Same Same but Different: Why Does Every New It Bag Look Alike?

Words by Noelani Piters | 9.12.19
The Chloé C. The Burberry TB. The Dior Montaigne. If you think you’re seeing triple, you’re not alone. We’re deep into the era of sartorial echoes, where one trailblazing idea bounces from designer to designer until you’re left with a sea of shoes, clothes or handbags with striking similarities. Cue a dizzying display of identical Gucci Ace-like sneakers and quilted flap bag iterations.
Now enter the sleek It bag du jour. The design doesn’t stop at the Chloé C, Burberry TB and Dior Montaigne. These bags are also twinning with the Prada Emblème, the Balenciaga BB and the Celine Triomphe, among others. The underlying structure—that is, the bag’s boxy, understated silhouette—provides a blank canvas for luxury houses looking to let their logo do the talking. But why are these three skyrocketing to success in the midst of so many other handbag options? Who initiated the chain reaction of ubiquity? And why does everyone seem to be emulating it?

Balenciaga BB Bag; Celine Quilted C Bag; Christian Dior Montaigne Bag

First spotted on Chloé’s Spring 2019 runway, the C bag is Creative Director Natacha Ramsay-Levi’s first It bag success since succeeding Clare Waight Keller in late 2017. Ramsay-Levi’s foray into the logo trend paid off in a major way. The bag is offered in multiple variations, from sunset ombré croc-embossed leather to colorblocked leather and suede, and made an immediate impact on the street style scene. Editors, influencers and celebrities have all embraced the C, including Chrissy Rutherford, Courtney Trop of @alwaysjudging and Kendall Jenner. 
Burberry’s coveted TB bag stems from a similar need to feed the appetite for monograms. In August 2018, Creative Director Riccardo Tisci partnered with graphic design legend Peter Saville to re-envision the 1908 archival monogram for today. The TB bag, which honors founder Thomas Burberry, includes both full-on monogram versions and sleek leather and TB hardware combos. Those who craved something just as recognizably Burberry as the house check found a new go-to emblem in the house’s TB monogram. 
Meanwhile, Dior’s Maria Grazia Chiuri rolled out the Montaigne as part of a tribute collection to the house’s storied address, 30 Montaigne. The bag was the winning design out of ten Chiuri proposed, and as soon as it debuted in the Dior Pre-Fall 2019 show, eager fans began to add their names to the waitlist. A shoot featuring Jennifer Lawrence and a comprehensive influencer campaign soon accompanied its May release. The removable crossbody strap and uniform-like versatility—practicality and wearability are some of Chiuri’s signature aims—made it an instant hit.
But of course, these three look incredibly alike, not to mention that they resemble a beloved cult classic. True Philophiles may interject here and claim the old Celine Classic Box bag started a domino effect, but Senior Merchandise Manager Meredith Thalheimer drops somewhat of a bombshell—Philo did not, in fact, create the Celine cult classic from scratch. “Although we tend to think of the Celine Classic Bag as a Phoebe Philo original, the bag was actually a redesign of a 1970s Celine bag,” notes Thalheimer. “The first bag included hardware featuring the brand’s horse and carriage logo. The Phoebe version features a similar shape and front flap, but replaces the house emblem with a pared-down closure that embodies her signature minimal aesthetic.”
With that in mind, we move even further back to another heritage house that has been turning out classics for decades. “The most iconic predecessor of the Celine Classic Box Bag would be the Hermès Constance,” explains Thalheimer. “Designed by Catherine Chaillet in 1959, it remains one of the few Hermès bags designed by a woman, and its influence continues to be seen in the logo-centric closures on the current season’s must-have bags.”
Hermès has created no shortage of innovative designs throughout the years (see: Birkins, Kellys and Evelynes), so it’s no surprise that the Constance may be the end-all be-all progenitor. And its timeless appeal resonates with today’s designers for a number of reasons. “Some of this phenomenon is trend-driven,” notes Thalheimer. “Smaller shoulder bags like the Constance and Celine’s original design were popular in the ‘70s, and this era was a key trend for Fall 2019. We’re seeing this mirrored in the resale market as well, with a huge surge in demand for ‘70s-inspired pieces. And as logomania evolves, logos are being incorporated more structurally into hardware.” 

Celine Classic Box Bag; Chloé C Mini Crossbody; Hermès Constance Bag

The vintage revival continues to catapult archival looks to the forefront of fashion, and Thalheimer attributes the box bag proliferation in part to the hunger for yesterday’s icon. “The popularity of vintage bags like the Dior Saddle and Fendi Baguette has designers closely mining their archives, looking for the next big nostalgia hit,” says Thalheimer. 
Since creative directors jump between houses with rapid succession nowadays, it’s also par for the course to look back in order to look forward. “Designers often spend their early seasons at a new house reinterpreting classic designs as they ease into the aesthetic direction they’re going to take the brand,” elaborates Thalheimer. “Indeed many of the current bags on the market—like Hedi Slimane’s Celine Triomphe or the Louis Vuitton Dauphine—are nearly identical to vintage bags that have been released for a brand new audience and generation.”
So what resurgent style does Thalheimer think will follow, especially when it comes to top resale value? “We’re keeping our eye on a few different vintage shapes currently: half-moon crossbody saddle bags (another ‘70s-inspired trend) and bowling bags, particularly from Prada and Chanel,” she notes. “It’s a great time to consign, since we expect demand to pick up throughout the fall season. And if you’re holding onto that old Celine Classic Box Bag, its value in the secondary market has increased since Phoebe Philo’s Celine departure. It’s currently selling on The RealReal for 60% of its original retail price. Even all these years later, it still holds a special allure.”
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