WestmountFashionista

Runway Report: CHANEL 2.55 Handbag

Métiers d’Art Paris in Rome 2.55

There are few items in the world more recognizable than a CHANEL handbag, particularly the classic 2.55 style. Since it’s introduction decades ago, this seemingly simple yet no less elegant little bag has captivated the world. It is one of the few pieces in the fashion world that never goes out of style – its timeless sophistication lending the style to perpetual sartorial relevance. As with many pieces in the CHANEL universe, it was inspired by Mademoiselle Chanel’s imagination and her desire to create items that would liberate women rather than restrict them. A habitué of the fashionable racecourses of Europe, she found that the binoculars that were worn cross-body  allowed her a freedom of movement that was rarely found with traditional handbags of the time. With this inspiration in mind as well as the military strap bag, Mademoiselle set out to create a new style of handbag that would suit not just her desires, but countless other women’s as well.

It was in February of 1955 that the 2.55 first debuted. Drawing its name from its release date and instantly captivating the fashion world, the bag was designed to be as beautiful on the inside as it was on the outside. Intended to be worn over the shoulder, the strap was either done as a chain interwoven with leather ribbon or with rows of flat metal links that were a playful little nod to the chain Mademoiselle would slip into the bottom of her suit jackets so they would hang properly. Further inspired by the equestrian world that she so loved, the handbag featured a “diamond” quilting that was reminiscent of the jackets worn by the men at the races. This gave the handbag body and volume and set the 2.55 apart from other handbags.

Since Mademoiselle first introduced this very special bag in 1955, its production still follows the original design and specifications she set out. Each aspect of construction is carefully dictated resulting in a handcrafted masterpiece. Particular attention is paid to pockets – seven of them to be exact. At the back of the bag, a rounded pocket can be found that almost seems to smirk which lends itself to being playfully nicknamed the “Mona Lisa smile.” The other six pockets allow the wearer to carefully stow her goods in designated spaces, one even being the zipped “secret” pocket. Mademoiselle further left her mark on this legendary style by having them lined in a garnet hue that is reminiscent of the uniform she wore as a young girl at the Aubazine Abbey. Also tucked inside the bags is the house’s famed double C overstitched on the fold. The final aspect of the 2.55 is the clasp. Originally debuted with the “Mademoiselle”clasp, a rectangular twist clasp, it was later joined by the equally famed double C clasp on the version of the bag called the 11.12.

The bags are produced by hand with a staggering level of craftsmanship and artistry in only specially designated workshops. Artisans train for between four and five years to acquire the skills necessary to craft the perfect CHANEL handbag. With over 180 steps required to create this iconic handbag, it takes upwards of fifteen hours to produce this truly luxurious piece. When produced in leather or an exotic skin, only the highest quality is selected from tanners whose level of production and excellence mirrors CHANEL’s own. These skins are then individually tested to ensure their exemplary status. After passing a battery of tests, only then can the manufacturing process begin with the cutters. Done by hand, it is up to them to ensure that the material that will make up the handbag  is cut in the most ideal section of the skin or fabric in order to line up perfectly when construction is complete. Additional steps ensure that the handbag will have a flawless appearance free from any imperfections. Quilting, as well as the interior double C, is sewn by hand. Construction is done utilizing a “bag within a bag” technique – the interior is first created followed by the outside with the two being married for the final shape. The final finishing touches (piercing the hook and eyes, placing the clasp, and hand plaiting the chain)  are preformed before the handbag is checked again to assure its superior quality.

While the bag is offered each season, under Karl Lagerfeld’s expert helming of the House of CHANEL, it has been continuously reimagined in rich new fabrications like velvet, alligator, python, and even denim, and with utterly sumptuous finishings and details. In 2008, Monsieur Lagerfeld even presented an alligator 2.55 with a white gold clasp that featured 344 diamonds. With his imagination, Gabrielle Chanel’s enduring vision, and the unparalleled craftsmanship of the house, this handbag has cemented itself as an icon. It elicits such deep feelings from CHANEL devotees and admirers alike. I still remember the total glee that I had when I purchased my first a few years ago. It’s a bag that I know will always be a cherished piece in my wardrobe and one day I look forward to passing it on to Madam to hopefully love as much as I have.

Fall/Winter 2016/2017 Pre-Collection 11.12 

Fall/Winter 2016/2017 Pre-Collection 11.12

Métiers d’Art Paris in Rome 2.55

Fall/Winter 2016/2017 Pre-Collection 2.55

Métiers d’Art Paris in Rome 2.55

Fall/Winter 2016/2017 Pre-Collection 11.12

Métiers d’Art Paris in Rome 11.12

Métiers d’Art Paris in Rome 2.55

Images c/o CHANEL