DESIGNER 101

Balenciaga 101:
The City Bag

By Ann B. Oct 1, 2021

Rebag x Virgil Abloh

Balenciaga’s
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.

Cardi B. with a black Chanel 19

Kate Moss in 2003


Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images

Katie Holmes with a black Chanel 19

Nicky Hilton in 2004

Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic

Influencer Tamu McPherson in a Chanel 19 bag

Sienna Miller in 2005

Niki Nikolova/FilmMagic

Cardi B. with a black Chanel 19

Bella Hadid in 2020

Courtesy Spotern 

Katie Holmes with a black Chanel 19

Amal Clooney circa 2016.

Courtesy PopSugar

Influencer Tamu McPherson in a Chanel 19 bag

Kendall Jenner in 2018

Courtesy Vogue Turkey

Investment Value

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.

Balenciaga City Sizing

Chanel 19 Waist Bag

7″W x 4″H x 2″D

Balenciaga Nano City

Chanel 19 Clutch With Chain

9.5″W x 6″H x 3.5″D

Balenciaga Classic Mini City

Chanel 19 Wallet on Chain

11.5″W x 7.5″H x 4.5″D

Balenciaga Classic City Small

Chanel 19 Flap Bag

15″W x 10″H x 6″D

Balenciaga City Classic Medium

Chanel 19 Flap Bag

20″W x 15″H x 8″D

Balenciaga City XL

Balenciaga Range

Chanel 19 Waist Bag

Balenciaga Neo Classic

SHOP

Chanel 19 Clutch With Chain

Balenciaga City Graffiti

SHOP

Chanel 19 Wallet on Chain

Balenciaga First

SHOP

Chanel 19 Flap Bag

Balenciaga Town

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Chanel 19 Waist Bag

Balenciaga Velo

SHOP

Chanel 19 Clutch With Chain

Balenciaga Tote

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Chanel 19 Wallet on Chain

Balenciaga Hobo

SHOP

Chanel 19 Flap Bag

Balenciaga Twiggy

SHOP

Chanel 19 Waist Bag

Balenciaga Work

SHOP

Chanel 19 Clutch With Chain

Balenciaga Part time

SHOP

Chanel 19 Wallet on Chain

Balenciaga Weekender

SHOP