduced Chanel’s le Boy bag into its armoury of aspirational accessories and is now considered by many an established contemporary classic. Its versatile chain can either double up on the shoulder or be worn cross body depending on ensemble or mood. Few brands have mastered this trend better than Saint Laurent. Specifically, the YSL Kate nails cross body utilitarianism with elegance and everyday accessibility.
The Nineties are back and honourable mentions go to the Fendi Baguette and Dior Saddle Bag. Bucking the trend for practicality the eponymous Italian fashion house has reissued its iconic Fendi Baguette. Armed with more character than capacity, what the Baguette lacked in practicality it made up in spades with style and panache. Moving with the times, this latest iteration comes with the necessary Millennial modifications in the form of detachable straps to be worn on the shoulder or cross-body (see above) as well as a range of sizes. Likewise, thanks to one pioneering Maria Grazia Chiuri the Dior Saddle Bag has also come out of retirement with a bang in a variety of sizes, styles, strap options and yes, even in a Marmite belt-bag version.
Going forward we expect the trend will be for less trends, ie a continuation of the celebration of style, individuality and character alongside reverence of the true classics, namely Hermes and Chanel. Certainly the rise of eco-conscious consumerism will see the pre-loved market for luxury goods grow.