Fendi is looking to make friends with a younger generation. The storied Italian fashion company is placing a greater focus on the Baguette, a handbag it introduced in 1997 to great fanfare. Then, the Baguette was considered to be an It bag, an accessory that automatically signified one’s status, wealth and fashion clout. Some even claim that it was the first to bear this moniker, during a time when the masses were rapid about luxury logos. Now, two years past its 20th anniversary, Fendi is reintroducing the once must-have item to a new base of consumers.
“The Baguette is part of our heritage; it is part of what we are forever,” said Serge Brunschwig, the chairman and CEO of Fendi in the brand’s U.S. flagship store on Madison Avenue. “When you are fortunate to have something strong like this, it is your responsibility to take care of it. It is important to keep renovating it and making it in sync with the times.”
Indeed, the Baguette’s mystique has lasted longer than what the fashion cycle normally permits—usually a six-month time frame. But over the years, it has received considerable coverage in magazines and has been seen on the arms of the most fashionable women: Naomi Campbell, Mary J. Blige, Jennifer Lopez and Julia Roberts are a few standouts. It then entered the consciousness of countless fashionistas and wannabes when Carrie Bradshaw, Sarah Jessica Parker’s iconic character in Sex and the City, was mugged at gunpoint, losing her purple sequence Baguette in the process.
The fact that the Baguette appealed to the style icons of the era, all of whom had differing sensibilities, was a testament to its design. It’s simple, compact shape, modeled after the French loaf that is its namesake, could be dressed up or dressed down, depending on the scenario at hand. More important, it came in a variety of textiles and patterns that gave consumers options—and encouraged them to purchase more than one.
The Baguette was unwaveringly a hot commodity, but keeping it relevant and in-demand over two decades later is no simple task. To whit: the lore of Carrie Bradshaw can only get it so far, especially when the market is saturated with competing brands who are consistently offering up It-bag-worthy options.
“They have not forgotten about the Baguette at all,” affirms Brunschwig. “But what we want is for the generation of today to adopt it. That’s the challenge. We have to make it cool.
This is why Fendi has recently enacted a digital campaign titled #BaguetteFriendsForever, which is spread throughout the company’s social media channels. There are three short videos made, with each focusing on a major cosmopolitan city: Shanghai, Hong Kong and New York. They feature models that are active, fresh-faced and completely obsessed with fashion. They are looking for items that can act as their constant companion; that serve their personal style. And for them, this happens to be the Baguette—which has been lightly updated.
“The Baguette today has a new identity,” said Silvia Venturini Fendi, the creative director at Fendi and designer of the legendary bag, in a prepared statement. “Because the Baguette is like a best friend that never leaves your side, it changes as the times change, taking on new identities and expressions, but they all embody the Fendi DNA. The oversize Baguette is truly an all day bag that can be worn cross-body, or over the shoulder, or tucked under your arm, which is relevant to the new generation of Baguette lovers, and the collectors alike.”
She and Brunschwig played host last Thursday at the brand’s store on Madison Avenue, where they threw a party to unveil an installation for the Baguette and introduce the new styles to the collection. It was the start of New York Fashion Week, and seeing how the U.S. press would be descending on the city, it was an advantageous time for Fendi to have a fête centered around its biggest push of the season. They also had a number starlets appear—including Amanda Seyfried, Emma Roberts, Ebonee Davis and Nina Agdal— to give the bag and party greater resonance to today’s celebrity-obsessed culture.
Essentially, the revamped design, which is made of embossed nappa leather, isn’t the driving force of Fendi’s new campaign. It’s really about igniting the flame of consumerism, about enforcing an image to high-spending millennials and Gen-Zers that the Baguette is an entryway into a glamorous world.
“The Baguette is something recognizable and visible,” said Brunschwig. “It is something that everybody knows. As such, it has a value—a very big value. The Baguette is a brand in itself. The It-bag is a franchise.”