A thought occurred to us recently – that the handbag really is a symbol of female empowerment. Did you know that before the early 19th century, men would carry our fans and money? Smaller essentials, like make-up, were stored in pockets under large skirts, and then later, in small drawstring bags. It really wasn’t until Louis Vuitton and other luxury fashion houses created structured bags that snapped shut, that we were afforded privacy and the ability to carry our own belongings.
One of the strangest things about the past year is how few times we’ve needed our handbags. It’s one of the fashion rituals we’ve missed the most… the process of choosing a bag, getting organised and heading outside with it on our arm. And we’re longing for this to begin again. But it has also got us thinking about how carefully we will choose our next investment bag. We’ll certainly be wanting something that will stand the test of time. But why do some styles elicit so much devotion that designers constantly dig into their archives to give us more of the same? Modern fashion history, and the muses who inspire us, are proof that there are shapes and shades that have staying power. And each season, they show up in a new iteration for wise investors.
As we’ve learnt in the past year, comfort sometimes wins. As such, we think a hobo-style bag might just be the most intuitive shape for our spring awakening. Undeniably comfortable, the design was groundbreaking when Gucci’s hobo-shaped Jackie O bag broke with the structured trend in the 1950s. Today, this iconic shape is simply a style that makes sense, sitting snugly under your arm (looking relaxed and chic) as you dash around.
The power of heritage logos is so durable that many luxury fashion houses launch newly produced versions of classic bags every collection. Consider the iconic logo prints from Gucci, Louis Vuitton or the more recent Goyard; none of these bags have lost their appeal. If anything, they have become more covetable, which is the hallmark of timelessness and evidence that they really do only get better with age.
We have the British actress Jane Birkin to thank for the modern basket bag. She famously carried her belongings in a petite basket that she likely picked up at a seaside stall. And while it looked on point in Cannes, she also carried it in the city. The superpower of the modern basket is that it gives smarter pieces a laid-back edge. It’s also charmingly functional, which only adds to the appeal. You can invest in a designer version from Loewe or even pick up a vintage number – the key is to find a shape you love.
No iconic round-up of classic bags would be complete without a nod to the most timeless of shades: tan. While this grown-up hue never dates, it’s also true that it ages so beautifully. If you’ve found a bag shape you love but don’t feel certain about colour, opt for tan. As a colourway, it manages to exude a distinctly vintage feel (thanks to Jackie & Jane), while also feeling modern when paired with brass hardware and a new shape.
When you are investing in a bag, do you consider future you? If you are someone who wonders (as we do) how a shape will work down the line, a minimal design is the style you seek. And this season we’re spoilt for choice, with many fashion houses approaching their accessories with a new-found discretion. Think smooth leather, clean lines, subtle hardware and refined logos and lettering. All of which feels sophisticated and quite appropriate for right now… and later, too.
The hardest-working style in any bag collection, the luxury tote is the carryall every woman needs in her life. And while we all have low-key versions for a dash to the shops, investing in a beautifully crafted tote pays style dividends. The structured outer that holds its shape, the luxury lining, the thoughtful compartments inside and the fact that every time you pick it up, you effortlessly elevate your everyday look.
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