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Find out what makes an ‘It’ bag in 2018

LOOK­ING BACK over the past two decades of hand­bag his­tory, it’s been easy to iden­tify one or two hits each year as ‘It’ bags – the styles that de­fined a mo­ment. In 1999, it was Prada’s Bowl­ing bag. In 2OO3, Louis Vuit­ton’s mono­gram Mul­ti­color. Chloé’s Padding­ton dom­i­nated in 2OO5, while Mul­berry’s Alexa, much like the woman it was named af­ter, was sud­denly ev­ery­where in 2OO9. Yet there is no clear win­ner this year. So, what makes an ‘It’ bag in 2O18?

We’ve wel­comed dozens of new bag brands on to the mar­ket, each with their own dis­tinc­tive shape – Staud’s Bis­sett, for in­stance: a unique cylin­der; and Cult Gaia’s semi-cir­cle Ark bas­ket (of which every high-street store has pro­duced its own knock-off). In or­der to com­pete with the lux­ury be­he­moths, young de­sign­ers are de­vel­op­ing orig­i­nal styles, sub­se­quently flood­ing our In­sta­gram feeds with a grow­ing fan base of dig­i­tal denizens.

‘It’s dif­fi­cult to de­fine one style as be­ing an “It” bag any­more,’ says Cassie Smart, buy­ing man­ager of shoes and hand­bags at Matches Fash­ion. She says that, yes, its best-sell­ing bags are by house­hold names. But sales of styles by newer brands have sky-rock­eted: Cult Gaia’s Luna Bam­boo and Wan­dler’s Horten­sia are in the top-ten per­form­ers, along­side Loewe’s Gate and Gucci’s Cestino.

When it comes to es­tab­lished lux­ury la­bels, Fendi is widely recog­nised as hav­ing pro­duced the first ‘It’ bag with its Baguette, launched for spring 1998. The hype around it be­gan af­ter a leg­endary sam­ple sale in De­cem­ber 1997, when Fendi in­vited fash­ion ed­i­tors to buy up first edi­tions of the pro­to­type for £25 (can you imag­ine?), and any­one who was any­one took their fresh Baguette to the fash­ion week front row that Fe­bru­ary. It was quickly dubbed the ‘It’ girls’ bag, and its ap­peal has en­dured, with prices these days hit­ting the £6,OOO mark.

Since then, the global hand­bag mar­ket has ex­ploded (thought to be worth over £46 bil­lion

in 2O17), and re­tail em­pires have been built on the back of a win­ning tote or car­ryall. Case in point: Longchamp sells ten of its iconic Le Pliage bags every minute world­wide. ‘It has been our ab­so­lute “It” bag for 25 years now,’ says cre­ative di­rec­tor Sophie De­la­fontaine, with fash­ion and art’s big­gest names part­ner­ing with the brand to rein­ter­pret the clas­sic, from Mary Ka­trant­zou to Tracey Emin. The suc­cess of Ker­ing, the par­ent com­pany for Givenchy, Gucci and Saint Lau­rent, is also at­trib­uted to its leather goods, ac­count­ing for 52 per cent of its €1O.8 bil­lion rev­enue in 2O17, com­pared with ready-towear at 16 per cent. Here’s the kicker, though: those heavy­weights no longer own the mar­ket.

‘His­tor­i­cally, bags have been driven by a well-known name,’ says Smart. ‘But over the past cou­ple of sea­sons, we’ve seen a de­mand for lesser-known brands cre­at­ing de­sir­able, in­ter­est­ing shapes with a com­pet­i­tive price tag.’ Which is an­other ob­vi­ous at­trac­tion. Styles mat­ter, of course, but a num­ber of these new la­bels are priced in the sweet spot be­tween £16O and £35O. The mar­ket has di­ver­si­fied, mak­ing space for brands both lesser-known and es­tab­lished, and now la­bels such as Staud, Boyy and Manu Ate­lier are as cov­etable as the clas­sics.

Danse Lente is among those brands. The name means ‘slow dance’ in French, but it’s been any­thing but a slow-burner, pick­ing up 9O stock­ists, in­clud­ing Sel­fridges and Net-a-Porter, in lit­tle over a year. Young­won Kim, the Lon­don Col­lege of Fash­ion grad­u­ate who founded the line in April 2O17, cred­its In­sta­gram for its speedy growth, with its graphic shapes and un­miss­able hard­ware crop­ping up all over the so­cial me­dia plat­form. Net-a-Porter’s re­tail fash­ion di­rec­tor Lisa Aiken spot­ted Kim there, and snapped up the de­but col­lec­tion ex­clu­sively for the site.

Broadly speak­ing, there’s a bag in every colour and fab­ric imag­in­able, for every oc­ca­sion, and we are happy to hand over £1,OOO or more for one. Plenty of women shop on the high street for all other as­pects of their wardrobe, yet when it comes to a bag, they buy only de­signer.

‘When I was younger, I would save up for months for a branded bag,’ ad­mits Camille Char­rière, a fash­ion blog­ger and pod­cast host with more than 677,OOO In­sta­gram fol­low­ers. ‘Then I learnt the quiet power of la­bels that use less vis­i­ble brand­ing.’ These days, it seems an ‘It’ bag is not de­fined by a recog­nis­able logo, but by its shape. In 2O18, bas­ket bags and small geo­met­ric styles dom­i­nated our feeds, what­ever brand they came from.

So, what does this mean for old-school ‘It’ bags – the Baguettes and Speedy bags that his­tor­i­cally bore the weight of our so­cial and eco­nomic sta­tus, beloved by 2k-era icons? They’re no longer gath­er­ing dust in the back of Car­rie Brad­shaw’s closet, that’s for sure. Be­cause tra­di­tional lux­ury brands are now em­ploy­ing the same tac­tics as the start-ups, up­ping their game when it comes to en­gag­ing fol­low­ers on­line. Dior’s 2O18 re­vival of the Sad­dle bag saw the brand un­der­take a huge so­cial me­dia cam­paign, with 1OO global in­flu­encers – from Chiara Fer­ragni to Susie Lau – post­ing im­ages of them­selves car­ry­ing the dis­tinc­tive sad­dle-shaped satchel at the same time. ‘I con­sider this an icon of the house’s re­cent his­tory,’ cre­ative di­rec­tor Maria Grazia Chi­uri says of the rea­son she chose to re­vamp the clas­sic, orig­i­nally de­signed by John Gal­liano in 2OOO.

The thing that both old and new styles have in com­mon is their vis­ual im­pact; they speak to the screen with their graphic sim­plic­ity. You could ID a chic squig­gly Danse Lente han­dle and sad­dle bag by shadow alone (you might need to, as those in­flu­encers are al­ways run­ning, by the looks of their street-style pho­tos).

Lux­ury sec­ond-hand e-tailer Ves­ti­aire Col­lec­tive says that searches for now-vin­tage clas­sics are on the rise: Louis Vuit­ton’s Nev­er­full and Speedy and Dior’s Lady Dior are among the top-ten vin­tage bags bought on the site this year (Chanel’s Time­less takes the top spot). The great­est al­lure of these clas­sics is their guar­an­teed longevity, with Prada’s ny­lon ruck­sack and Gucci Soho mes­sen­ger revered as much now as in their hey­day. So these bags are proven to hold their value like few other in­vest­ments, whereas we don’t know how the newer styles will fare in a few decades.

If all these ob­ser­va­tions on the mar­ket have left you scratch­ing your head, won­der­ing ‘what bag should I buy this Christ­mas?’, rest as­sured, there’s no right or wrong an­swer. Net-a-Porter cur­rently has over 1,7OO de­signer bags in stock, and Match­es­fash­ has more than 2,OOO. Pick which­ever one makes your pulse quicken and your heart sing. Oh, and pick the one that ac­tu­ally fits your stuff. That’s prob­a­bly quite im­por­tant.



Ba­len­ci­aga, £1,315Dior, £2,O5OTHE COME­BACKThese early Noughties styles are now 2O18 hits

Danse Lente, £375

THE NEW­COM­ERSMeet the In­sta-fa­mous brands Boyy and StaudBoyy, £72O

Boyy, £91O

THE CLAS­SICLouis Vuit­ton’s Speedy (below) is a peren­nialfavouriteLouis Vuit­ton, £73ODanse Lente, £295 THE IN­VEST­MENT Mono­grammedbags are proven to holdtheir valueHunt­ing Sea­son, £55OFendi, £1,95OStaud, £29O

THE OLD…These clas­sics en­dure, and of­ten com­mand apre­mium AND THE NEW Brands such as Wan­dler and Staud are hav­ingan im­pact

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