Even in today’s internet-fueled, accessible-flights global style scene, the French woman’s carefree, cool, and confident look is still considered the elusive unicorn others envy to catch. Exactly what is the secret? Is it the wine? cigarettes? The ability to eat a baguette daily and not gain an ounce? Or simply their Je m’en fiche attitude? Of course, every stylish Parisian woman worth her salt owns a Chanel handbag, but beyond a 2.55 or Boy bag, a piece from Hermés, Dior, Louis Vuitton, Goyard, and Céline—oftentimes all of them—lives in her wardrobe arsenal, not to mention the various iterations of new, couture-like accessories. Here, CR takes a look at the most unforgettable of the all-time top five.
Hermés is the unparalleled mother of all style bags. While we all know about the oft-talked about Kelly and Birkin bags, there is a third house staple that still appears as contemporary and fresh as it did when it was introduced in 1959. Named Constance after the daughter of female atelier craftswoman Catherine Chaillet, the sleek shoulder bag with adjustable strap has been favored by French icon Inès de la Fressange, actress Diane Kruger, and America’s most French First Lady, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. For Spring 2018, the house has introduced a new bucket bag style under the direction of Nadège Vanhée-Cybulski called the Licol. Bearing Hermés’ signature Rocabar stripes—a nod to equestrian roots as the pattern came from a blanket used to keep horses warm—the piece looks apropos for carrying a bottle of wine and baguette. Quelle Francaise indeed!
When it comes to Ready-to-Wear, Christian Dior is synonymous with The New Look to the Bar jacket, but when it comes to leather goods, the Lady Dior bag is easily the most recognizable handbag from the house. According to an excerpt from Monica Botkier’s Handbags: A Love Story, the bag’s origins started when former French first lady Bernadette Chirac gifted Diana, Princess of Wales one in 1995. “Diana loved the handbag so much that she ordered one in every color and was soon photographed with it everywhere, from a business trip in Argentina to the Met Gala in New York, where she wore a gown by John Galliano for Dior,” Botkier tells CR. “When photos were published of Diana carrying the bag during a visit to Birmingham in 1995, Harrods reportedly sold out of the style within hours.“
Having undergone many iterations with different materials, textures, and colors, the Lady Dior still remains a blank canvas that each subsequent creative director for the house, has reimagined. For Maria Grazia Chiuri’s Fall 2018 luxe flower power, Age of Aquarius styled empowerment romp, the designer hand-beaded the Lady Dior as well as the Dior’s saddle bag, which was first introduced in Spring 2000 and worn as fringed fanny packs on the runway.
The standard-bearer of luggage for the refined French voyager since 1854, Louis Vuitton has stood for taste and class since its inception. Distinguishable trademark patterns on its luggage and handbags—the checkerboard pattern Damier, florals, and initial driven monograms—have made these bags super recognizable but so too have their shapes. Styles such as the Noé bucket bag, Neverfull, and Speedy—the latter’s origin attributed to a request from Audrey Hepburn—have endured over time.
While his predecessor Marc Jacobs, is largely credited with making these iconic style even more famous by collaborating with fine artists such as Richard Prince, Takashi Murakami, and Yayoi Kusama, Nicolas Ghesquière left big impressions on the stable of bags including the obvious yet overlooked Petite Malle, which is a miniature version of the house’s famous trunks, to the more practical sister bag, the Steamer. Introduced for Cruise 2016, this modernized luggage bag—especially lux in exotics such as alligator and crocodile—carries the active French lady through her day in haute style. For Fall 2018 the house introduced, the new Crown Frame bag, which is a modernized classic frame bag shown in both a cheeky trompe l’oeil luggage detail style and exquisite hand-painted glossy finish bag.
The relative newcomer in the bunch, Céline, which was founded in 1945 as a children’s shoe brand, actually pre-dates Dior but it wasn’t until 1960 that the line shifted into a women’s wear collection with leather goods. Michael Kors warmed up the then-sleepy brand in the late ‘90s when he was creative director, but it was Phoebe Philo, who recently departed from the brand, whose impression on the house that knocked it out the ballpark. Topping off her lofty and arty working woman’s wardrobe was a stable of can’t-live-without-‘em handbags styles such as the Trio, Classic, Cabas, and extremely popular Luggage tote, which were suddenly on every stylish cool chick in France and beyond.
The Trapeze, introduced in 2013, employed the gusset side wing detail of the Luggage but played down details for a simpler shape. Philo had a secret weapon in the bag cash cow department: Johnny Coca. After he departed the brand for British leather goods player Mulberry, the Céline’s designs took on a quirkier look however still covetable. The Fall 2018 collection was designed quietly by the in-house team though they seemed determined to leave a mark in the bag department with a harness-style bag with all sorts of separate pouches, mirrors, and key fobs that wrapped up many of Céline’s small leather goods into one crazy but covetable bag. Hedi Slimane may even approve.
One of France’s most treasured symbols of chic, a Goyard bag was born from decidedly humble beginnings. Founder François Goyard came from a family of “compagnons de riviève” a useful but certainly not chic profession of hauling logs downstream so that Parisians had wood to burn for heat and cooking. So prevalent was the gig, that each logger stamped his wood, thus the idea of hand-painted personalization or marquage was born. The triangular motif on the bags came from the 150-foot long handmade rafts that were made from the wood to be delivered. Goyard’s son, Edmond, transformed the pieces into such a French status symbol that legends such as Coco Chanel and Jeanne Lanvin, and even French wannabes like Duke and Duchess of Windsor had personalized suites of the chic travel trunks.
A unique Goyard piece—such as the Saint Louis, Anjou, Artois, and Poitiers named for royals and noblemen—is practically considered a birthright to discerning French. The brand doesn’t follow trends or certainly “seasons,” but they continue to add more to the mix such as a new over-the-top chic minaudiere with a shoulder strap.END
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