Part of Chanel’s enduring appeal is the timelessness of the aesthetic adopted by Coco Chanel when she was a young designer and boutique-owner in the early decades of the 20th century. Her signature simplicity and practicality were a response to the ornate and constrictive fashions of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Chanel first presented her Flap Bag to the market in 1929. Tired of having to carry a bag in her hands on social occasions, she added a chain — inspired by the straps on soldiers’ bags — that freed up her hands. When an updated version was issued in February 1955, it was dubbed the 2.55 after the date of its release. It has changed little since.
Many of the design features of the 2.55 were inspired by aspects of Coco Chanel’s early life. According to fashion lore, the burgundy lining is associated with the burgundy uniform that Coco wore at the Aubazine Abbey orphanage where she was raised. The zippered interior pocket, hidden beneath the top flap of the 2.55, is said to have been created for the hiding of love letters — Coco enjoyed several torrid love affairs, and the fact that she never married is reflected in the name given to the original rectangular turn-key clasp: Mademoiselle.
Historically designed by men to be sported by upper-class women, the first fashionable handbags were not created with the modern, working woman in mind. When Coco Chanel debuted the 2.55, it was the first time the world had seen a handbag designed to be carried over one’s shoulder. Today Karl Lagerfeld, the house’s creative director since 1983, continues to champion feminism — in 2014 his Paris Runway Show concluded with models walking the runway while holding banners in a faux protest for women’s rights and gender equality.
While embracing the elegant design motifs that have defined Chanel since the brand’s inception — tweeds, gold accents, chains — Karl Lagerfeld has also broken away from the past and catapulted the brand towards contemporary cool. Lagerfeld has never shied away from making bold statements and is often playful with his designs, taking unusual items — a hula-hoop and a milk carton, to name two popular examples — to create pieces that are coveted by collectors.
A bright blue patent leather Small Boy Bag. Estimate: $3,000-4,000. This lot is offered in Handbags & Accessories on 13-22 June 2017, Online
Thanks to increasing demand, Chanel is able to raise its prices on a regular basis, sometimes twice in a year. Collectors who are unable to get their hands on seasonal styles produced in very limited runs from celebrated runway collections will often take their search to the secondary market — sometimes paying above retail price. The value of a Chanel Flap Bag is, therefore, almost certainly not going to go down. They may be pricey, but for an informed collector a Chanel Flap Bag represents a smart investment.