The City Bag
By Ann B. Oct 1, 2021
beloved City bag nearly wasn’t.
When Balenciaga creative director Nicolas Ghesquière first proposed the City bag in 2001, his higher-ups were hesitant about putting it into production for retail. Luckily, the Balenciaga models he gifted the bags to that season wanted more, and the rest is fashion history. In production for over two decades, the Balenciaga City is now arguably Balenciaga’s most iconic It bag.
The History of Balenciaga’s Most Iconic Bag
In 2000, Balenciaga’s parent company wanted a hot new accessory to carry the brand. According to then-creative director Nicolas Ghesquière in a 2011 WWD interview, they asked, “‘Would you do a few bags with a license? We think it could make a little business.’” Ghesquière introduced a prototype for a new bag: It was light, had no logo, a soft slouchy silhouette, studs, and tassels. The concept was a departure from the standard look at the time; bags were stiff, structured, and often boasted the brand’s logo. Balenciaga executives were not impressed by Ghesquière’s new bag; they refused to send it into production for retail sale, but Ghesquière was undeterred.
The handbag piqued the interest of the models, including Kate Moss, walking the show that season when they spotted it in the studio: “‘What is that? Is it vintage? Is it something that you found at the flea market?’” he recalled them asking in the WWD interview. “I was like ‘No, it’s a handbag that we prototyped but just didn’t produce.’”
Ghesquière came up with an idea, and told the executives, “‘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,” he told WWD. Executives realized that Ghesquière was on to something and gave the handbag the green light. It became one of the most popular handbags of the aughts.
That bag has a number of names: the “Lariat,” which is how Ghesquière referred to it in the interview, the “Motorcycle,” the “City,” and a recent iteration called the “Neo Classic” that debuted for Fall/Winter 2020 during current creative director Demna Gvasalia’s tenure at the house. A little over two decades and two creative directors later, the City has proved itself to be a mainstay at the house founded by Spanish fashion designer Cristobal Balenciaga in Paris in 1937.
The Balenciaga City’s Famous Fans
Supermodel Kate Moss was one of the first celebrities who gravitated towards the City bag since she walked in the Balenciaga runway show the season that Ghesquière debuted it and was one of the lucky models who was gifted one. Style Assembly member Nicky Hilton, Lindsay Lohan, Nicole Richie, and Sienna Miller were among the It girls who were spotted carrying the Balenciaga Lariat in the aughts. In recent years, Amal Clooney, Bella Hadid, and Kendall Jenner have been photographed with their Balenciaga City bags.
With a comeback on the horizon — Vogue’s Liana announced that it’s “officially back” — the Balenciaga City’s retention value is sure to climb. Currently, the Neo Classic retains 79% of its retail value, while the Balenciaga City Classic Metallic Edge holds 50% of its retail value, and the City Classic Studs bag maintains 43% of its retail value.