Why can’t we get enough of the Balenciaga Le City Bag

Why can’t we get enough of the Balenciaga Le City Bag

by Ollie Cox
4 min

Remember when a pooch-walking Kate Moss poured petrol on the dying embers of the mob wife aesthetic last week? Unlike most dog walkers, who reach for the nearest big coat and a couple of poo bags, Kate opted for Balenciaga’s ultra-chic Le City bag and a white faux fur coat courtesy of the Spanish luxury label. With that photo sc and the sizzling social-media campaign that followed, we thought we’d break down the Le City bag’s history. 

Cast your mind back to a pre-Demna era Balenciaga, to 2001, when Nicolas Ghesquière was at the helm. The designer took over as Creative Director in 1997, and only four years into his role, he introduced the Motorcycle City bag, which became known as the Le City bag. Unlike other bags at the time, which relied on rigid logoed leather as a marker of luxury, the Motorcycle City bag was made from a supple leather construction, complemented by contrasting attitude-filled metallic studs. Thanks to the disruptive-for-the-sake-of-it reputation that luxury fashion leaders first saw the bag as having, the Le City bag was initially denied a general release. Only 25 were produced for Balenciaga’s Fall/Winter 2001 runway show and the devilishly cool carrier was gifted to friends of the brand, including high-profile editors, stylists, and Kate Moss straight off the catwalk. 

If there is one person who can school style-shy fashion execs on what is and isn’t cool, it’s Kate. The supermodel was papped putting the Le City bag through its paces in the Big Smoke, giving 2000s style staples like UGG boots and low-rise, slim-fitting denim with an elevated rugged, and all the while practical edge. It wasn’t long before the bag went into production and caught on across the pond, with Mary-Kate Olsen famously repping the bag in her NYU years. As we progressed through the 2000s, Balenciaga’s Le City bag was spotted on the bangle-filled and Rolex-wrapped wrists of Lindsay Lohan and Kim Kardashian, further pushing Nicolas Ghesquière’s It-girl-approved bag into the zeitgeist.  

Unlike other It bags of the era, such as the Fendi Baguette and Dior Saddle bags, the Balenciaga Le City bag was logo-free and designed with a ruggedness that ages like a leather jacket. This gave the bag an alternative appeal and everyday wearability, where red carpet appearances and shop runs were tackled with the same killer cool. Where the Saddle bag sat perfectly amongst the wild playfulness of John Galliano’s Dior, Ghesquière’s equilibrium between minimalism and a detail-dominated intricacy and attention to silhouette and shape was embodied by the Balenciaga City bag, which was new and exciting yet looked old. 

Now, as we enter into Spring/Summer 2024, Balenciaga has brought the Le City bag back The Maison has acknowledged the supermodels and celebrities who popularised the style to relaunch the style more than 20 years after its initial release. In her first campaign as a Balenciaga brand ambassador, Kim Kardashian invites us into her closet, which is filled to the brim with Balenciaga bags, whilst holding the Le City bag. Pairing the bag with a figure-hugging bodysuit and stilettos, we see its styling versatility. Its latest Le City campaign features Kate Moss, Mona Tougaard, Yang Chaoyue, and Juyeon and sees campaign stars sporting the iconic piece of It girl-approved arm candy in the wild. Polished studio shots juxtapose with paparazzi-style images of campaign protagonists walking dogs and striding through airport terminals as part of the campaign, titled “Beyond Nostalgia.”

These paparazzi-esque shots mirror the street-style visuals that first got us hooked on the Le City bag when wired headphones were all we knew, and Instagram was a futuristic fantasy. Balenciaga’s recent Le City bag campaign taps into our yearning for nostalgia, to rose-tinted reflections of a time before the Olsen Twins founded The Row and flip phones reigned supreme.

Not only does the return of the Balenciaga Le City bag highlight the seemingly never-ending influence of the 2000s on current fashion and culture trends, but it also highlights the enduring legacy of the style, rooted in a timeless design ideology. Whether it’s sleepy West London shop runs or paparazzi-to-the-max red carpet appearances, the Balenciaga Le City Bag can handle it all. 

Cover image: Balenciaga

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