It was stolen in Sex and the City; now it’s a TikTok sensation. We unpack the history of the iconic item.
Words by Natalie Hughes
This year, Fendi celebrated the Baguette’s 25th anniversary with a special show during New York Fashion Week. It’s the first fashion show ever to be dedicated to a bag, or more accurately, a “Baguette” – as Carrie Bradshaw so earnestly corrects her assailant in the memorable Sex and the City mugging scene (in season’s three’s ‘What Goes Around Comes Around’, aired in 2000).
The Baguette (named after the similarly svelte French bread, also carried under-arm) made its first appearance in Fendi’s autumn/winter 1997 show. Conceived by Silvia Venturini Fendi – granddaughter of the house’s founders – under the artistic directorship of Karl Lagerfeld, the bag was a departure from the minimalist, oversized totes of the Nineties. Its diminutive size was a little impractical – decadently so – and it was developed in a magpie-pleasing assortment of finishes, from textured wool to intricate embellishments, inspired by the designer’s grandmother’s collection of 1920s and 1930s bags. And, front and centre, was Fendi’s interlocked FF ‘Zucca’ insignia – invented by Lagerfeld in 1965 and soon to become a beacon for Noughties logomaniacs.
Not everyone at the house was a Baguette fan, but Venturini Fendi persisted and for three years, this little bag sat nestled beneath the arms of a few forward-thinking fashion fans. That was, until the turn of the millennium and the Sex and the City effect.
It seems appropriate that 25 years after Fendi’s iconic bag was released, it should return to the city synonymous with the show that made it famous. The Baguette was practically a fifth cast member, appearing upon Carrie Bradshaw’s arm in various guises, including pink sequins, brown snakeskin, toffee-hued leather and, unforgettably, that shimmering, violet paillette bag that was unceremoniously snatched (along with Carrie’s beloved Manolos). Samantha even purchases a counterfeit Baguette – an arbiter of bad luck in episode ‘Sex and Another City’, when she gets thrown out of Hugh Hefner’s mansion after an altercation with a Playboy Bunny, who is carrying the real version of the bag.
According to Sarah Jessica Parker (who was, of course, present on the front row at this weekend’s show, and has co-designed a new capsule collection of Baguettes), Fendi was one of the first brands to lend products to Sex and the City’s costume designer Patricia Field. “Once Fendi loaned us items, everyone was willing to do so,” she writes in Rizzoli’s 2012 Fendi Baguette book. “[It] was a defining moment for us.” And just like that, the Fendi Baguette was immortalised as an object to be coveted and carried – the first It-bag, faithfully worn by the likes of Paris Hilton, Julia Roberts, SJP (in real life, too) and Elizabeth Taylor (who owned 18), and creating waiting lists at department stores (unheard of, at the time).
Whatever happened to the purple sequinned Baguette? The Sex and the City mugger may have made off with the 1999 original, but happily, Fendi reissued it in 2019 – complete with an accompanying video, in which SJP utters Carrie’s legendary bon mot, “Oh, this isn’t a bag, it’s a Baguette” – and again in early 2022, after its cameo in SATC spin-off, And Just Like That. If you didn’t catch this limited-edition the last three times, it’s currently available for pre-order at Fendi online and occasionally comes up for resale on pre-loved platforms.
For those not partial to sequins, there are plenty more subdued iterations to choose from, both new and pre-loved. The Baguette has been reimagined in denim, canvas and shearling, enveloped in logos and embroidered with flowers, and now comes in a family of sizes – including the teeny, tiny ‘Nano’, which functions as both a charm and (very) impractical bag – with detachable long straps in leather and chain.
At the show this weekend, which was a creative collaboration between Kim Jones and special guest designer Marc Jacobs, it was seen in every possible iteration – a heavily embellished version on the arm of Kim Kardashian on the front row, a tiny version around the neck of Bella Hadid on the catwalk (created in partnership with jewellery house Tiffany & Co).
There’s a Baguette for every kind of collector. The crafter may choose to DIY their own with a special kit, which comprises plain cotton Baguette and embroidery tools, for customisation. For the art lover, there are the ultra-limited-edition designs dreamt up by Damien Hirst and Jeff Koons – both auctioned in aid of A Bid to Save the Earth in 2010 but immortalised in Rizzoli’s aforementioned (and more readily available) Fendi Baguette book. Meanwhile, the fragrance aficionado will appreciate the ‘FendiFrenesia’ – special, fragrance-infused Baguettes made in collaboration with perfumer Francis Kurkdjian. With the scent lasting three years and the last drop landing in 2020, there’s still time – albeit a small window – to smell your very own Baguette, if you can find one second-hand.
Just like its crustier, carbier cousin, the Baguette bag has become a classic – with the exception of a few years in the mid 2000s and early 2010s, when petite shoulder bags temporarily fell out of fashion and Baguettes floated around eBay at dramatically cut prices. Those who invested then will be reaping the benefits now; prices have dramatically spiked since 2019, thanks to Fendi’s reissues and Y2K nostalgia, with celebrities and influencers including Gigi Hadid, Zoe Kravitz, Lucy Williams and Caro Daur all spotted wearing both new and pre-loved versions of the Baguette. And Gen Z’s TikTok-fuelled Noughties fixation shows no sign of waning; the #fendibaguette hashtag currently has over 17.9 million views on the platform. With that in mind, as well as Rebag’s estimations that new Baguettes carry between 95 and 135 per cent of their retail value on the resale market, it seems that Carrie was correct: the Baguette isn’t just any bag. It’s one worth investing in.
Inspired? Whether you want to buy a classic, monogrammed bag or find Carrie’s sequinned style, we’ve curated our favourite Fendi Baguettes, see above. And, for more in-depth histories of the most iconic fashion items of all time, head this way.
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This article originally appeared on harpersbazaar.com/uk/