The Most Iconic Designer Collaboration Bags

The Most Iconic Designer Collaboration Bags

Designer collaborations have become a mainstay of the fashion world. From Tiffany & Co joining forces with Nike to Manolo Blahnik teaming up with Birkenstock, brands know that new and unexpected creative partnerships can result in exceptional designs — and blockbuster sales. With demand soaring for vintage collaborations on the secondhand market too, we’re charting the most iconic designer handbag alliances in fashion history. Wishlists at the ready…
Text by Suzannah Wilkinson

2001: Louis Vuitton x Stephen Sprouse

It wasn’t always the case that designers had such a collegiate approach to collaboration. Before the turn of the new century, the likes of Gucci, Dior and Balenciaga were sacred brands, not to be played with. That all changed in 2001, when Louis Vuitton’s then-creative director Marc Jacobs partnered with the punk fashion designer and artist Stephen Sprouse on a revolutionary new line of handbags.

Kendall Jenner wearing Louis Vuitton x Stephen Sprouse Pochette
Kendall Jenner wearing a Louis Vuitton x Stephen Sprouse Pochette. Image: Alamy / Media Punch

In place of the elegant serif LV monogram, Sprouse emblazoned Vuitton handbags and luggage with thick, bold lettering. The collection was so popular that pieces were reissued in new day-glo colourways in 2009. Today, bags from either release are considered true vintage grails on the secondary market.

2003: Louis Vuitton x Takashi Murakami

While the Stephen Sprouse collection kickstarted the trend for designer collaborations, it was the phenomenal success of Marc Jacobs’ next partnership with Takashi Murakami that truly cemented it. Jacobs joined forces with the Japanese pop artist for Louis Vuitton’s SS03 collection, beginning an alliance that lasted until 2015. Working in his signature ‘Superflat’ style, Murakami’s ‘Monogram Multicolore’ collection revamped the LV logo in 33 different colours on either a black or white background, giving classic Vuitton accessories a dazzling new palette. 

Louis Vuitton x Takashi Murakami Pochette
Louis Vuitton x Takashi Murakami Pochette, spotted in London. Image: Launchmetrics Spotlight

The Monogram Multicolore Speedy bag was the It bag of the moment (and indeed, the series has since found fans in a new generation of bag lovers, such as Kylie Jenner). More Murakami collections followed, including Cherry Blossom, Panda, Cerises, Cosmic Blossom and Monogramouflage. It was a watershed moment for handbag design that showed the power of pairing classic fashion with contemporary artists — a strategy that Louis Vuitton repeated to great success with Richard Prince in 2008 and Yayoi Kusama in 2012 and 2023. 

Louis Vuitton x Takashi Murakami Papillon Cherry Blossom Bag
Louis Vuitton x Takashi Murakami Cherry Blossom Papillon bag. Image: Courtesy of Louis Vuitton

2016: Dior Lady Art

Maria Grazia Chiuri celebrated her appointment as creative director of Dior in 2016 with a typically thoughtful project: Dior Lady Art. A group of artists, including Marc Quinn and Mat Collishaw, were given carte blanche to reimagine the brand’s iconic Lady Dior bag in an array of different textures, prints and embellishments.

Dior Lady Art x Marc Quinn
Dior Lady Art x Marc Quinn in 2016. Image via aeworld

Since then, the project has returned each year, giving a new roster of artistic luminaries the opportunity to customise the Lady Dior. Released in limited quantities to stores around the world, the bags are a celebration of haute-couture creativity and artistic diversity. Recent standouts include Alex Gardner’s surrealist vision in holographic leather and matte-black velvet, and the feminist artist Judy Chicago’s psychedelic tribute to women’s history.

Alex Gardner Lady Dior bag © Harry Eelman
Artist Alex Gardner for the 7th Edition of Lady Dior Art in 2022. Image: Harry Eelman / Dior

2016: Gucci x Trevor Andrew

In 2016, Gucci creative director Alessandro Michele debuted a surprising new line of accessories for the fashion house in collaboration with a relative unknown: the graffiti artist Trevor Andrew, AKA GucciGhost. Andrew had begun using the Gucci logo in his graffiti work, painting everything from street signs to old television sets with the iconic double G.

Gucci x Trevor Andrew Fall Winter 2016 Gucci Ghost Bag
Gucci x Trevor Andrew Fall/Winter 2016. Image: Launchmetrics Spotlight

Rather than send out a cease-and-desist letter, Michele saw an opportunity. He invited Andrew to become one of the Gucci design team, and together they produced a range of bags daubed in bright graffiti decoration. The ‘REAL’ tote bag, crafted in sleek black calfskin with dripping neon-yellow letters, was a particular favourite. Michele’s inclusive and iconoclastic attitude to creative collaboration showed that when it comes to fashion, rules are made to be broken.

Gucci x Trevor Andrew Real Tote Bag Fall/Winter 2016
Gucci x Trevor Andrew’REAL’ tote bag for Fall/Winter 2016. Image: Launchmetrics Spotlight

2017: Hermès x Nigel Peake

The fashion house of Hermès isn’t known for sharing its secrets, but even they couldn’t resist a designer collaboration. In 2017, they partnered with the architect and illustrator Nigel Peake on a range of geometric handbags that showcased his unique drawing style. The ‘One Two Three and Away We Go’ Birkin has a Mondrian-esque pattern inspired by the ferris wheel of the Grande Roue de la Concorde, while the ‘On A Summer Day’ Constance is decorated with a bright and cheerful graphic print.

Hermès Constance 24 Swift "On A Summer Day" Front
Hermès Constance 24 ‘On A Summer Day’ by Nigel Peake. Sold at SACLÀB.

The So Black ‘On a Summer Night’ Constance sees the same illustration rendered in matte and shiny black Sombrero leather. Peake’s handbags have become hugely popular on the resale market, and are very rare to come across — this One Two Three and Away We Go Birkin was snapped up for €38,360 on SACLÀB. 

Hermès Birkin 25 One Two Three and Away We Go by Nigel Peake
Hermès Birkin 25 ‘One Two Three and Away We Go’ by Nigel Peake. Sold at SACLÀB.

2017: Louis Vuitton x Supreme

Ever the pioneer of designer collaborations, Louis Vuitton’s collection with the cult skater label Supreme in 2017 was a game changer for the industry. Never before had a luxury house partnered with a streetwear brand on this scale. It showed the changing face of the luxury world, and the rising dominance of premium streetwear.

Louis Vuitton x Supreme Fall/Winter 2017
Louis Vuitton x Supreme Menswear Fall/Winter 2017. Image: Launchmetrics Spotlight

Spearheaded by Vuitton’s artistic director of menswear Kim Jones, the collection ranged from sneakers to skateboards, denim to scarves — and of course, bags. The tomato-red holdalls, cross-body bags, backpacks and trunks are extremely coveted on the secondary market, with the trunks selling for upwards of €100,000! Since then, luxury houses have continued to embrace collaborations with streetwear and sportswear brands, with Gucci partnering with The North Face in 2021 and Adidas in 2022.

2019: Hermès x Jay Ahr

In 2020, Kim Kardashian was pictured on Instagram showing off an intricately embroidered red Birkin. It was the handiwork of Jonathan Riss, founder of the fashion brand Jay Ahr. A long-time embroiderer who learned his craft in India, Riss reworks vintage handbags into astounding, one-off art pieces. In 2019, he sourced 1,000 vintage Hermès Kelly, Birkin and Constance handbags to reinvent.

Riss pays close attention to the provenance of each handbag he sources, weaving its history into the design, and on average each bag takes up to six months to customise. The studio produces a jaw-dropping array of revamped bags — from bold paisley patterns to graffiti-esque smiley faces. This Persian rug-inspired Birkin sold for €57,000 at SACLÀB.

An embroidered Hermès Birkin 35 customised by Jay Ahr. Sold at SACLÀB

2021: Gucci x Balenciaga Hacker Project

While the last two decades have seen multiple collaborations between high fashion brands, artists and streetwear labels, Gucci and Balenciaga’s Hacker Project in 2021 presented something different: a partnership between two of the biggest luxury houses around. To mark Gucci’s 100th anniversary year, Alessandro Michele presented a collection that had been ‘hacked’ by the disruptive aesthetic of Balenciaga’s Demna Gvasalia.

Tote bags were vandalised with ‘This is not a Gucci bag’, while the iconic GG logo was replaced with a shining double B. In 2022, we saw Fendi and Versace follow suit with a joint collection under the name ‘Fendace’. The brands declared, ‘It’s an exchange of roles and brand codes rather than a collaboration’. As we enter a new era of high-fashion coalitions, we can’t wait to see what’s next in store. 

Which is your favourite designer collaboration? Let us know what’s on your wishlist, or browse our curated selection of pre-owned designer bags.

Header image: Alamy / Retro AdArchives


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