The unique history of Dior's Saddle Bag: 1999 - 2022
Nostalgia for 90’s - 00’s fashion revived the Saddle Bag in 2018, and four years later, it’s most certainly here to stay. Here’s the run-down, from start to present, on how the Y2K ‘it bag’ went from defunct, to inhabiting the heart of Dior’s Ateliers. Rent free.
1999: The Saddle Bag is born
Mastermind and creative director, John Galliano, joined the House of Dior in 1996. The first British designer at the helm of the French couture house; Galliano marked the start of Dior’s ingenious focus on accessories. By the tail end of the 90s, the Saddle Bag was born Galliano’s brainchild and debuted on the catwalk for Spring Summer 2000. In flawless synchrony with the rise in popularity for Prada’s ‘ugly chic’ aesthetic, the soon-to-be ‘it bag’ turned heads for its ‘off-kilter cool’ structural design.
The Saddle Bags equestrian silhouette takes reference from the curves of a jockey’s seat. It is said that Galliano drew inspiration from the visionary work of prolific fashion photographer, Helmet Newton’s photograph: Saddle I, Paris, 1976. In black and white, the picture is a visually arresting and sensual portrayal of a woman with a jockey’s saddle on her back. It’s old time folklore, really, as Galliano himself never confirmed that the picture served as his creative catalyst. Yet, the lines between fact and fiction remain blurred. Newton’s Saddle I captures the very essence of Galliano’s own provocative and seductive design aesthetic, it’s simply uncanny!
2000: ‘It bag’ status appointed
Episode 3, Season 5 of the cult-favourite show, Sex and the City: Carrie Bradshaw sports the Saddle Bag on the way to her second date with Aidan. Just like that, pop culture appoints the Saddle ‘it bag’ status. From Paris Hilton to Jessica Parker, the accessory was seen on every style icon and ‘it girl’ of the early 2000s. By the end of 2001, the bag's success yielded a 60% rise in sales of Dior’s accessories.
2006: 12 Saddle Bags; 12 Nations
In honour of his 10th anniversary at the House, Galliano re-designed the Saddle Bag 12 times over. Each iteration captured his source of inspiration throughout the decade; the twelve nations: China, USA, Argentina, Mexico, England, Russia, Spain, Morocco, Egypt, France, India and Japan. Although not the most wearable of designs, the exquisite detail and craftsmanship behind the 12 saddlebags upholds, yet again, Galliano’s creative ingenuity. Pictured below, is the India Saddle Bag.
2007: A one-hit wonder
By 2007, everyone had got their hands on the Y2k ‘it bag’ and in the spirit of exclusivity, the Saddle lost its allure. Just like a one-hit wonder; popularity, quite literally, killed the bag. Demand drastically subsided, and the House of Dior was forced to cut its production.
2014: Beyonce single-handedly gets us all back in the Saddle
It was not until seven years later that Beyoncè was spotted in NYC sporting the Saddle Bag, what would have been a wardrobe relic from the days of Destiny’s Child. Single-handedly, she catapulted the ‘Saddle Bag’ back into the global fashion lexicon, reminding everyone just how much they really did love the iconic accessory. Demand boomed in the secondhand designer market and the desperate pleas of consumers left Dior with no choice but to relaunch the Saddle Bag. However, Galliano was replaced by Raf Simons in 2012. One could only question how the Saddle Bag would be reborn without the creative direction of its very father.
2018: Maria Grazia Chiuri reissues the saddle for Fall/Winter 18
Come Dior’s Fall Winter 2018 collection, the Saddle Bag was finally re-issued at the hand of the House’s first female creative director: Maria Grazia Chiuri. The collection was an homage to the 50th anniversary of the 1968 Parisian Protest, which proved the perfect occasion to revive and revamp the timeless beauty of the former best selling piece. All doubts awash, Grazia Chiuri’s modern iteration was met with copious amounts of fanfare. Only this time, it was redesigned to capitalize on the consumer desire for practicality and comfort in ready-to-wear collections.
Without altering its iconic kidney-like silhouette, she re-envisioned the Saddle to be larger and more robust. The addition of a removable crossbody strap was intended to serve the convenience of carrying everything one needs, pushing the former Y2k shoulder bag - a fashion statement at best - as a messenger bag. In an interview with Vogue, she declared it ‘‘the perfect accessory to deal with this battle that is daily life… it’s so comfortable to wear with its long strap that you almost forget it’s there”. Her designs are recognizable for their colourful embroidery and beaded fringes.
2018: Kim Jones debuts the Saddle Bag for Dior Menswear
Before the late 2000s saw a radical shift in the norms of gender politics within the global fashion consciousness, accessories - especially handbags - were traditionally not designed for men. Kim Jones’ debut Spring Summer 2019 menswear collection marked the first time the Saddle Bag made it on the mens runway. Designed in collaboration with Mathew Williams from Alyx Studios, the Saddle for men featured a jacquard stripe inscription of ‘Christian Dior’ and industrial-esque buckles.
Reinterpreted as a backpack, belt-bag and a small leather purse; a new era for Dior menswear was signified. Put into question were the norms dictating what men should and shouldn’t wear. The Saddle bag became a token of cultural relevance: that men don’t have to be limited in the field of accessories. Men can wear purses too!
2019: Dior X Sorayama X Mathew Williams
At Dior’s Pre-Fall show in Tokyo, high-fashion was blessed with yet another limited-edition Saddle Bag. The result of a remarkable fusion of creative prowess between Kim Jones, cult Japanese artist and illustrator Hajime Sorayama and Mathew Williams of 1017 ALYX 9SM. The 2019 collaboration created a Saddle Bag akin to artwork. And in every possible way, contradicted Grazia Chiuri’s emphasis on functionality and wearability.
Pictured here, the metallic robotic-like Saddle Bag was not designed to be worn, but as a collectors piece. “You should celebrate those special pieces that someone that’s a billionaire or millionaire can go and buy, and may probably put on their wall" Jones stated at Paris Fashion Week in 2019. Just like valuable artwork; the robotic Saddle Bag was intended to be admired from a wall, not the body, signifying that the value of haute-couture extends far beyond original retail value. The fashion savvy expect the investment piece to be valued well above $30,000 in the secondhand market.
2021: Kim Jones X Travis Scott
Infamous rapper - Travis Scott - was brought in by Kim Jones to collaborate on Dior's 2022 Summer collection: Cactus Jack Dior. Why Travis Scott, you ponder? Christian Dior debuted his 1947 CD Capsule collection in Texas; Travis Scott's hometown! Thus, the collection boasts a palette of browns and greys, as if faded by the Texas sun. The standout piece, however, was Scott's own re-interpretation of the Saddle Bag. Coming in brown and black colour ways, the horse shoe-shaped handle is made of steel, and the saddle's silhouette takes inspiration from the Texas cowboy.
2022: The Saddle Bag is here to stay
Kim Jones' latest iteration of the beloved accessory is referential of the 1947 CD Capsule Collection, featuring an embroidered virtuoso logo and the date of Dior’s first-ever fashion show. In Dior Gray, founder Christian Dior’s favourite colour; the grained leather saddle celebrates the synthesis of history and modernity, proving yet again that Dior’s Saddle Bag stands the test of time.
From Galliano to Travis Scott, the Saddle Bag has been continuously re-designed to remain culturally relevant. Whether it be in the form of a vintage Galliano shoulder-bag, everyday handbag, menswear accessory or limited edition artwork; you’ll find reiterations of the piece on the Dior catwalk in all shapes, patterns, textiles and sizes.
Keen to saddle up at pre-loved prices? Pictured below, the Saddle belt-bag in Black Ultra-matte Calfskin and the Black Double Saddle leather Dome Bag, are available for purchase at Sign of the Times. Not what you’re looking for? Our personal sourcing-service can also help you find your dream designer (Saddle) bag. Or, looking to give a second life to your Dior Saddle Bag, you can sell with us here.
For more on Dior, you can read about Dior’s Designer of Dreams Exhibition and the relevance of Dior’s signature canvas print in the 21st century on our blog.
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