Born as Gabrielle but known to the world by her childhood nickname, Coco, Chanel was one of the most iconic women in fashion history and her power lives on in the luxury bags that bear her brand’s inimitable CC emblem. Almost a century after Chanel first designed bags (in 1929), there are no signs of our love affair with them abating. But what many people don’t realise is that the Chanel bag collection hold many secrets – here are a few you may not know.
1. Each charm has a special meaning
Each charm or piece of embroidery on Chanel bags is there for a reason. For example, the turtle represents a past lover of Coco’s, a fisherman who told her that turtles brought good fortune.
2. The distinctive chain links were inspired by nuns
The chain-link handle on Chanel bags is one of the most instantly recognisable design elements. It was inspired by the chain belts and rosaries of the nuns who ran the orphanage where Coco grew up.
3. The most famous Chanel bag was designed in 1955
In February 1955, Chanel bags were re-designed and the quilted handbag was given a new look. Its name – the 2.55 – comes from the month and the year it was created and since then, it has been reissued several times.
4. Chanel bags have a secret zippered love pocket
Each Chanel bag contains a discreet zippered compartment, hidden away near the back. This was created as a place to hide secret love notes, an addition rumoured to have been inspired by Coco’s own love life.
5. The famous interlinked C logo wasn’t on the original bag
The interlocking C logo is instantly recognisable, but this wasn’t on the original design. It wasn’t added until the 1980s when Karl Lagerfeld created a Chanel tribute handbag.
6. The burgundy interior has a special purpose
The interior of Chanel bags are lined with soft burgundy leather. This colour is said to have been chosen because it makes items easier to find, and it’s also a tribute to the uniforms worn at the orphanage.
7. Chanel made shoulder bags socially acceptable
In the 1920s, bags were carried in the hand, making them awkward and cumbersome. In the 1950s, Coco Chanel single-handedly changed all of that, making it socially acceptable for the first time to wear a bag casually over one shoulder.
8. Many more modern designs are deliberately androgynous
Although the original Chanel bags were marketed for women, more modern bags have taken a much more androgynous appearance. The Gabrielle tote was the first bag to be openly sold as unisex, with Pharrell Williams starring in the ad.
9. The bags were originally inspired by men’s clothing
Although Coco set out to create practical yet feminine bags, she took inspiration from the men she saw. The unique quilted design is said to have originated from the clothing Coco saw men wearing to the races. Other inspirations have included soldiers and stablehands.
10. One of the best-selling bag families is named after a lover
The innocuous-sounding Boy Bag may sound like a reference to a unisex design, but it’s a tribute to Coco’s long-term lover, Boy Capel.