The Story Behind Gucci’s Iconic Bamboo Bag
It’s been said that, in times of war, the human race is at its most inventive. Sometimes this comes from necessity, or simply a need for distraction from the reality of the times. Whatever the reason, fashion has World War II to thank for the creation of one of its most beloved accessories: the Gucci bamboo bag.
Text by Meagan Dill
Photographs courtesy of Gucci
In 1947, wartime rations were making it increasingly difficult for various industries to survive, fashion included. In a stroke of genius, Gucci craftsmen were able to come up with a bag design that could be manufactured even under these dire circumstances. Though materials were limited, one thing that was still possible to attain was bamboo imported from Japan. At the time, bamboo was certainly an unusual material to be used in crafting a handbag, but it worked. The handle was made by heating the bamboo, then curving it the shape of a semi-circle. Once cooled, it was then attached as top-handle to the body of the bag, which had been crafted using pigskin.
Soon after it was released to the public, the bag quickly rose to the status of a fashion must-have. Prominent celebrities throughout the 50s, 60s, and beyond have often been seen toting Gucci’s gorgeous bamboo bag. Not only have the bags been popular among some of the most iconic movie stars of all time (including the likes of Ingrid Bergman and Elizabeth Taylor) but decades upon decades have proved that the bamboo bag is good enough even for royalty. It is no surprise, then, that this bag which once received Lady Diana’s approval has maintained such a huge following, decade after decade. Even today, the bag’s popularity shows no sign of dropping – celebrities like Beyoncé, Florence Welch, and Naomi Watts have all made public appearances with a Gucci bamboo bag at their side.
The long-term, unwavering spike of public adoration for the bamboo bag clearly shows that the public is nowhere close to moving on from this style staple. It should come as no surprise, then, that an updated version of the bag, simply known as the new bamboo bag, was released in 2010.
Although today’s industrial resources far outstrip those of 60 years ago, Gucci still maintains its dedication to quality by having each handbag assembled by hand from 140 pieces. On top of that, the original method designed decades ago is still used to painstakingly hand make the bags today.
Still, the new bamboo bag is not merely a rehashing of an old product; rather, it is the next step of the bag’s evolution. While more classic versions are still available, there is now a wider variety of options on offer for the more adventurous bag lover. For example, it is now possible to purchase a bamboo bag not only in the traditional grey pigskin, but also in calfskin (magenta or orange) and even in the hyper-modern fabric neoprene (black or white).
After many decades of many fashion lovers lusting over the Gucci bamboo bag, it’s clear that this classic is here to stay – and as with all things classic, we’re happy to say that fans can rest assured: this bag will never go out of style.
Photograph credits in order: Paola di Liegi, Poissy, 1964; Elizabeth Taylor and Paul Newman, backstage of the film “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof”, 1958; Vanessa Redgrave and her daughter on set of the film "Blow-Up", 1966; Ilaria Occhini; Lady Diana Spencer, Rome, 1991