Chanel’s Iconic Bags

BY: Eugenia PUBLISHED ON: Monday, August 15, 2016 IN: Fashion

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.

Chanel's Iconic Bags

 

Chanel's Iconic Bags

Wearing: Old Teri Jon Little Black Dress, Vintage Opera-Length Silver Pearls, Vintage Peau de soie Evening Bag with Lulu Frost pin, Vince Camuto Nappa Metallic Caged Heels with Dita Cat-Eye Sunnies

Chanel’s Iconic Bags. Pamphlet from 2010 Chanel Exhibit in NYC.

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
2.55 handbag.

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.

Chanel's Iconic Bags: Original Chanel 2.55

Chanel’s Iconic Bags: Original Chanel 2.55

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.

Coco Chanel

Chanel’s Iconic Bags: The 2010 exhibit, The Secrets of the Chanel Handbag at the New York City flagship Chanel Store.

Step One:  Cut
Step Two:  Quilting
Step Three:  Assembly
Step Four:  Shaping
Step Five:  Turning Out
Step Six:  Chain and Leather
Step Seven:  Packing

Cutting Chanel

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.

Quilting Process for the Chanel bag. Source: wanthaveit.com

Chanel’s Iconic Bags:  Quilting Process for the Chanel bag. Source: wanthaveit.com

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.

Coco Chanel

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.

Chaining Chanel
February 2005, Lagerfeld reproduced an enhanced copy of the 2.55 bag in commemoration of Chanel’s 50th anniversary of the 2.55 purse.  It was named the ‘Reissue 2.55’.

Chanel Medium Flap Bag

Why Has Chanel Raised Its Prices?
1.  Inflation
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”.

Chanel's Iconic Bags: The Boy Bag

Chanel’s Iconic Bags: The Boy Chanel Bag

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.

Siggy

  • Loved this fascinating post! So much that I did not know. Love your elegant look! Coco would indeed have improved!
    xx, Elle
    http://www.theellediaries.com/

    • Elle,
      I can go on and on about Coco Chanel especially her “rags to riches” story. Thank you for your kindness regarding my “LBD” look.

  • Being a bag lover, I loved this article. I also noticed that I am commenting on her birthday-didn’t plan it that way but here I am. First of all, can you believe that I have never been to New York, and I badly wanted to see the Manus x Machina (had to settle for the book) and to see the Guggenheim in person would be such a delight. As much as I love a Chanel bag, the chances of me owning one are probably nil. They are just too expensive. I have a RM Love bag which sort of copies the look. As far as the exhibit, I would have wanted to see the steps, museum style; the cut out leather and unfinished bags, behind glass. Thank you for the informative article-these are the ones I relish to read.

    • Terri,
      Hi! It’s always a pleasure to hear from you. I’m excited that you found this Chanel article informative, thank you. I do see that you are a bag lover, I’ve spotted fabulous pieces on your blog. I am fortunate to live less than three hours from New York City, so my next adventure there is the Met Costume Exhibit, Manus x Machina before it closes Labor Day, I will think of you to capture the best moments even though you have the book. The Guggenheim is on my list of must-see museums as well.
      The Rebecca Minkoff Love Bag is a great option for Chanel. There is an online website I stalk that sells second-hand Chanel; they have possible affordable options especially the sale/discounted items that I will consider.