IN the fashion world where trends stand on polar opposites — think Lady Gaga’s beyond strange fashion sense and back-to-basics style sense — one thing is constant: the classic handbag.
Not many carriers can claim to be a classic and many women the world over guard their collections of beloved classics with great love, passion and care. It is not only because the bags cost a bomb back in those days, and even more now, but because their design, pattern, look and style can stand the test of time. A woman with a good sense of style would have, over the years, collected genuine classics that will induce envious glances and are made so well they can last for several generations.
Historically, handbags had been both the carriers of secrets and the signifiers of power, status and beauty for women. So women should choose their handbag with care. It tells a lot about you — just like your overall look. Ancient, symbolic, and indispensable, the handbag is a chameleon object, expressing and carrying the needs and tastes of both its wearer and its time.
Handbags in the Classic League are those of at least 30 to 40 years old. At the very top of the list are those from 1856, (from, for example, Burberry), to the 1950s (the Chanel 2.55) and the 1960s.
Handbags are all about femininity, beauty, romance and sophistication. In the 1950s, handbags were about coordination. It was almost as if coordinating your fashion ensemble equalled having good moral standards.
The 1960s were about romance and ethnic designs. The 1970s were about fun: Afros and bell-bottoms, the flower-power and psychedelic patterns where handbags were hands-free, strapped on or slung over the shoulders.
n the 1980s and 1990s, designs became more informal but still expressed sophistication and beauty.
Today’s handbag designs are a mix of the old (classics) and the new, especially in terms of materials used. So we have handbags made of not only leather (particularly calf skin, as in Prada), but also of waterproof canvas, space-age synthetics and faux reptile skins.
THE ‘IT’ BAGS
These are the carriers that are keepsakes. But what makes them classics?
It is the clean-cut, practical and luxurious designs, the refined intricate detailing, the bewildering arrays of materials and textures used. The bottom line is, they are all of superb quality. That is why their prices can make eyes pop and instantly empty pockets.
These are the top five signature bags of the past decades, according to world renowned designers and fashion critics:
They are the Hermes Birkin and Kelly, Chanel 2.55 (its birthday was February, 1955), Fendi Spy, Louis Vuitton Speedy and Balenciaga’s motorcycle-inspired Lariat. These are must-haves for fashionistas with lots of money to blow away.
Other bags on the (secondary) list are: The Chloe Paddington (yes, the one with the huge padlock), Fendi Peek a Boo and Marc Jacobs Stam (named after model Jessica Stam) and Stella. The YSL Muse and the Mombasa (both are very roomy), Celine Classic Box bag, Burberry Check bag, Alexander McQueen Empire bag, Zac Posen Alexia bag, Prada MV515, Dior Saddle Bag, Bottega Veneta Sloane Woven Hobo bag and Ralph Lauren Alligator Ricky bag are also coveted items.
Fakes are being mass produced globally. They are cheap and, quality-wise, they are really off the originals. But there are also replicas and these are not cheap. They cost from RM1,000 to well over RM5,000, despite the fact that these bags are not as refined in materials and textures as compared with the real goods.
But the real thing is very expensive. These days, expect to pay a five-figure price tag for a Chanel 2.55, for instance. And those bags that are exclusive, embellished with diamonds and such, can be priced over hundreds of thousands of ringgit.
There are shops and online stores selling these bags but aside from buying from boutiques, you need to be careful and must have a discerning eye to make sure you are not duped into buying fake advertised as an original. Most of all, you need to know every detail of the classic bag you want. This will ensure you get the authentic item.