The History of Fendi's Iconic Baguette Bag
The late 90s proved an interesting time for luxury bags. Legacy brands like Hermès and Gucci reliably crafted the styles that had been around for decades, while others like Prada–a company brought new life by the founder’s youngest granddaughter–turned heads by doubling down on anti-fashion pieces made from parachute nylon launched a few years prior. But there was something prescient in another old Italian label that jolted the It-bag craze which continues to ripple through the market. The label? Fendi. The bag? The Baguette.
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Founded in Rome in 1925, Fendi was a family business from the start with husband and wife team Adele and Edoardo opening the doors and leaving the company’s legacy to their five daughters (Anna, Paola, Franca, Alda, and Carla) who would not only keep it thriving but make such revolutionary decisions as hiring Karl Lagerfeld to take over the ready-to-wear collections. Lagerfeld designed every collection from 1965 until his death in 2019, infusing the brand with his it along the way. But Lagerfeld was not the only creative powerhouse helming the brand into the 20th century. Daughter of Fendi sister Anna, Silvia Venturini Fendi was to accessories at the house what Lagerfeld was to the clothes, and in 1997 she launched its most iconic design to date.
Cheekily dubbed the ‘Baguette’ (you know, like that humble loaf of bread you can swing beneath your arm?), it caused a sensation. Small and generally rectangular in silhouette, it had soft construction with a simple strap at the top and Fendi’s signature double-F logo hardware sealing the front flap. It was luxe but read as casual. In other words, it was the harbinger of much that the industry has produced since. It was indeed so popular, that it is rumored to have sold more than 100,000 times in its first year alone. As of 2019, Fendi has sold more than 1 million made in over 1,000 iterations.
But where did the inspiration for this modern-day classic come from? Venturini Fendi told Harper’s Bazaar, “My grandmother had a collection of beautiful beaded bags from the 1920s and 30s. I always had them in my mind.” It's a reference that rings true. Though images of flappers typically focus on the embellished chiffon dresses of the era, the bags from that time are just as opulent, albeit quite small and not entirely practical. But whatever they lacked in function was more than made up for in gorgeous design. Precisely the same could be said of the ‘Baguette’.
Besides proving to be outright popular with the normal consumer base, images of the ‘Baguette’ permeating pop culture have kept it relevant for over two decades. Sex and the City’s Carrie Bradshaw was a proponent and even got a purple sequin-embellished model stolen in one of the series’ most famous exchanges.
However, in a move that hopes to keep the perennial favorite in the public imagination for another two decades and beyond, Fendi is relaunching it this year with a new campaign. As for the reasoning, Venturini Fendi said, “We like change, but there’s a bit of nostalgia. It’s nice to see things come back, but in a different way.” It's just that kind of thinking that will keep the ‘Baguette’ on wishlists the world over.