Fashion’s most recognisable handbags have sentimental stories behind them. Throughout the 20th-century, as the impact of trophy bags increased, designers looked to those closest to them for inspiration. From the Dior bag named after Diana, Princess of Wales to the Louis Vuitton classic rebranded to suit Audrey Hepburn’s style, discover nine handbags that were inspired by some of the world’s most revered fashion plates.
Perhaps fashion’s most recounted fable, Jane Birkin happened to be sat next to Hermès chief executive Jean-Louis Dumas on a flight from London to Paris in 1983, when the contents of her carry-on bag fell on the floor of the aeroplane. In response, Dumas adjusted a pre-existing Hermès style to accommodate a swell of items. Today, the Birkin remains one of the luxury sector’s most prized possessions, constantly in rotation on style plates the world over. Contemporary fans range from Kate Moss to Kylie Jenner; Jennifer Lopez to Cardi B.
Sac Birkin 30 in Togo leather, £7940, available at Hermès, 155 New Bond Street.
Diana, Princess of Wales
The Lady Dior bag, formerly known as the Chouchou, was given to Diana, Princess of Wales as a gift from Bernadette Chirac (the wife of the former French president) in September 1995 during a visit to Paris. For the next 12 months, Diana, who was born Lady Spencer, was rarely seen without the style, carrying it everywhere from children’s homes in Birmingham to the Met Gala in New York. In 1996, Christian Dior changed its name to the Lady Dior bag as an homage to the princess.
Christian Dior Lady Dior
Black lambskin Lady Dior, £3,350, available at Christiandior.com.
Jackie Kennedy Onassis
Gucci’s Jackie bag started out life under another name, the Fifties Constance. By 1970, Jackie Onassis had waved goodbye to her White House twin suits and embraced a more louche silhouette. Her Gucci bag complemented her style as a book editor with a jet-set lifestyle, and the style subsequently soared in popularity. The bag returned during Tom Ford’s tenure, and then again in Frida Giannini’s (modelled by Kate Moss in the 2014 campaign), before being reintroduced by Alessandro Michele in the autumn/winter 2021 show. Stars from Emma Corrin to Harry Styles have since been photographed carrying the treasure that now comes in colours, including baby pink, lilac, turquoise, lemon and classic black.
Jackie 1961 small shoulder bag in black leather, £1,750, available at
Ralph Lauren married Ricky Loew-Beer in 1964, and she quickly became the American designer’s muse. In 2005, Ricky’s influence was cemented with the introduction of the Ricky bag. The style references his wife’s ability to blend pieces, taking inspiration from classic silhouettes and equestrian detailing. Today, the bag comes in countless iterations and remains a bastion of the American’s design identity.
Ralph Lauren Ricky
Tumbled leather light Ricky 33, £2,265, available at Ralphlauren.com.