The significance of a handbag rests on the shoulders of its carrier. For some, it is no more than a functional repository for day-to-day necessities: phone, wallet, keys and hand sanitiser (yes, still). For others, it is totemic: an artful extension of the wearer’s character.
Personal attitudes aside, there are handbags in the popular culture canon that have whipped up such feverish adoration (and sales revenue) as to elevate their cloth or leather exteriors into the realms of art and sculpture. Gucci’s Jackie hobo bag, for example, released in the 1950s and later renamed for the former first lady Jackie Kennedy, has come and gone from the brand’s accessories collections, only to amass a new wave of devotees with its downsized reintroduction in 2020. Hermès’ Birkin, crafted for the actress and singer Jane Birkin, has cultivated an almost mythic quality over its 39-year history, alongside its trapezoidal peer, the Kelly (renamed for Grace Kelly, who was by then Princess Grace of Monaco). Meanwhile, Coco Chanel’s contribution to the It bag hall of fame — her Chanel 2.55, launched in 1955 — is an enduring style for the brand, reinterpreted season after season.
These carriers have become talismans of celebrity, but there are other qualities that connect them, too: timelessness, practical elegance, a cerebral design perspective, exceptional materials and the artistry involved in their creation.
When Fendi’s Peekaboo bag debuted in 2008, it had the makings of a classic. Designed by the artistic director of menswear and accessories, Silvia Venturini Fendi, the Peekaboo made its runway premiere at the spring 2009 show, accompanying Karl Lagerfeld’s ready-to-wear collection and commanding attention with its streamlined silhouette and trademark Roman craftsmanship. “It was the moment to set things straight with a new classic,” says Venturini Fendi. “I wanted to evoke the beauty of a vintage bag with a lock, but for the first time make it about the movement of the bag.”
Inspired by the children’s game, the name is typical of Fendi, a house known for its lighthearted approach. Continuing the theme, the placement of hardware and gusseted pocket construction allow for a draping of the exterior so that, when opened, the Peekaboo greets the wearer with a curved smile.
The aesthetic draws on leather craft traditions, as well as avant-garde art and design movements of 20th-century Italy, among them Futurism and Memphis Design. Both geometric and curvilinear, the Peekaboo is an exercise in contradictions: it is playful yet utilitarian, discreet yet authoritative. It’s a dynamic design crafted for a diverse clientele, with a fan base that includes the pop stars Rihanna and Rita Ora, the actress and director Angelina Jolie and the actor and skateboarder Evan Mock.
Ever the innovator, Venturini Fendi continues to experiment with the scale and materials of the Peekaboo; in recent years, the maison has released new incarnations of the design, including the single-pocket Peekaboo X-Lite in 2018 and the accordion-shaped Peekaboo ISeeU in 2020. Of them all, the Interlace line — defined by the exacting intrecciato weave — is the most overt nod to the brand’s 1925 genesis. To create this version, leather is cut into fine strips before being painstakingly hand-woven through small knots. Though it is time-consuming, this technique provides structure without sacrificing the Peekaboo’s trademark slouch.
Whether a bag is regarded as little more than a graveyard for old receipts or revered as a collector’s item, a piece of armour for the outside world or a marker of one’s psychological state, it is an intangibly personal item that, for many, marks the transition through life’s seasons. And with its multidimensional facade and modern artistry, the Peekaboo has the potential to weather it all.