Today I am taking a look at yet another iconic piece of design, fashion design to be accurate. Amongst the many fields of Design, fashion is very popular and easily understood by laymen. Especially in India if you say ” I am a Designer”, majority will think “Haan kapde silti hogi” (must be sewing clothes), and assume you are a Fashion Designer. For this (amongst other) reason designers from other design disciplines tend to take fashion design with a pinch of salt. But like any other field of design be it Industrial or Furniture, Fashion Design also has the same core values and the final outcome is a reflection of the designer and their inspiration. Of course the Form vs. Function debate is also very valid in the field of Fashion Design. So today I am taking a look at one such piece of iconic design that was born out of necessity and went on to become an icon in the world of Fashion Design – The Chanel 2.55 Handbag.
In February 1955, Coco Chanel launched the 2.55 quilted handbag, a design that is still loved 62 years later and is one of the most recognisable fashion icon today. It is named after its birthday, the 2.55 is an exemplification of luxury and style. It continues to captivate the fashion conscious ever since.
So, what made the 2.55 extraordinary?
It’s not often both a grandmother and grand-daughter can share the same fashion accessory without a fashion faux pas, but a classic Chanel 2.55 is one of those rare pieces that cuts across age, race and backgrounds. The 2.55 is versatile enough to be paired with jeans on a casual day out or with an evening gown for a special ocassion. For more than half a century it has been the perfect accessory and the most sought after bag. There is a waiting list for it! It is perhaps never going to go out of style or on sale! It retails at a hefty price tag of a little over 3000 USD (close to 2 Lac INR-Pheww!). But on the bright side it is considered an investment as it goes up by price around 30% every year and yet demand continues to outrun supply.(Forget gold get a 2.55!)
Chanel 2.55 Origins.
When Coco Chanel was 12, her mother died of bronchitis and her father abandoned her. She spent nearly seven years at a Catholic orphanage, where elements of strict religious code observed through her childhood have found reflection in many of her designs.
Chanel launched her first bag in 1929 – designed to be carried on the shoulder, it was a revolutionary idea for the time. She is said to have grown tired of carrying handbags and losing them so decided to design a bag that freed up her hands. In 1955, she redesigned the bag to include simple chain straps, inspired by the chains attached to the nun’s belts from her catholic orphanage. Her design allowed the chain to be worn at two different lengths, across the body or on the shoulder making it highly functional.
The original 2.55 has a rectangular front twist lock which is secure and practical, and was later known as the ‘mademoiselle’ twist lock (an ode to Chanel). The burgundy interior of the original 2.55 is the same colour as the uniforms she wore in the convent. Shades of red were said to be her favourite. She was rarely seen without a powerful red lip and the bag of course includes a lipstick compartment.
“It is the colour of life and blood”- Chanel
Coco Chanel used to love riding horses. But she refused to ride side-saddle as was required of ladies of her time. Instead she suited up in stable-boy uniforms to ride like the boys. For the famous 2.55 leather pattern she is said to have drawn inspiration from the diamond quilts of jockey riding vests. It’s this famous ‘quilted’ design that gives the 2.55 its special shape.
Her favourite painting was rumoured to be Da Vinci’s masterpiece, the Mona Lisa. Chanel is said to have designed the curved back pocket of the 2.55 to resemble Mona Lisa’s famous smile. The pocket was the perfect place for Chanel to stash tip money. Today, it’s the perfect place to keep one’s phone.
The inner flap contains a hidden zippered pocket, where it is rumored Chanel kept her love letters from her lover, the Nazi spy Hans Günter von Dincklage. Chanel bags also hide a secret individual serial number inside one of the compartments that proves the bag is authentic. The very first 2.55 bags were hand stitched in two variations, leather and jersey (previously used for mens garments).
Karl Lagerfeld who took over Chanel as cheif -designer in 1983 added variations on the original design including different sizes, leather and fabric combinations, the interlocking CC logo and the metal interwoven leather straps. These were called the ‘Classic flap bags’
In February 2005, Karl Lagerfeld reproduced the exact copy of the 2.55 bag in commemoration of Chanel’s 50th anniversary. It was named the Reissue 2.55. The Chanel 2.55 Reissues were available in soft lambskin and calfskin leather. The hardware is also available in a choice of gold, silver, pewter or black.
Born out of necessity, the Chanel 2.55 handbag now stands as a symbol of pure luxury and is one of the few bags widely recognized by the general public. Each season the 2.55 is reinvented in a limited edition range of colours & materials including exotic skins, patent, canvas, vinyl etc. If you are looking for a bag that will never go out of style and perhaps increase in value over time, the Chanel 2.55 will be it. It is more than just a handbag, it is a piece of iconography that goes beyond time and trends.Do any of you own or plan to own a 2.55? Tell me your thoughts about it in the comments section.