By Julia Robson, 30.05.12
There are handbags…and there are Chanel handbags. Nothing else shrieks of luxury, elegance and enduring style quite like this most covetable icon. And – oddly – nothing ever comes close to the real thing. Which is why Matches are offering customers a rare chance to own the original: a classic Chanel handbag. These are sourced by vintage expert, Claudia Ricco, who specialises in tracking down pre-owned styles for serious handbag collectors. Now is your chance to shop for an authentic piece that will last over time.
The Chanel handbag story began in the 1920’s when the fiercely independent Gabrielle ‘Coco’ Chanel, tired of carrying bags with handles, came up with a ‘hands-free’ prototype. Inspired by the long, sturdy straps found on soldier’s bags, and chains that weighted couture jackets and hemlines, she created double straps that could be slung over the shoulder nonchalantly or carried if preferred.
Ever the emancipator, practicality remained foremost on her mind. She slipped in ‘secret’ compartments she knew every women might appreciate for stashing away money, a lipstick, or love letter. The running stitch quilting is said to have been inspired by a jockey’s riding coat or possibly the favourite scatter cushions in her rue Cambon atelier.
Throughout the decades the Chanel bag has been updated without – Sacre Bleu! – ever losing its signatures, including that all-important CC logo. The designer created the iconic, 2.55 – still the most popular according to Ricco – in February, 1955, fifty years after the original. Many other styles remain just as alluring.
“As Coco Chanel said, you don’t have to wear something new to be stylish!,” says Ricco, who travels every corner of the world in order to find the best vintage pieces from flea markets in Louisiana to auction rooms in Paris, private sales in France, garage sales in Texas, estate sales in Italy. “No corner of the globe is left out. Sometimes we come back inspired but empty handed and sometimes get lucky with a big stash of wonderful finds. More recently, camera bags are having a big come back and coloured bags are in demand as they are extremely hard to find in mint condition.”
And on the subject of fakes, each Chanel bag will have passed through FOUR types of authenticity control and a final quality check. In fact the only thing you will have to worry about is what style to choose. “I do own a Chanel bag,” Ricco reveals, “it is a bowler bag nobody wanted and I could not sell! Funnily enough everyone wants to have that one now!”
PICTURES BY OWEN REYNOLDS