Which is better, Italian made handbags or French made handbags? What separates a Prada bag from Hermes, Dior from Fendi, Louis Vuitton from Gucci? Such a question would trouble even the most knowledgeable fashionista and the answer is more complex than the question suggests.
It Boils Down to Fashion in General
Handbags are distilled forms of an entire fashion house and their legacy. They take the defining characteristics of a brand and concentrate them in a sublime little object that immediately speaks to you, bursting with history, culture and the idiosyncratic nuances of the designer. Therefore handbags are to some extent products of wider fashion trends.
French fashion is categorized by an effortless chic, where style is innate, whereby the individual is the ornament and clothing serves to accentuate rather than steal the show. Italian fashion, on the other hand, is more direct. It is more an art form for its own sake, the creation of aesthetic beauty being an end in itself. It is bolder, brasher and with a clear statement of intent.
Handbags inevitably follow these broader concepts. So the question is not so much whether Italian or French handbags are better, but whether you prefer French or Italian fashion.
The similarities may be Fewer Than you Think
The reality is that most fashion houses in Paris are headed by foreigners. That’s right, the iconic fashion brands were established and run by the English, Americans and, you guessed it, Italians. Christian Dior is headed by John Galliano, Yves Saint Laurent is headed by Stefano Pilati and Chanel is run by Karl Lagerfeld. The concept of French fashion, therefore, is perhaps quite different to what we sometime imagine. If we thought of French fashion and French made handbags as being something idiosyncratically French, imbued with French style and a product of a unique French mind-set, we would be wrong.
This doesn’t take anything away from iconic (and undoubtedly French) designers like Balmain and Lacroix, but it does highlight that French fashion and handbags are influenced heavily by the Italian school. Italian fashion on the other hand, is dominated almost entirely by Italians.
Italians Lead the Way in Handbags
Nobody will take anything away from handbags made by Dior, Chanel and Hermes but the reality is that what makes these bags great is not necessarily a result of them being French. With such foreign influence from the English, Americans and Italians, it is not French design that makes these handbags quality items. The reality is that with Italian handbags, there is a greater national identify, feel and style. A Prada handbag is more Italian than a Chanel bag is French. This doesn’t make a Prada handbag better, but it is significant because when you buy a handbag, you are buying into an idea, a culture and a mind-set.