In a world as dynamic as fashion, sentimental stories have found their spot in every nook and cranny. From bags holding a woman’s entire world to heirloom jewellery embedded with meaning, fashion beholds a lot more than just objects. Testimony to this fact is iconic designers and their creations. In an era that was fairly new to the prolific sartorial world, where did the inspiration for some of the world’s iconic designs come from?
When Alessandro Michele recently reimagined Princess Diana’s favourite bamboo handle tote almost 20 years after it caught her eye, the reinterpretation rung a bell. For years, designers have relied on their muse or people closest to them for inspiration. With no social media or access to the internet, real-time events and surroundings often played a profound catalyst for ingenuity. A major proof of this artistry is famous women acting as a creative prompt for some of the world’s best luxury innovations. From Jane Birkin and Hermes Birkin to Jackie Kennedy Onassis and Gucci Jackie, here’s how five brilliant women inspired luxury fashion as we know it today.
1. Audrey Hepburn and Louis Vuitton Speedy 25
Audrey Hepburn carrying the Louis Vuitton Speedy 25
After the success of the iconic movie Breakfast At Tiffany’s in 1961, Audrey Hepburn requested Louis Vuitton to design a smaller 25-centimetre style of the Louis Vuitton Speedy. Back then, the bag was available in three sizes—30, 35 and 40 centimetres. Hepburn’s request was born out of the fact that she wanted to carry the bag with her while travelling and on an everyday basis. And that’s how the Louis Vuitton Speedy 25 came into existence.
Today decades later, Speedy 25 remains to be a popular monogram option amongst buyers. While on the other hand, renowned artists like Stephen Sprouse, Yayoi Kusama, Richard Prince and Takashi Murakami have given the historic bag multiple makeovers.
2. Princess Diana and Lady Dior
Princess Diana carrying the Lady Dior bag
Formerly known as the Chouchou, the Lady Dior Bag was gifted by Bernadette Chirac (French politician and wife of the former French president) to Princess Diana during her visit to Paris in September 1995. The People’s Princess carried the bag everywhere with her for the next year, from the Met Gala to even her philanthropic visits. Developing into a signature style of sorts, she was rarely seen without the humble accessory. As a tribute to Princess Diana, Christian Dior changed its name to the Lady Dior bag, which was inspired by the Princess’ birth name, Lady Spencer.
Lady Dior is now a cult-favourite that has paved its way into the closets of celebrities and millennials. Its roaring success can be realised from its pilgrimage by women worldwide, even after its existence spanning over two decades.
3. Jackie Kennedy Onassis and Gucci Jackie Bag
Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis carrying the Gucci Jackie handbag
Designed in the 1950s, the Gucci Jackie bag was originally called the Fifties Constance. But when former First Lady Jackie Kennedy was photographed with the bag while shielding herself from the paparazzi in 1970, the bag became synonymous with her style and got its name. Following this incident, the bag became Jackie’s wardrobe staple which helped it soar to popularity.
The bag has been reimagined multiple times in modern times, ranging from floral prints to colour variations like baby pink, lilac, turquoise, lemon, and classic black. Today, the iconic Jackie bag is also a favourite amongst names like Kate Moss, Harry Styles, Kaia Gerber, Emma Corrin and more.
4. Jane Birkin and Hermes Birkin
Jane Birkin carrying the supple, black Hermes Birkin bag
In 1983, Hermes’ chief executive Jean-Louis Dumas found himself seated next to English actor Jane Birkin on a flight from Paris to London. When the contents from her straw bag fell on the flight deck, she explained to Dumas that it had been really difficult for her to find an appropriate bag for her needs as a young mother. Later, Dumas used this encounter as an inspiration to create a supple and spacious black leather bag, which came to be known as the iconic Hermes Birkin.
Today the bag has become emblematic of wealth with a whopping price tag and is renowned worldwide for its long waiting lists for purchase.
5. Grace Kelly and Hermes Kelly
Grace Kelly carrying the Hermes Kelly handbag
Popular American actor Grace Kelly married into the Monegasque royal family in 1956, which gave her the title of Princess Grace Kelly. Legend has it that after her royal wedding, she hid her pregnancy from the photographers by using the bag as a shield for her growing bump. As a consequence of this speculation, the bag rose to international fame and was finally christened as the iconic Hermes Kelly in 1977.
Photographs: Instagram, Getty Images