The original “It” bag, the baguette turns 15 this year. We revisit this iconic brand and the vision of Silvia Fendi.
The first time I saw the Fendi Baguette it was on the television series Sex and the City where the lead character – Carrie Bradshaw owned many styles of the bag, pairing them nonchalantly with her thrift store and designer clothing. Carrie’s character was not just prominent for its role in story line, but also for her exciting fashion choices. It was said at the time of the show’s huge success that fashion played the fifth lead in the series after the four main actors. The Baguette even found an episode dedicated to itself when Carrie gets mugged on the streets of New York City. Held on gunpoint, the thief asks Carrie to hand over her bag, to which she responds by saying “It’s a Baguette! Not a bag”. The baguette is like no other bag. The small yet roomy shape with a detachable short strap and a double ‘F’ clasp is a unique mix of design and utility. With its various styles, it signifies a deep meaning to what the wearer’s taste is like. If she has picked a bold animal print or neon beaded Baguette, then the woman is saying she lives life large and is not shy in her fashion choices. If the woman is carrying an elegant satin one with gold-jewelled buckle, it might reflect on her penchant to opt for vintage looking classic styles. It is not just the variety of textures, colours and embellishments that appeal to the Baguette fans. The size and the easy nature for it to tuck under the arm is a classic appeal to women world over. Wear it with casual denims or with a sari or gown. Wear it to work, evening or on a holiday. While there are other bags from luxury houses that make a similar size, there are very few that have as many as 1,000 variations as the Baguette does.
Since its launch in 1997, the Baguette was an instant hit with the Fendi customers and fetched the brand the Fashion Group International award for accessories in the year 2000. It was founded by Fendi’s accessories designer and third generation of the family founder- Silvia Venturini Fendi. “I was asked, among other things, to come up with a particularly easy and functional handbag. In a certain sense, it had to be technological and minimal, just like the times. My response (fortunately I am indomitably disobedient) was the Baguette.”says Silvia Fendi. Named after the French bread, it is carried under the arm. Quirino Conti, Italian architect, costume and stage designer, and fashion writer, says of the Baguette- “I held it close for a long time, underneath my arm—what could I have left you that was closer to my heart and breast?”
Imagine the Baguette to be the accessories equivalent of the Indian sari. There are innumerable possibilities in variations and with its basic shape form there is a slim scope for comparison of one design with another. You don’t stop after purchasing one, as it is much more than just a utility bag. It is even passed down from generations of women, reflecting their tastes and styles. Cotton, leather, sequins, denim, cashmere, satin, velvet, raffia, exotic skins, beads, patent leather, embroideries, signature Fendi double ‘F’ print – the Baguette can be found in all these fabrics and textures. New designs are often introduced as part of the seasonal collections. In Spring Summer 2008, the Baguette was seen on the Fendi runway collection in three sizes – mini, regular and macro hand-held like a clutch bag with Fendi’s signature Selleria stitched enclosures. To commemorate the 10 year anniversary and to celebrate the importance of color in the Baguette’s success story, Silvia Fendi created a collection of ten bags in 10 pure colours. Plus a Baguette in white canvas that came with a set of Pantone colouring pens to allow the owner to personalise the bag herself and to inspire the hidden artist. Another unique variation came with the ‘Lisio Baguette’ collection which was made using luxurious materials like velvet, brocades and silk produced through the Lisio Foundation traditional techniques that date back to Renaissance. Some of the patterns created exclusively for Fendi were so complex to weave that the Lisio Foundation could not produce more than four centimeters a day. For example the silk thread of the “Schönbrunn Soul” style was woven with ostrich and peacock feathers, sixty of them for each metre of fabric, with a final look similar to velvet. The Lisio collection included Baguettes inspired by Botticelli’s still life paintings from the XVI century, gothic novels, and animals showcasing the same technical virtuosity as its inspirations.
There was also an Artists’ collaboration with the Baguette. World renowned artists as Tom Sachs, Jeff Koons, Francesco Vezzoli, Loris Cecchini, Michelangelo Pistoletto, Subodh Gupta Mark Bradford, Delia Brown, Will Cotton, Rachel Feinstein, Francesca Gabbiani, Karen Kimmel, Terence Koh, Jorge Pardo, agreed to work with specially designed “blank slate” canvas baguettes created by Silvia Fendi to raise funds for Los Angeles County Museum of Art’s “Arts for NexGen”, the nation’s only free youth membership program. The result was a unique depiction by the artists’ painted/sketched onto the Baguette.
Encapsulating this rich history of one bag form, the fashion house celebrates 15 years this year. The Fendi Baguette is transformed into a wonderfully illustrated book that’s takes the reader through a story of craftsmanship, artisanship, connoisseurship, and design. Published by Rizzoli, the Fendi Baguette book is a hefty collation of 250 full colour photos of selected designs.
The book is distinguished into three sections — the seasonal best picks of the Baguette designs, the Lisio Baguette and the special Artists designed Baguettes. Available to purchase from Fendi boutiques worldwide the FENDI BAGUETTE book retails for Rs.6,000. For more information, log onto baguette.fendi.com.