There is a moment in the third season of SATC when Carrie Bradshaw, lost after leaving a restaurant, is robbed at gunpoint and forced to hand over her jewellery and Manolo Blahniks. “And the bag,” grunts her assailant. “It’s a Bag-uette,” she corrects him as she forlornly departs with the dinky purple sequinned handbag.
While we advise you save the sass if you ever find yourself in such a situation, there is a nugget of realism to be found in this exchange – namely that Fendi’s Baguette has always been so much more than just a bag. Introduced to the world in 1997, the Baguette quickly came to exemplify all that was hot at the turn of the millennium.
There it was, hanging from the arms of everyone from Madonna to Julia Roberts, as much of a fixture at A-list events as bubbly and red carpets. Without the Baguette we might not have had SATC ending up as the fashion phenomenon it became (the show’s stylist Patricia Field credited Fendi’s willingness to lend a Baguette to the show as propelling its style credentials) and we certainly wouldn’t have the It-bag as we know it.
The Baguette heralded the arrival of bags as an event. It was the first of a new breed of bags that encouraged urgency and generated long, long waiting lists. Its success was at odds with the mood of the time; tastes then veered towards capacious, pared-back designs. “In a period dominated by minimal bags, my answer was a little, functional bag: the Baguette. I thought, ‘Yes it’s minimal, the size is minimal,’ but it became the opposite of everything else at that time,” Creative Director Silvia Venturini Fendi tells Grazia.
Indeed, Silvia saw the Baguette as an opportunity to show off the house’s skills. “I think we are known for doing incredible craftsmanship and workmanship and I wanted something that reflected that,” she says. It was a move that resonated with the customer. “The first embroidered Baguette was with little mirrors on it. We decided to treat this bag like a garment and do some embroideries on it. I think that’s when the real Baguette fever started, because people were looking for the mirror one, and it took so long to make that they couldn’t find it. And so, we decided to make a waiting list.
Everyone wanted to be on top of the list, which was quite huge; you had to wait months and months.” And wait they did. It’s hard not to see the irony, then, in the Baguette’s distinctly ordinary moniker.
“It comes from the attitude of wearing the bag under the arm, like the French bread. It’s a very practical bag – thanks to the short shoulder strap your hands are totally free,” explains Silvia, adding: “The Baguette is like bread, indispensable: the minute you start eating it, you can’t stop.” (And you thought fashion didn’t like carbs.)
It’s true the Baguette encouraged a kind of moreishness among its fans, thanks in part to the 2,000-plus different versions that went on to be created: embellished and embroidered, silk and sequins, and in every colour from muted minky tones to juicy lime green and hot pink.“The Baguette is a real manifesto of individuality because there are so many versions of it,” says Silvia.
And now, the Baguette is back. Coinciding with the tidal wave of nostalgia for all things late ’90s and early noughties, rebooted versions were presented on Fendi’s SS19 catwalk and finally land in store this month.
“Millennials are really in love with the Baguette,” says Silvia of its second coming. (Gigi Hadid recently stepped out wearing a vintage style.) “I noticed they were always wearing the vintage ones from their mothers. This is also why we decided to relaunch it in a range of all-new styles and sizes from mini to regular and large.”
To celebrate, the brand has created a #BFF – that’s Baguette Friends Forever – social campaign, which sees influencers in Shanghai, Hong Kong and New York in playful homage to SATC. (Sarah Jessica Parker even makes a cameo appearance; once a fan, always a fan.) And as for the bags themselves? Handcrafted in the Florence atelier, they’re as varied and vibrant as ever: think beaded florals, embroidered birds, and butter-soft Nappa leather (“as soft as a pillow, you can sleep on it,” says Silvia) embossed with the FF logo. The It-factor is as potent as ever, but that shouldn’t be surprising. After all, it’s not a bag, it’s a Baguette.
- Attention Fendi lovers: from 21 February to 2 March 2019, there’s a pop-up Dream Room at The Dubai Mall to celebrate the relaunch of the Fendi Baguette, and the #BaguetteFriendsForever campaign. Expect an oh-so-Instagrammable interactive mirror, and two models exclusive to Dubai that not even Carrie Bradshaw has got her hands on.