Modern Icon: Balenciaga's Motorcycle Bag

Back in 2001, when Balenciaga’s motorcycle bag first appeared on the arms of European editors and international It-girls, we figured it would be just another one-season wonder like most of its status bag compatriots. Seven years later, however, the bag isn’t languishing on consignment store shelves as predicted, but instead remains as ubiquitous as ever. And while it’s inevitably trickled down to D-listers and Chinatown knockoff dealers, the bag still attracts some pretty style-savvy fans — a feat that puts it on par with the most iconic bags of all time.

Like the Chanel 2.55, Hermès Birkin and Louis Vuitton Speedy, there’s something about the motorcycle bag — also known as “Le Dix” and “The Lariat” — that has made it endure its own market saturation, from high-end to low. Perhaps it’s the unfussy, almost masculine design — slouchy, rectangular shape; distressed leather; simple zip-pocket on the front; gold stud hardware; and those sinuous tassels streaming from the straps — and the way it’s been reinvented, ever so slightly, into a number of new iterations every year. Today, one can choose from the oblong Part Time, the boxier, mid-sized City, the structured Work, the oversized Weekender and the classic First. Most styles are available in a candy shop color palette, including brash shades like Amethyst Pink, Electric Yellow and Sapphire. “Balenciaga is smart for creating so many colors and sizes—the bag essentially becomes more collectable because there are so many options available,” says Lexi Sacchi of vintage emporium Frock NYC, who has a motorcycle bag of her own.

Given this smorgasbord of choice, it’s perhaps not surprising that the entire fashionista spectrum is still on board. It’s been spotted in recent months on everyone from Carmen Electra to Salma Hayek, Vanessa Hudgens to Mary-Kate Olsen. But perhaps the real indication of its status is the fact that it inspires as much wrath as it does reverence. “I personally can’t stand seeing them anymore,” says Stacia Valle, owner of New York’s Dernier Cri. “The first two seasons it was cool, but I feel like it’s just become another status symbol—there’s nothing unique about it.”

Even so, the bag’s popularity seems to remain unaffected. “The motorcycle bag appeals to anyone—if you’re really fashion-forward you can get neon pink or metallic, while if you’re just looking for an everyday bag, buy it in black leather,” says Sarah Easley, co-founder of Kirna Zabête. “They haven’t tried to fix something that’s not broken, so whether you’re carrying the 2001 or 2008 version, it never looks outdated. It’s kind of like a great novel that has stood the test of time.”

—Erin Magner

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