Gucci is well known for creating the most covetable it-bags season after season but it’s the more demure Gucci bamboo, worn by the likes of Elizabeth Taylor, Ingrid Bergman and Lady Diana that is considered as one of the most iconic handbags of all time. Also called the 0633, the Bamboo top handle bag stems from the 1940’s when the leather shortage as an aftermath of the war left many fashion houses scratching their heads over resources. To save on materials such as leather, Gucci came up with the brilliant idea to incorporate bamboo into their handbags. This happened to be a particularly good choice due to the fact that bamboo was extremely durable and easily imported from Japan during that time.
In contrast to the usual slouchy bags Gucci was so acclaimed for, the brand introduced a new and innovative handbag design with a bamboo handle and a small, boxy leather frame made out of pigskin. The artistic process that goes into the creation of these bamboo handles is quite possibly the most interesting out of any bag ever made. First, highly skilled Gucci craftsmen select the most perfect and unblemished pieces of cane for the bag handles. The bamboo is then softened and worked over an open flame by hand to manipulate the material into a semi-circular shape. During the next step, the handle is coated in multiple layers of lacquer, after which it’s toasted- yes you read that correctly, toasted- in order to achieve a shiny golden-brown finish. Once cooled, the handles are affixed to the top of the leather frame of the bag. Due to this meticulous process, not a single bamboo handle is ever the same. Understandably, Gucci has patented this unique method and to this date, all bamboo handles are still handcrafted by trained artisans in the Gucci factory just outside of Florence.
Fuelled by celebrity interest and even royalty, the bamboo bag became an instant hit and a status symbol in the 50’s and 60’s when top handle bags were all the rage. The newly revamped version of the bag, first created in 2010 during the tenure of Gucci’s then Creative Director Frida Giannini, has a larger frame and a detachable leather shoulder strap; making it modern-day friendly and more easy to wear. Even now, the popularity of the New Bamboo bag seems undying and can be seen dangling from the arms of Beyonce, Cate Blanchett and Naomi Watts to name a few. Over the years the bamboo handle has become a unanimous signature and symbol of the Gucci heritage. Recognizing its pull, Gucci’s latest creative force Alessandro Michele has expanded the bamboo line and introduced several new models to lust after such as the Dionysus top handle bag.
But how easily do we forget the artistry and craftsmanship that goes into the creation of these beautiful bags when we find ourselves on the hunt for the next piece to add to our collection? Some food for thought for the next time you are eyeing a Gucci bamboo bag: the process of creating one bag requires 140 individual pieces and takes 13 hours to assemble. So we might not be paying for ‘just the brand’ after all...
Needless to say the Gucci bamboo remains one of the greatest classics in handbag history and there is a reason why it has gathered such a huge and notable following throughout all those years. Besides the distinctive look and design, the bamboo handle is so durable that it will last much longer than any leather handle. However, it is good to keep in mind that bamboo has wood-like properties and just like wood it can easily dry out without the necessary care. Another thing to watch out for is the chance of bamboo bouncing back to it’s straight shape, which is why all new Gucci bamboo bags are accompanied by a contraption especially crafted to hold and keep the C shape of the handles.
Whether you are the lucky owner of this beloved Gucci classic or have one on your wish list, rest assured that the atelier team at The Restory can buff and shine the leather and re-moisturize bamboo handles in case of some wear and tear. Book a complimentary collection and make sure your bag remains in perfect condition for you to enjoy that much longer.