The Sac Race: Celine: Three’s Company

The competition to create an iconic bag is one of the most hotly contested in fashion, with new entries from Alexander McQueen and Celine.

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PARIS — Plenty of designer handbags are named after celebrities who may do little more than sling one on and smile for the paparazzi. Celine, however, took a different tack, selecting three more-chic-than-famous Parisian women — an art photographer, a novelist and a curator — to help fashion their ideal carryall. “It’s not just endorsing, it’s sharing,” explained Celine chief executive officer Jean-Marc Loubier. “This has been several months of work.”

Although Celine’s artistic director Roberto Menichetti has received lackluster reviews for his clothing designs, accessories are roaring ahead, with sales more than doubling in the past four years. Leather goods currently account for about 45 percent of volume at the house, part of the LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton luxury universe.

Conceived to help mark Celine’s 60th anniversary, the Parisiennes bags are slated to arrive in stores in October, priced from 650 to 950 euros, or about $835 to $1,200 at current exchange rates. Loubier called it an “open project” and said that he hopes to enlist women in other major fashion capitals like New York, London and Tokyo, to put their stamp on bags employing Celine’s Macadam logo. Function came to the fore with the current designs, as the women devised various bags of various dimensions with specific compartments to meet their needs.

Pamela Golbin: The 20th-century curator at the Museum of Fashion and Textiles at the Louvre, Golbin, 34, is not only a fashion plate of the highest order, but a frequent-flyer extraordinaire. To wit: Her customized Celine tote is big enough to hold files, phone, camera, makeup — and three pairs of shoes, as well. Golbin devised multiple fixed pockets inside and removable pouches. There are some for coins of different currencies, and another that doubles as an evening clutch. “For me, this bag is the perfect all-in-one,” she said. “And there’s very little hardware to keep it light.” But enticing looks were important, too. Golbin chose metallic-laced denim and salmon-toned leather trim.

Valerie Belin: A contemporary artist known for her striking large-scale photographs, Belin, 41, can’t tote her life in a tiny Baguette. Her ideal handbag must accommodate her makeup, a bottle of water, cameras, a laptop, photos and more. But she said “elegance and good proportions” are as important as generous volume. To wit: her messenger-style “reporter” bag in supple suede boasts multiple internal and external compartments. She said it could also work for overnight trips, which is a good thing, because Belin is working on upcoming exhibitions in Amsterdam and Lausanne, Switzerland.

This story first appeared in the April 18, 2005 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Clemence Boulouque: A novelist and literary critic, Boulouque, 27, is also a voracious reader. Naturally, her bag had to accommodate books, but via a discreet and practical zippered pocket at the base. “I wanted it to be like a library. It can hold up to four paperbacks. Or you can hide secret things — if you lead a double life,” she said with a laugh. Seriously, however, keeping everything neatly out of sight — from pens to makeup — was a big priority; hence, the two external pockets and a removable internal pouch. “It’s a bag for everyday life,” she said.

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