Times Saturday Magazine Article on the Chanel Bag


Feb 23, 2006
Times Online December 02, 2006
Times Saturday Magazine

How to get dressed: the Chanel bag

Lisa Armstrong
Coco Chanel wasn’t always right. Not everyone, as she pointed out during one of her pithier pronouncements, gets the face they deserve. The Nazi boyfriend was a bit of a low point, too. But she knew how to mint a classic.
The Chanel stalwarts – the little black dress, the costume pearls, the co-respondent shoes, the bouclé suit, Chanel No 5, Chanel No 19 – are so familiar that it’s easy to overlook what an achievement it is for anyone to bequeath one genuine classic, let alone a handful.

The next best thing to inventing a classic, especially in this age of so many ersatz ones, is learning to identify the genuine classic. Which brings us to the Chanel bag. I’ve left the 2.55 (a reference to the year it was created) until last because, frankly, it has had its moments languishing among the out-takes. Unlike the bouclé jackets, the faux jewels, the pumps and the perfumes which have, incredibly, never gone out of style, Chanel bags were about as infra dig during the Nineties and the first half of this decade as it’s possible to be, before you meet yourself coming the other way. That ought to mean it isn’t strictly a classic. But let’s consider the evidence – namely, that it has not merely survived but triumphed over ubiquity several times (if you were around in the late Eighties you may remember a permanent sensation not unlike being in a giant bouncy castle – it was the feeling of all those quilted Chanel bags, both real and rip-off, bumping against your flesh) and the inevitable periods in fashion Siberia. You could call it the Kate Moss, or if you prefer, the Edith Piaf of bags. Perhaps that’s what makes it seem so appropriate for our times. Now it’s dangling from the shoulders of trendsetters again – not just the 2.55, but a myriad variations. Instructively, in an era when an “It” bag is artificially anointed by PRs who send it to truck-loads of celebrities to carry for five minutes, the 2.55 has worked its way back pretty much by stealth, with relatively little hullabaloo and precious few freebie hand-outs. It’s a safe bet that it’s the stealth factor that sealed the Chanel bag’s destiny. It was the too-cool-for-school crowd who work on magazines such as Pop and Cheap Date who first began buying Chanel bags a few years ago, bashing them up and wearing them with their usual, carefully cultivated who-gives-a-damn attitude. Others have gradually followed, and this winter, Chanel bags – not just the 2.55 – were dotted along the front rows, as well as on key style-setters such as Kate Moss, Sofia Coppola and Phoebe Philo.
Obviously, in a couple of years or so Chanel bags will be out again. But that probably doesn’t matter. Apparently Chanel is among a handful of brands increasingly regarded as akin to pearls, shares and rich husbands, ie, bona fide investments which hold their value – unlike many accessories which plummet in value the moment you’ve paid for them. What a perfect alignment of contemporary obsessions – money and high fashion. Also, unlike the Birkin, which is now a firm favourite with the Wags, Chanel, for the moment, is the preserve of the cognoscenti. When it becomes too popular, early adopters will stow their bags away for ten years on the pretext that they’re saving them for their daughters. Such is the nature of a modern classic. I suppose it’s what we deserve.

How to get dressed: the Chanel bag - Fashion - Times Online


Working Canvas
Aug 2, 2006
That writer is right, you know. She reminded me that during the '90s no one was carrying their Chanel bags, because they looked so dated. However... everything cycles and now I love my old bags more than ever.