The secrets of the Chanel Iconic


The CHANEL bag legend began in February 1955 when Gabrielle Chanel unveiled the 2.55. A memorable date, put simply, an icon was born. Being hands-on and emancipated with an infallible eye meant changing the life of her clients and the generations that followed. 


Diamond-shaped quilting is one of CHANEL’s recognisable signatures. The overstitched quilting was introduced by the ever-practical Gabrielle Chanel who wanted something authentic that possessed natural ‘éclat’ and stood the test of time. Ever innovative, she was inspired by the equestrian world, particularly the quilted jackets of the stable lads and the horse’s quilted saddle blankets.


Glossy and sensual, CHANEL’s classic bags prove irresistibly tactile due to the choice of exceptional materials such as lambskin and calfskin. With spellbinding flair and ingenuity, Mademoiselle Chanel revolutionised the handbag world by choosing lambskin that was traditionally used for gloves and dismissed as too delicate for handbags. Irrepressible and knowledgeable as ever, she proved otherwise.


True to character, Gabrielle Chanel imposed novel ideas drawing upon her daily life and universe. The genesis of CHANEL’s emblematic chain strap stemmed from Mademoiselle’s desire for a trouble-free style that permitted her favourite ‘hands in the pocket’ pose. Yearning for ease and freedom of movement, the strap let her slip her hands into her pockets, resulting in her iconic silhouette. 


With a single chain or a double one. Long or short. Under the arm, held in the hand, worn on the wrist or across the body... Carrying a CHANEL bag has always been a question of a relaxed attitude. Liberating the hands, not hindering one’s pace, setting a rhythm without cluttering it, establishing and going with the flow. Nonchalant, still ultimately elegant.


Gabrielle Chanel was fervent about pockets. Seven to be exact. Beginning with the first one in the back, shaped like “Mona Lisa’s smile” as it is nicknamed by the ateliers, suggesting the subtlety and difficulty achieving the form. The six other pockets inside the bag include internal holders annotated for business cards, credit cards, compact and now a phone; a zippered pocket coined the ‘secret’; two large pockets for documents as well as the case pocket, especially created for the lipstick.


To achieve the fabled “bag in bag” technique, the first handbag is mounted to construct the interior while a second bag constitutes the exterior. Once assembled, the artisan can then turn the bags inside out. By employing “points de bride”, the bag is sewn together then swivelled back into place before becoming a single entity. The “points de bride” are essential to securing the bag’s structure that ensures a graceful hardiness on every level.


The double C – CHANEL’s monogram and inimitable signature – forms the 11.12’s clasp. Screwed onto the interior of the bag’s flap, this metal clasp was adopted by Karl Lagerfeld from the 1980s onwards. It sets the difference between the 11.12 and the 2.55 handbag that is fitted with a rectangular “Mademoiselle” turn-lock clasp. 


The double-flap is adorned by the double C clasp, a signature fastener. In many ways, the double-flap affirms the 11.12’s personality by miraculously marrying quilting, embellishment and exceptional savoir-faire. In essence, the first flap opens and closes a CHANEL bag, suggesting its secrets while the second one hides and protects the privacy of the bag’s contents.


Equivalent to a Ready-to-Wear creation, the bag is turned inside out and mounted on a flat surface. Due to the “bag in bag” technique, the form and depth entwine. The first bag constitutes the interior while the second bag composes the exterior. Once assembled and stitched together, the artisan can turn the bags around. The procedure is referred to as ‘piqué-retourné’