image:  Lisa Hahnbück

image:  Lisa Hahnbück

It is the early 2000’s and Nicolas Ghesquière is at the helm of Balenciaga, a role he assumed in 1997, transforming the Paris-based brand into one of the most influential in the world. His tenure was marked by his penchant for impossibly slim silhouettes, for futurism and the Eighties, which he balanced with key silhouettes and themes put forth by Spanish master, Mr. Chistobal Balenciaga, himself, as well as for his striking command of proportion and cut.

In addition to garments, however, Ghesquière – in 2001 – put Balenciaga on the map with bold footwear and one “it” bag in particular: The Motorcycle Lariat bag, one that has proven a big-seller for the brand for ten-plus years. Speaking to WWD in August 2011, Ghesquière spoke of one of his most striking and long-standing contributions to the house, that bag. As WWD noted, “Back in 2000, Ghesquière introduced a much-demanded, logo-free handbag with braided handles and dangling zipper pulls, and the style is still seen in the streets all over the world, though overshadowed by more recent ‘it’ bags.”

Interestingly, despite the cult status of Ghesquière’s moto bag, he told WWD that while the bag appeared in one of Balenciaga’s  2001 runway shows, the bag – beloved by Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, Kate Moss, Carine Roitfeld, Emmanuelle Alt, and everyone in-the-know fashion fan in between – almost never made it to retail.

Ghesquière told WWD, “We did this prototype and nobody cared; we had a couple of prototypes for a year. Every girl who was walking [the show], including Kate [Moss] came in and was like, ‘What is that? Is it vintage? Is it something that you found at the flea market?’ I was like ‘No, it’s a handbag that we prototyped but just didn’t produce.’ We didn’t produce it because I think when I showed the prototype to the people who asked me to do it, they weren’t happy with it.”

He further stated, “Accessories [at the time] were rigid. Luxury leather, especially, was about rigidity. So they were not really happy, and they decided not to produce it. Then when it was in the studio and the models noticed it, I said, ‘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. 

As for why Ghesquière thinks the bag resonated so signficiantly, it appears to be why it was posed to fail initially. “There was no logo. Very light. Very effective,” he says. “There is something familiar with the vintage side. Women and girls thought it was something they’d always have. It was a new fresh thing, but it looked like an old, good, friendly thing. And I think the brand also was becoming desirable. People had desire for my goods and [the bag] was the most accessible piece. You could be a Balenciaga girl with that bag.”