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Why heritage fashion labels are revisiting iconic bags

Design houses are returning to their archives this season to reimagine iconic creations in more modern styles

The Gucci Blondie
The Gucci Blondie (Courtesy Gucci)

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While fashion is often about going forward, more often than not designers return to their rich archives and create something that’s more in sync with the present trends yet rooted in the past. In other words, they would either superimpose a symbolic piece of history with the prevalent socio-cultural flavour. Or, juxtapose the uber luxe savoir-faire with a hint of street cred to seduce a new generation of luxury buyers with the richness of brand history.

This return to archives was largely restricted to garments. But this season, the focus has moved to bags. Bottega Veneta, for instance, recently announced plans to re-release some of its archival pieces. “The philosophy… challenges the very construct of seasons –pieces that are timeless do not need to abide by a seasonal calendar,” the brand’s chief executive Leo Rongone told Vogue at the Global Fashion Summit in Copenhagen early June. “Instead, we are focused on creating remarkable singular objects that last forever.”

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The shape of the bag is a big reason the iconic pieces never feel outdated, allowing brands to push for archival designs. “Brands like Chloe, Dior, Louis Vuitton, Gucci and Ferragamo have catered to several generations of luxury connoisseurs. And it’s understandable that brands reach out to the younger audience with classics that have a contemporary touch. Be it the Chanel tote, Dior saddle or the Gucci hobo, each of these classics had a unique shape and conveyed a specific sense of style,” says stylist Isha Bhansali. “The recently unveiled AdidasxGucci collab saw the Diana tote being reimagined with sporty touches.”

Not too long ago, Fendi, too, unveiled a limited edition Fendi Baguette, created for the series And Just Like That. The Roman design house and actor Sarah Jessica Parker collaborated to design a custom pink sequin baguette, worn by her character, Carrie Bradshaw, in the episode, “No Strings Attached”. The glamorous baguette was crafted with 3D pink sequins inspired by the original version of FW 1999/2000 collection, which was carried by Parker in a Sex And The City (SATC) scene in the early 2000s. Designed in 1997 by Silvia Venturini Fendi, the Baguette was a glam antidote to the 90s’ austere minimalism and soft grunge.

And this season, the baguette is reimagined in fuchsia paillettes with accompanying Bordeaux leather straps and FF buckle.

Gucci, on the other hand, has unveiled their beloved archival bags with au courant touches, be it Gucci Jackie 1961, the Dionysus, Chateau Marmont or the more recently unveiled Blondie. The new Gucci Blondie echoes the values of gender fluidity and inclusivity ingrained into the brand aesthetic by creative director Alessandro Michele. Blondie was first spotted at the Gucci Love Parade fashion show last year. Featuring round interlocking G detail from the Swinging 70s, it’s been launched in three different utility-based bag styles: a messenger bag, a chain shoulder bag and a mini-shoulder bag.

Dior is also offering a new interpretation. Creative director Maria Grazia Chiuri has reimagined the Saddle bag with the visually arresting Zodiac Fantastico motif to echo founder Christian Dior’s deep inclination towards astrology. The legendary utilitarian bag features a Saddle flap with a magnetic D stirrup clasp and boasts an antique gold-finish metal CD signature on each side of the handle. The original Saddle Bag was the creation of John Galliano, now creative director of Paris-based fashion house Maison Margiela. It was presented in 1999, as part of Dior’s spring 2000 ready-to-wear collection. SATC’s Carrie, The Simple Life’s Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie, and The O.C. actor Mischa Barton helped make it more popular.

“The reinvented classics always work because you can’t go wrong with a classic. They are iconic as well as aspirational,” says designer Shruti Sancheti. “Honestly, it’s a brilliant move on part of the brand. Moreover, the engaging and clever marketing strategies to launch these products through social media help them reach out to a new set of consumers.”

Take the iconic Louis Vuitton Speedy, for instance. The Speedy, originally named the “Express”, was unveiled in 1930 as the Speedy 30.

The number relates to the width of the bag, so the Speedy 30 measures 30cm across the width of the base. It rose to fame in 1965 when Audrey Hepburn commissioned the Speedy 25 in monogram canvas. Hepburn requested the smaller piece as she wanted a mini version of the keepall, and a smaller piece than the Speedy 30 that she could easily carry daily. While the iconic shape has remained a constant, the design and size have been moved. It was recently showcased in materials like monogram jacquard denim, to sync with the recent consumer desire for more prints and colours.

“Sometimes you don’t know where to get these pieces of history steeped in iconography from,” says Sancheti. “So heritage houses tweak them to match the demand of the present consumer while keeping the overall style the same.”

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