Undoubtedly the most iconic shoulder bag from the 20th century, the Chanel 2.55 is a design classic that has withstood the test of time. With its distinctive quilted black lambskin and gold-chain strap, it has become one of the most covetable and instantly recognisable bags in the fashion industry. Discover now the story behind this vintage icon.
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Chanel enjoyed numerous groundbreaking achievements in the world of design, but none so much as the bag she released in February 1955. The 2.55, named for the date it was launched, is the design house’s signature bag.
Distinctive in style – a rectangular-shaped black lambskin quilted box, with chain strap – its simplicity and elegance belie the history behind it.
When the bag was launched it caused a sensation. Traditionally women’s bags had been handled which, in 1955, was cumbersome and no longer practical for modern women busy with family lives, work and travel. Chanel was quoted as saying that she “was fed up with holding my purses in my hands and losing them, so I added a strap and carried them over my shoulder.”
By adding a shoulder strap, previously reserved for soldiers’ and bikers’ bags, she revolutionised the way women carried bags – and held themselves. The signature quilting on the bag was inspired both by stable boys’ coats as well as Gabrielle Chanel’s own cushions from the sofa of her Rue Cambon flat in Paris.
As beautifully crafted today as they were in 1955, it takes the brand’s atelier more than 180 product stages to create a 2.55 bag. As much attention to detail is paid to the inside of the bag as to the outside. Lined in claret red and including secret pockets – where, allegedly, Gabrielle Chanel kept a letter from her lifetime lover, Boy Capel – as well as a lipstick pocket, the 2.55 is a place to keep your secrets as well as belongings.
Far from the IT bags that are popular for one season, this iconic bag transcends fashion-fickle trends, proving to be just as covetable now as it was 50 years ago. Indeed, over 30 new models are produced each year, forming an integral part of the house’s eight annual collections.
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All of the Chanel bags designed since the 2.55 have been inspired by the original. Creative Director Karl Lagerfeld plays with the house’s signature motifs to produce bags that are witty, modern and highly desirable – but always instantly recognisable as Chanel. Many of them share characteristics such as quilting, chain straps and use of the logo, updated in different shapes and fabrics.
Today the classic black 2.55, once a favourite of style icons such as Jackie Kennedy and Brigitte Bardot, has found resonance with a new generation of stylish young women. Kate Moss is reported to own over 100 Chanel bags, while other modern style icons such as Mary-Kate Olsen, Sarah Jessica Parker, Sienna Miller, Kirsten Dunst and Keira Knightley have all been photographed carrying them.
The 2.55 perfectly encapsulates Chanel’s appeal. It crosses generations – whether you are sixteen or sixty it appears elegant and youthful, sophisticated and stylish – making it a truly timeless design classic.
Content source: BAG – The Ultimate Fashion Accessory by Sue Huey and Susie Draffan
Photography sources: www.elegance.nl, www.weheartit.com, www.vintagefashionguide.com, www.purseblog.com, www.fashionedbylove.co.uk, www.achadosdaliedaqui.tumblr.com and www.amazon.com
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