By Sarah Joynt
Born out of necessity, the Chanel 2.55 handbag now stands for pure luxury and is one of the few bags widely recognized by the general public. It was introduced in February of 1955 (hence the name 2.55) because Coco Chanel was tired of losing handheld bags at society events in Paris. She feminized the concept of straps from the bags carried by soldiers and revolutionized the way Parisian women accessorized at the time.
Inspired by her time spent in an orphanage as a child, Chanel created the chain straps as a nod to the chains her caretakers would use to dangle keys from as entertainment for the children. The orphanage also inspired the interior color of the first edition bag, as the reddish brown color was the same as the children’s uniforms. The coats worn by horse racing jockeys inspired what has now become the signature quilted leather. Other innovative features included the signature “Mademoiselle” lock, a back pocket for extra money, and a secret hidden pocket in the front flap where it is rumored Chanel kept her love letters from her lover, the Nazi spy Hans Günter von Dincklage.
When Karl Lagerfeld released the Reissue 2.55 in 2005, to commemorate its 50th anniversary, it was exactly as Chanel designed it in 1955. Other versions had been released in the 1980’s but with the new interlocking C clasp which has become an iconic item in itself. Lagerfeld’s mission to keep the icon that is the 2.55 alive has prompted numerous reincarnations in everything from metallic washed lambskin to oversized day bags. More recently, Lagerfeld partnered with Zaha Hadid to create a traveling art exhibition called “Mobile Art.” The 2.55 has infiltrated the wardrobes of it-girls and socialites alike throughout its long reign over the handbag market, from Jackie O to Kate Moss. It is more than a handbag now, it is a piece of iconography that transcends time and trends.