The Art and Science of an It Bag

It’s not just a bag, “it’s a Baguette,” as Carrie Bradshaw aptly corrected the thief who demanded the Fendi purse from her in the beloved late-’90s sitcom, Sex and the City. The declaration cemented the place of the Fendi Baguette in history. It wasn’t like other bags (in the best way possible); it had reached It bag status.

, The Art and Science of an It Bag, Liminul Magazine
Carrie Bradshaw in Sex and the City

But what’s in a name, after all? Wouldn’t a bag with any other name be just as beloved? 

The answer—obviously—is no.

The art of an It bag lies in its design. The Dior Saddle wouldn’t be an It bag if every bag that season looked like it. Silhouette is key, yes, but it’s recognizability that’s the most important. Sometimes, the recognizability of an It bag is so high, it’s unnecessary to note the brand that produces it. It’s always a “Birkin”, never an “Hermès Birkin”… there’s simply no clarification needed.

, The Art and Science of an It Bag, Liminul Magazine

But recognizability goes beyond names. The Hermès bags have their signature clasps, the Dior Saddle its silhouette. The Prada Nylon has its silhouette and texture, and the Fendi Baguette its impractical-yet-chic charm.

Newer bags that are, industry insiders believe, on their way to becoming It bags—like the Loewe Puzzle, the Bottega Veneta Pouch, and the Jacquemus Le Chiquito—have key design elements that make them stand out. 

Of course, it’s important that an It bag can be reinterpreted in countless different ways. An It bag isn’t an It bag if it doesn’t look just as good in a different colour, styled with different outfits, or if it isn’t just as gorgeous at a New York City brunch as it is in a Paris boutique or a vacation in Bali.

Another defining feature is its timelessness, which goes hand in hand with quality. An It bag is an investment for a lifetime; it works with different styles across decades, and is made with stellar craftsmanship and material. That’s what sets it apart from other ‘bags of the moment’. Trends do not affect it—but it will always affect trends. 

Alas, not every bag that fills the criteria of this list becomes an It bag. There’s an intricate science behind it too.

The phenomenon of a culture-defining bag has existed for decades. The Hermès Kelly and Gucci Jackie are classics known for their association with their namesakes.

But the idea of an ‘It bag’ truly took off in the ‘90s, with the rise of the supermodel and ‘It girl’ culture. The Hermès Birkin—one of the most coveted bags of all time—was named after the inimitable Jane Birkin. It girls like the fictional Carrie Bradshaw and the beloved Kate Moss made bags into pieces of cultural history.

An It Bag defines—and is defined by—the cultural zeitgeist at the moment, formed by current style icons, public figures, trends, and the like. Which is why anything Bella Hadid, for example, wears today is instantly propelled to stardom. 

, The Art and Science of an It Bag, Liminul Magazine
Bella Hadid with Le Grand Chiquito

It’s also a bag that everyone desires, but not everyone can have. Exclusivity plays a big part in the making of an It bag; in fact, it is prized far above functionality. Take the Baguette, for example, or the rising Jacquemus Le Chiquito: functionality seems like an afterthought, for the bags can fit only a small collection of items, if at all. They’re coveted simply because of the status associated with it. But whether it’s because of the price point, or extremely long wait lists (like Marc Jacobs’ Stam, for which the brand had to close their waitlist because of the high demand), not everyone can have it. 

But after all of this, the only thing that can help determine the next It bag is… time. Has the bag cemented itself as a part of cultural history, like the Birkin and the Baguette? Has the bag proven itself as timeless, evergreen like the Prada Nylon and the Chanel 2.55? Has it been recognizable, memorable for the past generation, like the Saddle? All of these questions are answered as time goes by: what designs stick out in our memory, and what designs are destined to be bags of the moment. Sometimes, bags are re-released, while others are made classics by their consistent appearance in editorials, on the runway, and on the shoulders of celebrities. Which is why it’s difficult to determine the next It bag, for which contenders include: Loewe’s Puzzle, Jacquemus’ Chiquito, and Bottega’ Pouch, among others. 

Stuart Vevers, the current creative director of Coach New York—who has worked with brands like Louis Vuitton, Calvin Klein, and Bottega Veneta, explains the It Bag formula perfectly: “What makes an It bag is something new.”

, The Art and Science of an It Bag, Liminul MagazineSimren Jaswani is an editorial intern at Liminul Magazine and a Fashion Student at Toronto Metropolitan University.