Here are the best French designer bags to invest in now and love forever! From the iconic Hermès Kelly to the ultra-modern Saint Laurent Manhattan, here are the best, most investment-worthy designer bags. While even some of the best designer handbag trends can go in and out of style, there are a handful of silhouettes that stand the test of time. Think of these styles as the ultimate handbag essentials. Similar to a black blazer, white tee, or pair of blue jeans, a good handbag is just as important a staple in the wardrobe—and there’s a version for every occasion, season, and personal style.
Once you find the one, it can instantly update everything from downtime denim to more formal attire, and will quickly become the most frequently used accessory in your daily wardrobe rotation. And the beauty of a standout designer bag is that they’re innately versatile, so you never have to worry about what to style them with. It’s the ultimate go-to accessory, no matter your personal style. So take a look at ten of the most coveted French designer bags of all time, just below. From the legendary Lady Dior bag to Chanel’s 2.55, these handbags have all acquired cult status as “It” bags and are must-have fashion accessories.
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1. The Lady Dior
Since its first appearance, the Lady Dior has never slowed down in popularity. With a classic design and luxurious and elegant handbag shape typical of the fashion house, Lady Dior is the clearest representation of Christian Dior’s heritage with fashion history.
In 1995, French First Lady Bernadette Chirac gifted one to Lady Diana, Princess of Wales, during a royal visit. Diana loved the handbag so much that she promptly ordered duplicates in every available color. Princess Diana was photographed with the bag all over the world quickly jettisoning the purse to worldwide fame. Composed of 144 pieces total, the Lady Dior bag was inspired by everything couture.
2. The 2.55 Chanel
In the 1920s, Coco Chanel became tired of having to carry her handbags in her arms and decided to design a handbag that freed up her hands. After her successful comeback to the fashion industry in 1954, Chanel decided to update her handbag. The resulting design was called 2.55 after the date of creation, February 1955. The Chanel 2.55 bag was the first shoulder bag to take the world by storm. Today, it is one of the most coveted, classic French bags on the market.
3. The Timeless Chanel
The 11.12 Timeless Chanel bag is a reinterpretation of the Chanel 2.55 bag which was created by Gabrielle Chanel in February of 1955. Karl Lagerfeld helped the 11.12 hit iconic status in the early 1980s by adding new, and now iconic details, including the double C clasp and the leather interlaced on the metal chain strap. Karl Lagerfeld changed the classic square twisting lock of the 2.55 (known as the Mademoiselle Lock), to the iconic interlocking CC clasp. This iconic bag is part of a heritage that is transmitted from mother to daughter.
4. The Speedy Louis Vuitton
One of the greatest it-bags of all time, and in fact, the very first handbag of Louis Vuitton is called the Louis Vuitton Speedy. This Louis Vuitton bag dates back to the early 20th century. It was designed in 1930 as a smaller interpretation of the hugely popular Keepall bag. Thanks to that era’s travel revolution, it was referred to as the “Express”. Originally a 30cm size, it was then created in a smaller 25cm size for Audrey Hepburn in 1965. The Speedy wasn’t the iconic bag it is total until the Speedy 25 of Audrey Hepburn was introduced.
5. The Keepall Louis Vuitton
In 1930, the Louis Vuitton Keepall was introduced by Gaston Vuitton as the moderately sized weekender bag of Louis Vuitton to accommodate the shifting travel habits of people at the time. The Louis Vuitton Keepall is the spirit of modern travel: light, flexible, and always ready for an immediate departure. Being the unisex bag that’s great as a carry-on for every trip, it got iconic straight away. The bag is available in four different sizes: 45, 50, 55, and Keepall 60 —the first three sizes are perfect for hand luggage on the plane. One of my favorite French designer bags for going on vacations!
6. The Birkin Hermès
The iconic Birkin Bag by Hermès is so coveted that the purses are argued to be not just an accessory but an actual investment. It’s been said that the bag’s value increases by about 14% in value each year. And while it’s rumored that you have to join a waiting list in order to purchase a Birkin, it is in fact possible to buy one of the bags in-store at the Faubourg Saint Honoré boutique in Paris.
According to fashion lore, the Birkin bag was born on a flight from Paris to London in 1983, when French actress Jane Birkin spilled the contents of her straw bag onto Jean-Louis Dumas, Hermès CEO, who was seated next to her. She explained to Dumas how difficult it was to find a great top-handled weekender tote for all her jet-setting purposes. Dumas created the Birkin, naming it for the actress, a year later, and thus, an iconic bag was born.
7. The Kelly Hermès
In the 1930s, Robert Dumas, son-in-law of Émile Hermès, whom he succeeded at the head of Hermès, created the women’s bag with straps. He designed a trapezoid shape with two triangular gussets, a cutout flap, a handle, and two side straps. Formerly known as the “Sac à Dépêches”, the Kelly bag was first introduced in 1935. Actress-turned-princess Grace Kelly fell in love with the Hermès design after filming with it in Alfred Hitchcock’s “To Catch a Thief”. And it was her effort to hide her baby bump with the bag in the mid-1950s that really garnered attention. The bag shot to international fame and was renamed the Kelly.
8. The Constance Hermès
The Hermès Constance bag was first designed by Catherine Chaillet in 1959 and was given the name in honor of her fifth child, Constance, having delivered the baby the same day that the first Constance left the Hermes production store. With its leather shoulder strap allowing the bag to hang freely, it soon became the favorite former First Lady of the United States, Jacqueline Kennedy who popularised the Constance amongst Hollywood’s elite. It’s a bag that is also timeless, the epitome of elegance in movement, Constance is an evergreen fashion icon, a bag that is passed on from mother to daughter.
9. The Classic Box Bag Celine
The Box bag has been worn on the shoulders of women since the 1970s. This iconic French designer handbag has been redesigned by the designer Phoebe Philo in 2008. The original Box bag had the same iconic shape as the redesigned one. But the biggest difference between the two bags is the closure, which was originally embellished with a vintage Céline logo, a beautiful horse and carriage logo. The original gold metal clasp also had the brand name Céline positioned right under the logo. The box bag is definitely one of my favorite French designer bags!
10. The Manhattan Saint Laurent
Another satchel-inspired piece, the Manhattan bag was inducted into Saint Laurent by its current creative director, Anthony Vaccarello. Following the design of the Le Carré, the Manhattan also foregoes the YSL logo in favor of sleek engraved hardware. The Manhattan was initially released with only a top handle, but thankfully, recent iterations have a shoulder strap option for easier wear. It’s Italian-made from lightly textured leather partnered with gold hardware, including a sophisticated push lock that’s engraved with the Parisian house’s logo. This sizable bag is a good option for those who aren’t willing to limit their essentials.
Et voilà! I hope this guide to iconic French designer bags will inspire you! If you have any questions, please let me know in the comment below.
Leonce is the founder and editor of Leonce Chenal, a lifestyle platform launched in 2018. Originally from France, Leonce offers a fresh perspective that comes from her experience at top tech companies in Paris and London. Having spent several years in Paris and now residing in Amsterdam, she combines her professional expertise with a personal passion for French and Parisian styles. Leonce is committed to guiding her readers through the intricacies of Parisian chic, empowering them to embrace the elegance and sophistication of French style.