Magic of Five

Gabrielle Chanel was extremely superstitious, obsessed with numbers and numerology. Coco Chanel had her favourite numbers and knew exactly how to use them for the history of her brand. The most important, of course, is number five.


Gabrielle Chanel was extremely superstitious, as any biography of her will testify. She was obsessed with numbers in general, and all forms of numerology in particular. This had an obvious effect – Chanel had her favourite numbers and knew exactly how to use them in order to create the history of her brand. The number five was the most important of these numbers.

Coco Chanel and Marie-Hélène Arnaud, 1960

The number five first appeared in Chanel mythology in the 1920’s when in 1921 the sample number five was selected from the perfume options presented to Ernst Bo which went on to become the famous perfume Chanel №5. It was then, during the 1920’s that Chanel first decided to make her own handbag. She was rarely satisfied with the things she saw. Revolutionary by nature, she loved to so whatever she wanted to in her own special way, as no one had done before. It was in this way that she designed her scents, which were the first on the market to contain high doses of aldehyde, which made them unique. As it was with the perfume, so it would be with the handbag.

Ladies wearing Chanel 2.55 classic flap bags, 1960s

She was not a fan of the reticule and minaudière styles that were prevalent at the time, which had to be held in the hands. Chanel, as a lover of everything modern and progressive that freed women and made them more mobile, wanted her hands to be freed up, plus these bags were always been left behind by their owners. It was in the 1920’s that Chanel first thought up a bag with a long strap that could be worn over the shoulder, but she was distracted by other projects and she had still not released it by the start of the Second World War. What followed next is well-known: the occupation of Paris, closing of the House of Chanel and a decade in Switzerland.

Jane Fonda, 1965

When Chanel returned to Paris in 1953, re-opening her fashion house and displaying a deliberately simple, clear and very discreet tailored collection at a time when Dior was at its peak; with the flowery women’s aesthetic that Chanel had a strong dislike for; her work was received with unanimous and loud booing. But then Chanel, a genius in marketing that came up with many of the modern marketing methods, made a very good move. She remembered her idea of a shoulder bag and decided to make it, at long last.

The model wearing Chanel tweed jacket and Chanel 2.55 classic flap bag, 1960s

In February 1955, the rhombus-quilted rectangular bag with a long shoulder strap featuring a woven leather cord first appeared in the Chanel store on Rue Cambon. Chanel named the back 2.55 after the date on which it was created in February 1955. Again, her favourite ‘five’ brought her luck. The bag was fairly soft, differing from the rigid forms of the time, and so it made it possible to ccarry many different things in the bag; the long strap enabled the bag to be carried on the shoulder meaning that the hands were kept free; and the leather cord separated the metal from clothing, thus protecting them. By the way, the Chanel 2.55 bag initially had an option with two chain handles which meant it could be worn on the shoulder, or more traditionally, in bent elbow. But in time, the long shoulder strap gained victory.

Models wearingChanel, 1973

It is important to remember that the era of iconic bags had not yet been ushered in: there was no Kelly, certainly no Birkin and naturally no Lady Dior; and even Louis Vuitton and Gucci were far from what they would become in ten years’ time. So in fact it was Chanel who thought up the idea of the ‘it-bag’ herself, and put it to market with brilliant marketing. It was precisely Chanel that created the item which now brings the majority of revenues for luxury brands. It was also Chanel that was among the first to use one of the most powerful modern day marketing tools: dressing up famous ladies as a way to promote the Chanel brand.

Audrey Hepburn with Chanel alligator bag as Holly, "Breakfast at Tiffany's"

Chanel 2.55 had it all: Holly Golightly played by Audrey Hepburn carries the bag in the final part of ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’; Jackie Kennedy carried the bag with her in real life; and again on the silver screen by Romy Schneider (a huge fan of Chanel that Mademoiselle Chanel made a brand ambassador); Elizabeth Taylor wore the bag even when changing husbands; Angelica Houston and Jerry Hall wore the bag to parties in the bohemian New York of the 1970’s and 1980’s; and Princess Diana wore the bag to official receptions early in her marriage to Prince Charles. When Karl Lagerfeld came to Chanel, who understood perfectly the power that the bag had, he used the logo and the magical rhombus shapes in every possible way, continually releasing a variety of versions in a wide range of materials. The less traditional the material of a vintage Chanel bag, the greater its value, especially if it is in perfect condition.

Anjelica Huston with a Chanel satin bag

The strength of the Chanel 2.55 bag, of course, is not only in the two opposing letter ‘C’ but also in the fact that it is incredibly versatile and looks great with both jeans and a formal suit; and equally with running shoes and stiletto heels. It is precisely this quality which caused a new wave boom for the Chanel 2.55 bag around 7 years ago, when everyone began to carry this bag once more. This was precisely when the fashion began for mixing different style of fashion pieces together and it became clear just how perfectly the Chanel 2.55 bag is in any combination of fashionwear. The bag is loved by all fashionable ladies for this versatility, from Alexa Chung to Cara Delevingne.

Princess Diana with a Chanel classic bag

Whereas 5 years ago the price of a vintage Chanel 2.55 bag was still significantly less than the price of a new one, they are now almost identical. In fact, rare vintage examples sell for much more and their value will only appreciate, so wearing a vintage Chanel 2.55 bag is much cooler than just buying a new one. The photos on street-style blogs prove this convincingly.

Eva Longoria with a 1990's Chanel vintage bag

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