The It bag, or an iconic, classic handbag has never gone out of style. From Audrey Hepburn toting her Speedy en route to the airport or Grace Kelly and her namesake Hermes bag, women have always lusted about beautiful bags, elevated to star status by their famous owners. The It bag phenomena of the late 1990s and early 2000s saw us lust after a crop of eye-wateringly expensive bags known only by name - the Paddington, Baguette, the Roxanne (RIP) - and after this, some critics decreed the it bag was over.
But the last decade has proved our appeal for an iconic handbag will never wane, with Fendi re-issuing their Baguette and a book about the bag, Prada re-releasing some of their most famous bag designs, and brands like Mulberry proving there's still an appetite for a must-have accessory. So in honour of the It bag and its reign, we've picked our favourite iconic designs from fashion history, some still available to invest in - or dream about, at least.
Most Iconic It Bags: Prada Bowling Bag
Prada have had many an iconic It bag over the years - so much so that they are re-issuing some of their most famous designs to celebrate the current exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum in New York. But the bowling bag of spring/summer 2000 is probably one of their most famous. An instant cult hit, it sold out instantly worldwide, and Prada stores had to open long waiting lists for customers.
Most Iconic It Bags: Luella Gisele
Launched during It Bag hysteria in 2002, Luella Bartley's Gisele bag was a collaboration with Mulberry, and followed the idea Hermes and Gucci had in the 1960s, of naming bags after famous, stylish women. Originally launched in tan leather and with equestrian-style leather straps and a cute heart charm, the bag gave both Luella and Mulberry a boost, and after being seen on the arm of Kate Moss, Reese Witherspoon, Sienna Miller, and Keira Knightley, became a huge hit.
Most Iconic It Bags: Mulberry Bayswater
Brit label Mulberry also has an impressive history of It Bags (including the Roxanne, R.I.P). But the Bayswater is arguably the brand's most iconic. It was a classic from its launch (shortly after Luella Bartley's Giselle bag) in 2002. As Mulberry's Creative Director Emma Hill said "I have a Bayswater, my son's grandmother has a Bayswater, Kate Moss has a Bayswater".
Most Iconic It Bags: Fendi Baguette
“I was asked, among other things, to come up with a particularly easy and functional handbag. In a certain sense, it had to be technological and minimal, just like the times. My response (fortunately I am indomitably disobedient) was the Baguette.” Silvia Venturini Fendi, the creator of the Baguette.
Designed to be carried under the arm like the French loaf it's named after, the Baguette was launched in 1997 and quickly became the bag of the moment with a regular starring role on Sex and the City and over 700 different styles produced since launch. Happily for Fendi fans, the brand are reissuing the Baguette bag for a limited run in six of its most popular designs, to coincide with the launch of a new book Fendi Baguette.
Most Iconic It Bags: Mulberry Alexa
Unleashed onto an adoring public in January 2010, the Alexa was Mulberry's tribute to it-girl Alexa Chung. Creative Director Emma Hill was inspired by seeing Alexa carrying a classic Mulberry men's briefcase in a magazine, and thought it would be "a nice thing to do". Mulberry have had a tradition of naming bags after girls (see the now defunct Roxanne, and the Del Rey), but choosing style icon Alexa as a bag's namesake was a stroke of marketing genius. The bag was so popular Mulberry's profits have quadrupled in a recession, and the satchel design spawned hundreds of high street (and designer) copies.
Most Iconic It Bags: Bottega Venetta woven bag
Bottega Veneta designer Tomas Maier may have once called the It Bag "totally marketed bulls***", but there's no denying his house's woven designs are iconic. The criss cross, plaited effect is created using Intrecciato, a technique invented by Bottega Veneta in the 1960s to make the thin leather used in the workshops stronger and more durable for accessories. Today, most of Bottega Veneta's bags feature a take on the Intrecciato weave.
Most Iconic It Bags: Anya Hindmarch 'I am not a plastic bag'
They don't call Anya Hindmarch the 'bag queen' for nothing. After gaining recognition with her "Be a Bag" designs (where personal photos are printed on to a luxury tote), Anya shot to fame for her "I'm Not A Plastic Bag" - a simple cloth tote with an eco-friendly message, that became the bag of the season in Spring 2007. Sold in Sainsbury's for a mere £5, the bags were produced in conjunction with We Are What We Do, a non-profit campaign group that aims to reduce the amount of plastic carrier bags. Only 20,000 were made, leading to huge queues outside the Anya Hindmarch store and bags selling for up to £200 on ebay. In the US, Whole Foods Market stocked the bag and sold out within hours, leading them to announce they would no longer offer disposable plastic bags in all of its stores.
Most Iconic It Bags: Givenchy Antigona
Introduced in the AW10 Ready-To-Wear collection (and named after the three-act Italian opera by the composer Tommaso Traetta), Givenchy's Antigona bag may set you back a few thousand pounds, but the classic design and multiple updates have seen it on the arm of editors and A-Listers everywhere from Beyonce to Naomi Watts.
Most Iconic It Bags: Balenciaga Lariat
Produced in 2001, this motorcyle-inspired bag almost never saw the light of day because the Balenciaga bosses thought it was not "rigid enough". But its prototype was a hit with models - including Kate Moss - and thanks to the doggedness of Balenciaga creative director Nicolas Ghesquiere, a small batch of the bags were made and "seeded out" to key trendsetters. The bag's soft leather and battered tassels lent itself perfectly to the casual model-off-duty look.
Most Iconic It Bags: Mulberry Del Rey
The Del Rey is Mulberry's latest It-Bag-in-waiting, named after singer and internet singing sensation Lana Del Rey. The bag, shaped a bit like a Doctor's holdall has only just launched in stores, but is already a hit - the brand’s Bond Street flagship store sold out of the deer brown version in one day. Naturally, Del Rey has been snapped carrying the bag, saying "I love the design, a perfect mix between old school Hollywood and contemporary style. It’s an honour that such a classic and prestigious brand would name a bag after me".
Most Iconic It Bags: Gucci Jackie
Gucci renamed its Fifties Constance bag after Jackie Onassis was repeatedly photographed with the bag through the Sixties and female customers rushed to copy the style icon. The New Jackie, a modern "deconstructed" reinterpretation of the design was launched in 2009, which still takes a minimum of seven hours, and up to 13 hours to make depending on the materials used.
The handbag icon's: Hermes Constance
A favorite of Jackie Kennedy Onasis, the miniature Constance bag made its debut in 1959 - and was reportedly named after the bag designer’s child, born on the day the bag hit the shops.
Most Iconic It Bags: Lulu Guinness lips clutch
This fun lips clutch was inspired by designer Lulu Guinness's "painted red lips, pop art and Dalí’s surrealism". The original clutch came in red snakeskin, but the design has proved so popular on and off the red carpet that the lips now come in a multitude of designs: including a Union Jack for the Jubilee.
Most Iconic It Bags: Gucci Bamboo
Developed in a Gucci backroom in Florence in 1947, at the time, the bamboo-handle on this iconic bag was actually a way to think around war-time shortages rather than a design quirk. But over the decades, the Bamboo became synonymous with the house of Gucci, with bamboo prints featuring on scarves, and bamboo used in every accessory from watch straps to jewellery. Throughout the 1950s and 60s, the bag was worn by countless stars (Liz Taylor was a fan) - today the 'New Bamboo' is just as popular with everyone from Florence Welch to Carla Bruni Sarkozy.
Most Iconic It Bags: Hermes Kelly
The Kelly was made in the Thirties but became famous in 1956 when a pregnant Princess Grace Kelly used different versions of the bag to cover hide her expanding stomach in a bid to hide her condition from the press. It takes around 18 hours to make a single Kelly bag, and it's a favourite of many celebrities past and present, including Victoria Beckham, who has a huge collection of Birkins and Kellys.
Most Iconic It Bags: McQueen Novak
Inspired by Kim Novak in Hitchcock’s Vertigo, the Novak was McQueen's first venture into bags - and became an instant classic when it launched in 2005.
Most Iconic It Bags: Loewe Amazona
Spain's premiere luxury brand Loewe was founded in 1846, and in 1975, they launched the first flexible, unboxy handbag in sporty, unlined suede, which quickly became iconic in Spain, and then around the world. Named "Amazona" to signify female strength, each bag is rumoured to take 10-12 hours to create, and it comes in a variety of playfully bright hues. Madonna, Jennifer Lopez and Sienne Miller are fans.
Most Iconic It Bags: Longchamp Le Pliage
Seen on the arms of nearly every jet-setter, re-imagined by Tracey Emin, Kate Moss and Mary Katrantzou, it's hard to believe Longchamp's foldable travel bags have only been around since 1993. The vinyl, leather-trimmed bags come in a variety of sizes and hues.
Most Iconic It Bags: Proenza Schouler PS1
Launched in 2008 as a reaction to the gaudier it bags of the time, uber cool New York label Proenza Schouler named the PS1 handbag line after the New York City public school system and inspired by the traditional school satchel. Designer Lazaro Hernandez said it was “The anti-It-bag”, although it soon gained it bag status, and was spotted on the arms of Kirsten Dunst, the Olsen Twins and Jessica Alba.
Most Iconic It Bags: Prada Backpack
Miuccia Prada took over the family business in 1978 at the age of 28 with a degree in political science and no fashion qualifications and turned the declining brand into a household name with the subtly branded but distinguishable backpack. Made from hardwearing waterproof fabric, Pocone, its slouchy yet smart design appealed to young, practical fashionistas.
Most Iconic It Bags: Lady Dior
French actress Marion Cotillard stars in the current Lady Dior ad campaign, but she wasn't the original face of this now-iconic bag. The story goes that in September 1995, France's First Lady Bernadette Chirac gave Diana, Princess of Wales a Dior stitched leather handbag with a dangling letter charms (apparently, the stitched square pattern on the bag was inspired by the Napoleon III chairs used in Dior's first ever fashion show in 1947). Diana instantly fell in love with the design and was snapped on various visits toting her bag, the house renamed their bag 'Lady Dior' in her honour - and a fashion legend was born.
Most Iconic It Bags: Chanel 2.55
Released in February 1955, hence the 2.55 name, Coco Chanel transformed evening bags of the era by adding a chain strap to the popular clutches that left high society women with only one hand free. Coco Chanel, a keen horsewoman, made the bag in a distinctive quilted design inspired by jockeys' padded jackets. When Karl Lagerfeld took over as creative director in 1983 he reissued the bag in its original design but with the addition of a turning 'CC' clasp.
Most Iconic It Bags: Paddington
By 2005 It bags were so well established that Chloe thought up a sure-fire way to create an even bigger fuss around their release - make their newest creation super-limited edition. The Paddington, with its slouchy sides and distinctive chunky padlock was high in price and low in availability. These days it's slightly more available, though Selfridges warns that it has low stock of the £850 bag. Chloe has released a string of sell-out it bags since - from the Bay, Heloise, Edith, and Silverado to the more recent Marcie and Aurore, but the Paddington remains the original.
Most Iconic It Bags: Chloe Paraty
In 2008, the launch of the Paraty caused as much hype as the Paddington and the understated bag was quickly given the Hollywood seal of approval as versions of the triangular-shaped tote hung off the arm of Katie Holmes, Jessica Biel and the Olsen twins. As recently as November, Reese Witherspoon got into trouble with Peta for flaunting her python version in Los Angeles, where it is illegal to buy the material.
Most Iconic It Bags: Marc Jacobs Stam
This huge quilted purse was named after Canadian model Jessica Stam, who needed a big bag to lug her portfolio around. The much-copied style has been a sell-out since it arrived in 2006 and was worn by Kate Moss, Dita Von Teese and Scarlett Johansson.
Most Iconic It Bags: Dior Saddle Bag
At the turn of the millennium, classic It bags in muted colours were joined with a fun, impermanent generation of designer totes - the logo bag. In 1999 Christian Dior designer John Galliano launched the unfailingly recognisable Saddle Bag, shaped like a jockey's seat, with an oversized 'C' and 'D' entwined on either side of the handle, and a 'D' charm hanging from the distinctively patterned bag. The bag went quickly went cult, propelled by several cameos in Sex And The City and is widely copied.
The handbag icon's: Louis Vuitton Speedy
Launched in 1932, this monogrammed bag was crucial to Louis Vuitton's crossover from luxury luggage brand to fashion house. After the larger Keepall travel bag became popular, Georges Vuitton was asked to create a smaller carry-on for short trips - and the Speedy was born. Louis Vuitton’s first true handbag became a worldwide icon in the 1960s - Audrey Hepburn loved hers so much, she asked them to ask for an even smaller version to be created. Once Marc Jacobs joined the label as Creative Director in 1997, he breathed new life into the Speedy with seasonal makeovers of the iconic monogrammed bag, from Muramaki's pop art designs to scrawling graffiti.
Most Iconic It Bags: YSL Muse
YSL's roomy and distinguishable Muse bag was born in 2006 and has been spotted slung over the arms of Kate Moss, Jennifer Lopez, Nicole Kidman, Demi Moore and many more famously stylish A-listers. Crocodile skin versions retailed for around £15,000 and YSL even released a "Reversible Muse Tote" that could be swapped from black or brown to anthracite or bronze leather.
Most Iconic It Bags: Hermes Birkin
Hermès chief executive Jean-Louis Dumas created the legendary bag for the singer Jane Birkin after he was sat next to her on a 1984 flight and she complained she could not find a leather carrier she liked. Based on an 1892 design, it takes expert artisans a full two days to make each Birkin, and the costs range from £6,000 to £100,000, depending on materials used.
Famed for having waiting list of up to six years, entrepreneur Michael Tonello, author of Bringing Home The Birkin, famously made a fortune buying Birkins and selling them on ebay.
Most Iconic It Bags: Alexander McQueen Skull Clutch
The morbid and luxurious Alexander McQueen Skull Box Clutch has only got more popular with red carpet stars since its 2007 launch, with imaginative new versions of the luxury evening bag launched every season. Just when it seemed the design could not get more fearless, in 2009 its statement skull clasp was added to a glamorous knuckle duster.