Since Silvia Venturini Fendi designed the first Baguette bag in 1997 there have been around 1,000 versions. Here the brand’s creative director in charge of accessories tells Carola Long how it created a fashion frenzy.
“My inspiration for the Baguette was personal, I was looking for something to wear. At that moment bags were very functional and very basic, and the most successful bags such as Prada’s were in black nylon. My idea was to do a small bag, a very simple, deconstructed shape with a short strap that allows you to feel free with your hands, but I did it in many decorated versions as I thought everyone was looking the same. It’s a bag that follows your personality; always the same, but always different. At that moment I thought it was nice to wear the most decorated bag during the day, but I also loved the one in grey cashmere – it’s like a little pillow.
“Back then, Fendi was a little company so I don’t think we were prepared, from a production point of view, for such success. However, the lack of this bag on the market probably made it so popular. It was like a fever because it was so difficult to find and the minute you did, it wouldn’t be the one you were looking for as there would already be a new version out and you still couldn’t find the other one … so it was like a crazy moment with people begging to be put first on the waiting list. Before that moment, no one really had waiting lists so it started this crazy mania, and also for limited editions. The Baguette was really the first bag to be treated as a garment, a fashion piece.
“Then there was Sex and the City, although the Baguette was already famous before that. The stylist Patricia Field was aware of the popularity of this bag in Europe and she also knew Fendi was always ready to say yes to collaborations like this. We have a long history of working with film.
“The other day I saw a super-chic woman carrying one of my favourites, the Selleria, very simple but beautiful. It’s so nice to see people carrying the Baguette now. It’s a classic bag.”
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We’ve always credited Fendi as the first to loan us an important piece for Sex and the City. In the very beginning, [stylist] Patricia Field and her team had to be industrious and creative with a low budget by getting clothes from thrift stores in order to tell interesting fashion stories. At this time, things were inaccessible and out of reach; Fendi was really the first important design house to loan us items, with the Baguette handbag being the first. Having the Fendi Baguette was a very big deal, and the gateway to everything else. It really opened the floodgates and influenced the storyline – especially Carrie’s habit of spending more money on fashion than her home.
The Baguette became a staple of Carrie’s wardrobe and character. Having Carrie wear the Baguette was a defining moment for us, and marked the beginning of everything. The timing was perfect for the story we were telling and the character I was playing; the Baguette was the perfect embellishment. Once Fendi loaned us items, everyone was more willing to do so, which helped us dramatically in conveying Carrie’s decadence.
I have very sentimental feelings toward the Baguette. My very first Baguette was olive-green satin, with beautiful floral beading, a red snakeskin strap, and a colourful interior lining. I used it for everything. In my opinion, it was the new black – and it was surprisingly large.
In addition to my first olive-green Baguette, which I purchased, I was also gifted a Baguette from the set – a beautiful, purple, square, sequined one. I recently archived both Baguettes to keep them in pristine condition. Now that I have two daughters, they can each have one.
a poem by writer Banana Yoshimoto
It wouldn’t suit me if it were even a smidgen bigger. And if it were even a little smaller, it would double as an ornament. We all find ourselves alone from time to time – in a party, in a car, in a restaurant, or walking down the street. We may not know why we are alone, or even why we are here. In times like this, this bag will stay close beside you like a puppy, like a parrot perching on your shoulder, or like the doll you were never without in your childhood. Yes, it stays with you just like a best friend.
Taken from ‘Fendi Baguette’ (Rizzoli New York, RRP£70) which will be published on June 1