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The It Bag Part I: History of the It Bag

By Kristopher Fraser

Dec 22, 2015

New York - At some point in the 90s, It bags became one of the ultimate markers of status and high fashion tastes. If there is one category of luxury goods that remains more coveted than any other, arguably even diamonds, it would be handbags. So-called It bags are a category of handbags that meet several criteria including being high priced, coming from a luxury label, and being a best-seller for the brand in question.

Examples of It bags throughout history include the Louis Vuitton Murakami, the Fendi Spy bag, the Chanel 2.55, and the crème de la crème of them all the Hermès Birkin bag. One of the first It bags in history dates back to 1945. Giuliana Camerino, founder of the Venetian fashion house Roberta di Camerino created handbags made from artisan-made hardware and fabrics that were traditionally reserved for clothes. Her bags had details such as a series of R’s across them (similar to Gucci’s interlocking G’s), and were constructed from things like woven leather (similar to Bottega Veneta’s.)

Later on, heavily logoed handbags would be the bags that dominated the luxury handbag sphere. During the 90s, brands like Coach, Gucci, and Louis Vuitton had the monopoly on the luxury handbag market with their heavily logoed designer bags. The last decade of the 20th century saw an explosion in the luxury handbag market, and they became a must-have for many shoppers.

The It bag dates back decades to Giuliana Camerino

What really defines an It bag is the level of exclusivity. Most of these bags in question are at very high price points. The Chanel 2.55 costs around 3600 dollars, while the Hermes Birkin has a starting price of 10,000 dollars. In a 2015 article on vogue.com, contributing editor Plum Sykes said an It bag “is an It bag only if you’re unlikely to posses it.”

With price tags worth several months rent in some cities, It bags aren’t exactly an easy to come by commodity. Contributing to the exclusivity of these bags are also wait lists. The Birkin comes with an average three year waiting list, and currently bags like the Lady Dior and Alexander Wang’s Rocco feature a waiting list of several months. In the 90s, Chloe created a waitlist to increase the exclusivity of their Paddington bag.

A contributing factor to the growth of what would become known as It bags was the democratization of fashion. More specifically, the buying of luxury fashion houses by super conglomerate companies like LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton, Kering, and Richemont. These companies intended to turn billions of dollars in profit from the luxury companies they bought up, and they certainly realized the power of handbags.

Where items such as ready-to-wear were seen as for women who fit supermodel descriptions, the accessories market was one where luxury conglomerate companies realized they could have an ongoing and easy monopoly. Buying a designer bag can turn into an addiction, because it becomes very difficult to own just one.

The power of the It bag is evidenced even today. While some argue that the It bag era is over, and owning high end luxury bags isn’t as big a trend as it used to be, there is plenty of evidence to suggest otherwise. Just walk around the streets of Soho in New York City and the sea of Celine Phantoms, Givenchy Antigonas, and Prada Saffianos, there is a lot of proof the It bag is alive and well. It bags have become a must-have for many women’s apparel collections, and they certainly aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. Next Up: Part II - What Makes an It Bag

photo1:portero.com
photo2:photoshelter.com
photo3:blogspot.com