The History and Rise of the Designer Bag

"In order to be irreplaceable one must always be different." - Coco Chanel

Think about the last time you saw a woman walking down the street with an outrageously expensive designer handbag. Odds are, that bag costs more than your rent. The handbag is one of the most popular accessories for women. But, where did this fascination with designer handbags come from?

The rise of your favorite celebrity parading a Louis Vuitton or Gucci handbag during their movie premiere has undoubtedly contributed to the increased popularity of designer handbags. Whether you are buying a designer bag for your significant other or simply treating yourself to a new piece of luxury, there is no doubt that these bags make a powerful statement.

In this article, we explore the rise of the luxury handbag and take a look at some of the most famous designers in the world to find out why their bags are so coveted. So let's take a closer look at their history and find out.

Tracing Bags Through The Chapters Of Time

The term "sack" may refer to a bag in the broad sense, but it was more commonly utilized as a non-rigid container. The use of bags occured prior to recorded history, with the earliest examples consisting of animal skin, cotton, or woven plant fibers folded up at the edges and fastened together with string.

Bags have been essential for the development of human civilization since they allow individuals to collect loose materials such as berries or food grains and transport more goods than would comfortably fit in their hands. 



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The oldest and possibly the first bag preserved in history belongs to Hauslabjoch Tyrolean Iceman. It's named for preserved natural mummies. Among the people living here were three hundred BC and 3000 BC. He was found near the Similaun mountain in Austria. In that sense, it is as monumental as it would have been for an invention of the wheel.



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A purse found in the ruins of Mosul is estimated to be 700 years old. It was crafted between 1300 and 1330, making it one of the oldest bags known today. The intricate scenes on this piece originated from Court life back then with gold-and-silver hues that have since worn off over time due to its daily use by people throughout generations.



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Some of the earliest known bags are from around 2000 BC, used since ancient Egypt. Male figures wearing a pouch tied around their waists were depicted on many Egyptian hieroglyphs. The bags come in many shapes with flat bottoms and handles.

Handbags During the Medieval Times 

When handbags were first invented, they were used by men, not women. At the time, handbags were simply containers made of cloth or leather used to carry various items, such as clothing or food. The first handbags during the middle ages were so simple that they didn't even have straps. They were just bags that were held in the hand.

These bags were often decorated with intricate designs and beautiful embroidery, making them a coveted item among the nobility. As time passed, the creation of the Medieval handbag evolved to match the changing tastes of the era. Bags became smaller and lighter, and they were often decorated with delicate lace and ribbons.

Both men and women from the royal elite used sophisticated handbags while working people used them as a convenient way to carry their belongings while traveling. 

Handbags During the Renaissance Period 

These bags were once exclusively worn by male royalty in the 15th century. Still, over time they became a popular accessory for women. Each bag is designed with intricate details and careful craftsmanship, making them a true work of art.

Small bags became a status symbol for women in the 16th to early 17th centuries. They carried bags that represented thier wealth and sophistication, and they were quickly adopted by the fashionable elite.

18th-Century Handbags

Men in the late 1700s would frequently carry small coin purses fastened to their belts. Many women had larger suitcases that held their sewing projects. The lady of leisure was depicted with an empty bag on her wrist.

In the late 18th century, long and slim Directoire style or imperial style didn't leave any pockets. The bag was also used to carry personal items such as perfume, fans, and eyeglasses. The term pocketbook is derived from dimity-pockets, which held recipes and music or engraved books in the past.

19th Century Symbol of Feminine Power and Independence 

Nineteenth-century Victorian England was a time of great change, and women began to take a more active role in society. They started to shop for clothes and travel for both business and pleasure, and they needed a bag that could keep up with them.

Fashions from the nineteenth century lost their slim silhouette as skirts became larger each year until the late twentieth. In addition, women carried a drawstring bag and metal frames; there is also a bag of a few tins for small money.

Victorian England popularized embroidered and beaded embroidered pictures of homes and flowers. Women made their own small purses for a personal touch and demonstrated their needlecraft skills.

In the 1880s, tapestry bags were developed in line with a popular suitcase-style called "carpet bags." They were stylish and durable, and they could hold everything a woman needed on the go.

Who Made the First Status Handbag?

In 1945 Giuliana Camerino launched Roberta di Camerino, a fashion house in Venice, Italy. She created the concept of "status handbags." 

She started by designing silk scarves, an instant hit among the Venetian bourgeois and American tourists who visited her shop on Venice's Grand Canal. Her own bags quickly gained a reputation for their quality and durability, becoming must-haves among fashionable women around Italy.

“It's impossible to be stylish without confidence, you see." - Jane Birkin.

When Did Designer Handbags Become Popular?

Handbags rose to prominence during the '60s post-war economy. Luxury designer labels such as Chanel, Louis Vuitton, and Hermes have dominated cultures throughout history. 

Designers began to take the vintage bag beyond its practical functionalities, exploring a new form of self-expression and personal identity. Since then, the times have changed, but handbags are still considered an integral part of women's wardrobes.


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The enticing trademarks, designs, and bright hues attracted Audrey Hepburn. Still today, they have become a sign of style and refinement for numerous other celebrities.

Not only do purses hold all of your essentials, but they also serve as a status symbol and display a level of achievement that no other accessory can match.

A Modern Woman’s Reflection of Personal Style

In the late 1920s, Coco Chanel designed a handbag that could be carried over the shoulder. This allowed a woman to have their hands free for other tasks quickly became the “it bag”.

Women continued to find creative ways of carrying their belongings. In the early twentieth century, handbags became a fashion accessory. They began with large bags attached at the waist and worn across the body. 

Another reason designer bags have become so popular over the years is that they make excellent gifts. 

The right bag doesn't just complete outfits; they elevate styles with confidence and add personality to any occasion.

Italian Luxury Designer Handbags

Italian luxury brands such as Gucci and Louis Vuitton have been known for producing some of the most sought-after designer handbags in all of fashion. The price ranges for Italian brands are between $500 and $40,000. They reflect precision craftsmanship and the level of exclusivity, as most are hand-made.

Along with metals such as gold and silver, they are often made from leather or crocodile skin. Brands like Bvlgari Burberry Cartier Chanel & Giorgio Armani offer a wide variety when it comes to styles, colors, and designs at your fingertips with something that will fit any occasion.

Some women enjoy collecting different styles of novelty bags to show off their wealth and good taste.  In contrast, others simply like the feel and look of a high-quality, beautiful bag.




Burberry began as a small family firm in 1856, focused on the production of outerwear. In 1901 Thomas Burberry invented gabardine, an innovative, water-resistant fabric that would go on to become the foundation of the company's outerwear range.

The trench coat was created by Thomas Burberry for soldiers fighting in World War I and has been worn by everyone from Audrey Hepburn to Steve McQueen.

Today, Burberry is one of the world's leading luxury brands, with a history that spans over 160 years. The signature check pattern was introduced in the 1920s as a lining for its iconic trench coats, and it's now synonymous with the brand.

BURBERRY is known for its distinctive tartan print and instantly recognizable - from bags to umbrellas. Over time, the company has established itself as a leader in many different fields, including fashion apparel and perfume production.




Versace's began as a small, family-owned dress shop in 1978. The company was founded by Gianni Versace, who drew inspiration from his mother's sewing skills to create glamorous, body-conscious clothing for women.

In the early 1990s, Versace expanded into accessories and launched its first handbag line. The collection was an instant success, with celebrities like Madonna and Elton John sporting the iconic Medusa head logo on their bags.

The brand is known for its flashy designs and use of bold colors and prints. The brand's identity could be described as Bold and Daring.

Versace is now one of the world's leading luxury fashion brands, with a portfolio that includes ready-to-wear apparel, accessories, watches, eyewear, home decor, and fragrances.




Gucci started out as a small saddlery shop in Florence, Italy in 1921. The company was founded by Guccio Gucci, who started making leather bags for wealthy Florentine tourists.

Gucci's popularity grew throughout the 1930s and 1940s, with Hollywood stars such as Audrey Hepburn and Grace Kelly wearing his designs on the red carpet. In 1947, Gucci launched its first handbag - which became an instant success. 

The brand is known for its high-quality materials and traditional designs, often featuring GG monogrammed print or bamboo handles. Over time, Gucci has become one of the world's most iconic luxury brands, with a portfolio that includes ready-to-wear apparel, luggage tote, shoes, sunglasses, watches, and fragrances.




Balenciaga started as a small dressmaking shop in San Sabastian, Spain. The company was founded by Cristobal Balenciaga and his wife, Luisa. 

The house of Balenciaga is most notable for revolutionizing women's fashion with never-before-seen shapes in the mid 20th century, such as "ballroom hems" and "semi-fit" lines. They also introduced a new style known as sack dresses which became all the rage when they launched it in 1957.

The brand is known for its use of color blocking, bold prints, and avant-garde shapes. Balenciaga has recently rebranded itself with new creative director Demna Gvasalia at the helm; he's pushing a more subversive aesthetic than we've seen before from this house.




Prada started out in 1913 as a leather goods shop called Fratelli Prada. In the 1920s, Mario's daughter Luisa joined the business. She created the first soft-sided travel bags with triangular corners to make it easier for travelers to store larger items in their luggage.

Luisa bags soon became popular with the Hollywood elite. She was commissioned to make luggage for stars like Cary Grant and Grace Kelly.

In 1978, Luisa's granddaughter Miuccia took over the business and expanded it into a full fashion line. She and her husband Bertelli are credited with turning Prada into an iconic luxury brand. With a traditional design, their handbags have always been simple and functional.




JIMMY CHOO began in 1996. The brand started with handmade shoes and quickly became one of the most sought-after shoe designers in the world.

Jimmy Choo has since expanded into other categories, including handbags and accessories. His designs are known for their colorful patterns, bold colors, and luxurious fabrics like suede or leathers that feel comfortable to wear all day long on your feet!

One of today's hottest trends is pairing sneakers with dresses; this gives you an edgy yet feminine look that everyone will notice when they see it happening around town.




LOUIS VUITTON is one of the most famous brands in fashion history. They've been around since 1854 when they opened their first store in Paris France. Louis Vuitton created his distinctive rectangular canvas trunks while the market offered only rounded-top leather trunks.

Their logo features a monogram design with two interlocking LV letters overtop an image of flowers or vines growing outwards from underneath those letters – this pattern represents wealth and prosperity for anyone who owns such items.

What is the Secret to Their Everlasting Success?

In order to become symbols of luxury, designers have put their heart into each one with passion just as you would if creating an art piece. The more we see these high-end shoulder bags being sported by the wealthy and powerful, the more people will want to buy them.

Movie stars have always been a big part of advertising for luxury brands. In the 1950s, Marilyn Monroe was spotted with a clutch designed by Emilio Pucci.

One thing is for sure, designer bags are here to stay and have more stories to give us. And we wouldn't want them any other way.

How We Look at Handbags Today

Today’s handbag or shoulder bag is one of our most foundational accessories. Not just used to carry everything from money to makeup, they make a statement about who you are as a person and the kind of lifestyle you lead.

Handbags have also become a true art form with many designers creating unique pieces that reflect their own individual style. They've been used by everyone from Hollywood actresses to royal families throughout history.

Some people think a designer bag is nothing more than a status symbol. Whether you love or hate designer handbags, there's no denying their importance in fashion history.