Recently, we discussed the rise of brandless luxury, asking whether you’d buy a luxury bag without a label. The answers were somewhat mixed on Instagram, though in our community there’s still a clear preference for the classics: we’re talking Hermès, Chanel, Dior, etc. But with recent shifts away from logomania and toward luxury-quality bags without branding, such as those offered by Italic, this question has become unavoidable. Everyone, simply put, is reevaluating their preferences.
The companion question to this whole conundrum is whether the “It” Bag era is over. It Bags are iconic bags that define fashion eras, status symbols that are seriously desirable and trendy (read: The Ultimate “It” Bag Analysis). But are they reaching their end…?
The “It” Bag: A Recap
The “It” Bag emerged as a phenomenon in the 90s and its heyday continued through the 00s. Branded, recognizable designer bags became instant status symbols. The Fendi Baguette from 1997? Instant classic. So too were the Dior Saddle Bag (1999) Balenciaga City (2000), Chloé Paddington (2004) and, near the end of the It Bag’s time, the Mulberry Alexa (2009). A number of other luxury bags are seen as It Bags, some of which still remain somewhat popular today. For instance, many consider the Chanel Classic Flap an It Bag; it doesn’t necessarily define an era, but it is instantly recognizable and a staple within the handbag world.
Now, when people reminisce about their It Bags bags, it’s not uncommon for them to get emotional. (Recently, The New York Times published an article called “Me and My Baguette,” where women explained why their first Fendi Baguettes meant so much to them.) It’s not unusual to carry these It Bags anymore, but they don’t quite carry the same feeling, or meaning, as they once did.
Were any It Bags particularly important to you in the 90s and 00s? If so, tell us your stories below!
Now, things are less simple. Numerous news outlets have proclaimed the “death” of the It Bag in recent months. “RIP to the consumer phenomenon that rested on women’s shoulders and took hold of their wallets,” WWD recently wrote.
Other bags are beginning to take the place of It Bags as cultural symbols. As we wrote in the first installment of this series, the rise of Instagram influencers and an emphasis on transparency with respect to price and sourcing materials have helped to shift consumer dynamics. Consumers have started to care less about brand names and more about individuality and quality. Additionally, more luxury handbag brands have popped up at lower price points, such as Mansur Gavriel and Staud, many of them embracing minimalist aesthetics.
As Barneys New York fashion director Marina Larroudé told WWD, the industry “is not like in fashion 15 years ago, when it was about the Fendi Baguette and you’d see it everywhere, the trends were very clear.”
Have you found your own handbag tastes affected by shifting mindsets and styles?
The “Return” of the It Bag
But—and this is PurseBop’s personal take—we don’t really believe It Bags are completely “over.”
“Sales of designer-branded luxury merchandise are driven in large part by emotion, so as long as a brand is able to hit that nerve, it will be important,” Jeffry Aronsson, founder of Aronsson Group and former CEO of Oscar de la Renta, Donna Karan, and Marc Jacobs, told Glamour.
This understanding serves as an explanation for Hermès and Chanel’s continued success (read: Hermès Profits Up 15% in 2018). Birkins and Classic Flaps are iconic and still incredibly desirable. It also explains why new styles that may be considered It Bags, such as the Gucci Dionysus and Dior J’Adior, have brought success and increased profits to their makers. These bags evoke feelings of satisfaction, affection, and, indeed, love.
Furthermore, it’s true that the It Bag is experiencing a return of sorts—BoF even published an article this month on Why It Bags Are Making a Comeback. As you know, Dior has reintroduced the Saddle Bag, and Fendi its iconic Baguette. Perhaps it’s nostalgia that brought back these handbags, but maybe it’s something else after all, something about them that makes them desirable even as greater trends have shifted like the wind…
Updated: March 25th, 2019