The Balenciaga City Bag Is Back, Baby

Fashion

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What makes an It Bag an It Bag? These days, with oversaturated markets and a deluge of ads on social media, it can be harder to stand out. Back in 2001, however, the fashion calendar was less jam-packed and the opportunity for placements on A-listers felt organic; thus, the birth of an icon occurred: the Balenciaga City Bag. Then-creative director Nicolas Ghesquière designed the style in lockstep with the moto-grunge high-fashion aesthetic he was introducing at the time. It entered the sartorial zeitgeist around when the Fendi Baguette reigned supreme, and countered its femininity with its large shape, zip-top, dual top handles, and signature hardware. Now, 24 years later, the bag is making its triumphant return—with a slight facelift.

a person holding a purse

Mario Sorrenti
a woman posing for a picture

Courtesy of Balenciaga

Rachel Sennott with her lavender City Bag.

When it initially launched, the City was a fixture in nearly every celebrity paparazzi shot. Kate Moss, Sienna Miller, Nicole Richie, Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan…if you made a list of early-aughts style icons, odds are they owned one, if not several, City Bags. But what made the accessory so alluring? It was capacious, but not ludicrously so, rendering it appropriate to wear all day and night. Loyalists wore their City with sweats to go to the gym as much as they wore it with heels and a dress to a red carpet event, underscoring its versatility in Hollywood.

sienna miller sighting at the wyndham's theatre in london june 15, 2005

Niki Nikolova//Getty Images

Sienna Miller was essentially a City Bag ambassador in the 2000s.

With its pre-distressed leather and signature metal buckles, straps, and studs, the City Bag is in many ways a status symbol of rebellious luxury. It foreshadowed the rise of what we now know as Y2K fashion: an oddball mix of grunge, punk, and indie sleaze that rejected notions of what was appropriate to wear. The City Bag threw out the instruction manual on what makes a popular bag, and with that, redefined 2000s style. It came ready to be thrown onto the conveyor belt at airport security, on the floors of taxis, and worn cross-body while traversing through urban areas—in fewer words, to be lived in and with. Many women I know have personal stories of wearing their City Bags, ones they procured years ago, and still own to this day.

super bowl xxxix super ball party arrivals february 5, 2005

J. Merritt//Getty Images

Even at a photo-call, Nicole Richie kept her City Bag close.

With the official reintroduction of the City, Balenciaga looked at various iterations of the style over the years to hone in on precisely what makes the bag so remarkable. The Spanish brand settled on hardware that isn’t as large as some other models, with the signature patina leather that makes it appear pre-loved in the best possible way. To celebrate the comeback, it asked some friends, including Rachel Sennott and Devon Lee Carlson, to tote theirs while out and about, and also shot a campaign with early adopter Kate Moss and supermodel-on-the-rise Mona Tougaard.

a silver and black ring

Courtesy of Balenciaga

The newer version of the City comes in small and medium sizes, and in a range of colors, from classic black, beige, and white, to yellow, lime green, and lavender. As far as trends go, consider this veritable proof that what’s old is always new again.

Shop Our Favorite City Bag Picks

Le City Small Bag Metallized in Silver

Balenciaga Le City Small Bag Metallized in Silver

Le City Small Bag in Light Purple

Balenciaga Le City Small Bag in Light Purple

Le City Medium Bag in Green

Balenciaga Le City Medium Bag in Green

Le City Medium Bag in Black

Balenciaga Le City Medium Bag in Black

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