I first spotted the Balenciaga motorcycle bag on the arms of Kate Moss around 2001. It wasn’t long after that, that the it-girls of the moment, the infamous Olsen twins, Nicole Richie and so on, were seen carrying this buttery soft, structureless bag. Even though I wasn’t necessarily a big fan of their bohemian style at the time, I definitely was intrigued by that bag. Little did I know that the Balenciaga motorcycle bag almost wasn’t taken into production. In a 2011 interview with WWD Accessory Magazine, former creative director Nicolas Ghesquire talks about the 2001 Balenciaga runway show and how the motorcycle bag came close to never being made:
N.G.: And we did this prototype and nobody cared; we had a couple of prototypes for a year. Every girl who was walking [the show], including Kate [Moss] came in and was like, ‘What is that? Is it vintage? Is it something that you found at the flea market?’ I was like ‘No, it’s a handbag that we prototyped but just didn’t produce.’ We didn’t produce it because I think when I showed the prototype to the people who asked me to do it, they weren’t happy with it.
WWD: Too fashiony?
N.G.: Accessories [at the time] were rigid. Luxury leather, especially, was about rigidity. So they were not really happy, and they decided not to produce it. Then when it was in the studio and the models noticed it, I said, ‘I think we should just do 25. Let me just give them to the girls because at least some people will be happy.’ And that product started from a very, very fashion point of view [and extended] to a very, very large, global audience.
WWD: Why do you think it resonated so dramatically?
N.G.: No logo. Very light. Very effective. There is something familiar with the vintage side. Women and girls thought it was something they’d always have. It was a new fresh thing, but it looked like an old, good, friendly thing. And I think the brand also was becoming desirable. People had desire for my goods and [the bag] was the most accessible piece. You could be a Balenciaga girl with that bag.
Several years later I was still a student and definitely not in the position to spend over a $1000 on a designer bag. To be honest, it didn’t even cross my mind that I would ever seriously consider such an expensive purchase. So I did what so many of us on a budget do; look for a cheaper alternative. I was a lot less internet savvy at the time but managed to find an affordable knockoff anyway. Still, it didn’t come close enough to the real deal with its soft, slouchy leather so I kept on dreaming…
Flash forward to the summer of 2012 when I found myself in Paris at the Balenciaga store on Avenue George V with sweaty palms and tears in my eyes. The sales assistent was about to swipe my credit card when I panicked, what was I doing? Was I really about to spend over $1000 on this bag? I couldn’t go through with it and left the store empty handed. An hour or so later I was finally ready to take the plunge. After years of studying and landing my very first serious job just a few months earlier, this would be my ultimate reward.
It’s been four years and I haven’t regretted my purchase for one second. I get excited every time I take it out of its dust bag as it reminds me of a lot of hard work and perseverance. And yes, also because it’s absolutely gorgeous. Ghesquire was right in his observations. The fact that it has no visible logo and looks like an old vintage bag after a while are two of the things I like best about this bag. It’s fairly discrete and hardly anyone recognises it as a designer bag.
Now, after years of intense wear, the handles are slowly starting to fray and the corners are slightly damaged but I don’t mind. Bags are meant to be used, no matter the price. What I love about this particular bag is that it’s super lightweight and made of durable, distressed leather. Unlike most other bags that look their best untarnished, this bag only gets better with time. Its days as an it-bag might be over but I look forward to wearing my Balenciaga city bag for many more years to come.
Do you own a bag with a story?