The Fendi Baguette turns 25: Kim Kardashian, Sarah Jessica Parker help celebrate milestone for the first It bag
- The handbag that became a pop culture phenomenon thanks to Sex and the City is as coveted as ever – these days Gen Z-ers raid their mothers’ wardrobes for one
- To mark its 25th anniversary, its creator, Silvia Venturini Fendi, and Kim Jones released a collaborative collection in New York with Marc Jacobs and Tiffany & Co.
If there is an item that has single-handedly changed the course of recent fashion history, it has to be the Fendi Baguette.
While you are right in thinking that there are plenty of other bags that predate the Baguette and have made history, the Baguette was the first It bag and instrumental in turning fashion into an accessory-driven global industry in which bags, not clothes, became the real focus.
“It’s hard to believe that it’s been 25 years,” Venturini Fendi says in an interview in New York moments before an event held to commemorate the milestone.
When she and Fendi womenswear artistic director Kim Jones were thinking of ways to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the bag, she was leaning towards creating a capsule collection. Jones felt that the Baguette was such a key moment in Fendi’s history that a much bigger celebration was in order.
The decision to unveil the collection in New York, and to collaborate with two icons of American fashion and luxury – designer Marc Jacobs and jeweller Tiffany & Co. – was an obvious one for both.
“We decided to come to New York not only because of the history of the Baguette but also because the US was the first market that really discovered Fendi outside Italy, and Sex and the City gave a huge boost to the bag,” says Venturini Fendi.
“I feel that this bag is really a New York bag because it’s both an evening bag but also a day bag, and in New York you see how night and day often blur. For me, the bag embodies the spirit of New York. That’s why we invited Marc to collaborate with us. He represents downtown New York while Tiffany represents uptown.”
Venturini Fendi knew from day one that the Baguette was not just any bag, and recalls how in 1997 when minimalism reigned supreme – remember those black nylon backpacks from Prada? – this “small and fun” bag was an antidote to that aesthetic.
“Creating an icon – not just something that is considered an It bag – is like doing alchemy and something that only happens once in a lifetime,” says Venturini Fendi. “We didn’t even have a marketing department back then so I really think that the stars aligned. If we had sat down and tried to make a successful bag we would never have done it.”
Jones, who was a student in the ’90s, says that it was a dream come true to work with Jacobs, “the king of downtown New York”.
Jones gave Jacobs total control of his section of the show – 10 looks in gargantuan proportions paired with huge hats that closed the spectacle – while he and Venturini Fendi designed the bulk of the collection, incorporating the unmistakable rectangular shape of the Baguette into sleeves, gloves, hats and skirts, and turning it into elements such as pockets.
“It’s amazing to see how the bag has almost flown away from under the arm and has been incorporated into clothing and into the body,” says Venturini Fendi, adding that what makes her happy these days is seeing young girls carrying the Baguette out and about, whether it is a new version or a vintage one.
“I often wonder if they stole it from their mothers’ wardrobes like my daughters do,” she says, laughing.
“Young people are realising how important it is to invest in timeless pieces,” says Venturini Fendi. “They know the difference between fast fashion and products with history and integrity like the Baguette.”
This new-found nostalgia for all things ’90s is something that Jones sees every day in his friends’ children.
“All the young girls I know are hunting down vintage Fendi and Dior from that time because they’re too young to remember those days,” he says. “There’s a certain nostalgia to that era because it was more free and people didn’t have a phone on all the time and were going dancing and enjoying themselves.”
With its fun vibe, more-is-more approach and joie de vivre, the New York show encapsulated that sense of unbridled freedom, adapting it to current times.
“Linda is an icon, just like the Baguette,” says Venturini Fendi. “She’s a strong woman and represents the women we like at Fendi. She’s a fighter and doesn’t give up and is rising again so it’s an important message to have her as part of this.”
From its name – which Venturini Fendi gave the bag after reading an article in which a journalist wrote that it was carried under the arm as the French carry baguette bread loaves – to its status as pop culture icon, the Baguette is the source of a lot of Fendi lore that Venturini Fendi still treasures.
“Karl loved the Baguette and even made a drawing of me with the bag and wrote on it, ‘Madame Sylvette avec la Baguette’ because he used to call me Madame Sylvette,” says Venturini Fendi.
“He remembered how when I was little I used to say that I wanted to buy lots of diamonds one day, so he later said that the Baguette will bring lots of diamonds for me – and it did because it brought lots of fortune and success to the company.”