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How Does a Bag Become an It Bag?

The history of iconic designer purses, from Chanel to Celine.

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The Chanel 2.55. The Hermès Birkin. The Fendi Baguette. Whatever the It bag of the moment is, its name becomes known far beyond its actual owners.

But the reliable cycle of It bags isn’t actually a given. Sure, Chanel’s famous leather quilted purse with the iconic chain strap dates back to February 1955 (hence the name). However it wasn’t really until the 1990s and early 2000s that the concept of It bags exploded, with assists from paparazzi photos, Sex and the City, and the rise of designer collaborations, like Louis Vuitton’s splashy Takashi Murakami bags.

The craze somewhat died down after the 2008 recession, but there are still certain purses — albeit tamer, more muted styles these days, like Céline’s Luggage handbag — that grace the arms of cool-girl celebrities.

“Each year — or every two years, depends on the cycle — some bag becomes the one that becomes everybody’s desired bag,” says Seth Weisser, owner of New York’s iconic vintage shop What Goes Around Comes Around. And then, just like that, they find their way to vintage resale shops.

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