This month one of the greatest couturiers of the 20th century has a birthday: Gabrielle Bonheur “Coco” Chanel. In honor of what would have been the designer’s 133rd birthday on August 19th, let’s look at the allure of Coco Chanel’s iconic bags.
I thought my fashion passion bucket would be overflow during the summer of 2010 when my daughter and I visited Chanel’s New York flagship store on 57th Street, to see The Secrets of the Chanel Handbag, an exhibit demonstrating the construction and history of the company’s iconic
The exhibit highlighted how the most iconic shoulder bag — the Chanel 2.55 — was made. The display was on an upper level of the boutique and featured a row of seven mannequins with video screens hanging off of them. Each video screen encased in a black leather quilted cover complete with chain strap. Alongside each mannequin was a display that highlighted a step in the process of manufacturing the Chanel 2.55 handbag.
In February 1955, Coco Chanel launched the 2.55 quilted bag, a design still adored over 60 years later. The 2.55 bag is the epitome of style and luxury, named after its birthday.
Mademoiselle Chanel was fed up with holding her purses with her hands and losing them, so she designed a chic double-chain strap to be carried on her shoulder.
Step One: Cut
Step Two: Quilting
Step Three: Assembly
Step Four: Shaping
Step Five: Turning Out
Step Six: Chain and Leather
Step Seven: Packing
The quilting stitch is a labor intensive stitch. Time of production of one bag is 10-18 hours and from 6 to 15 people take part in the process.
The diamond quilted design influenced by several sources: by jockey’s riding coats, by the stained-glass windows of the abbey at Aubazine (the French orphanage Coco grew up in), as well as the cushions in Chanel’s apartment in Paris. With the use of the running stitch, the bag holds its shape and volume well. For added security, there are secret stitches at the back to ensure durability.
In the early 1980’s, the brand’s creative director Karl Lagerfeld added variations on the original design including different sizes, leather and fabric combinations, the interlocking CC logo and the metal interwoven leather straps. These are called the classic flap bags. The bags are now available in leather, suede, fur, exotic skins, vinyl, and a selection of fabrics such as satin, jersey, and tweed.
The chain straps influenced by various childhood memories, the caretakers at the convent where she grew up, that held their keys on their waist with the same chain she used on the 2.55 bags’ shoulder strap.
Why Has Chanel Raised Its Prices?
2. Cost of Labor
3. Chanel makes its bags in France and Italy.
4. Very few luxury brands are still producing goods entirely in Europe.
5. The cost of labor in Europe has skyrocketed
6. Prestige pricing for a luxury brand keeps them exclusive
The 2016 Classic Flap Bag (Lambskin and gold metal) price is $4,900.00.
Karl Lagerfeld suggests this with a new interpretation of boyish charm saying, “Chanel used men’s underwear to make dresses; she had this boyish attitude, in fact, it is the very spirit of Chanel. She got it from Boy Capel, the great love of her life, which incidentally, explains why the new bag is called the Boy Chanel”.
Coco Chanel would be ecstatic to know that Karl Lagerfeld introduced the Boy Bag in 2012. The thought of keeping the memory of the love of her life, wealthy boyfriend Arthur “Boy” Capel alive. Boy financed her first shop, a millinery shop called Chanel Modes in Deauville, France in 1912.
See Karl Lagerfeld’s film starring Keira Knightly video on Coco Chanel, A Life on Camera, from the Guardian, below:
Back to my disappointment in The Secrets of the Chanel Handbag exhibit. I conjured up thoughts of seeing some interlocking Cs, caressing the caviar leather, exploring a machine or two. But modern technology allowed us to see the seven step process via the dangling computers from the mannequins. That was it!
It would be wonderful if an arranged trip to the Chanel Manufacturing facility when I visit in November.
Happy Birthday Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel?
Have a fabulous week.