The Chanel 11.12 bag: What and How

by happy baggage

We elaborated on the legendary 2.55 bag Gabrielle Chanel created in February 1955 here. Several years following this icon, a second classic bag with a double C clasp and leather woven chain shoulder strap was created, a bag that the Maison consequently refers to as the 11.12.

For every season now, the classic bags of Chanel undergo metamorphosis in the hands of Karl Lagerfeld. The materials used to create the 2.55 and 11.12 bags now include aged or grained calfskin, tweed, precious embroidering by the Maison Lesage, denim, varnished leather, velvet, and exotic skins such as alligator or python.

Let’s explore the 11.12 in a little more detail, shall we?

As with the 2.55, the 11.12 (known also as the Classic handbag) features seven pockets:

  • The rounded rear pocket, nicknamed the “Mona Lisa smile”;
  • one flat front pocket;
  • two interior gusseted pockets;
  • with the little pocket in the middle, designed to hold a lippy;
  • one concealed pocket between the double bags at the inner flap;
  • the zipped pocket – otherwise known as the “secret” pocket” – placed inside the flap for money and love notes.

It takes about five years for an artisan in one of the five ateliers of the Chanel production unit to perfect the techniques of making the classic Chanel bag. Skin selection is another rigorous process; the tanneries must adhere to the Maison’s strict list of quality criteria. Involving more than 180 processes in its production and just as many meticulous quality checks, each bag takes the artisans up to fifteen hours to create.

The construction of the 11.12 is as complex and meticulous as that of the 2.55; here is the process in pictures.

The Making of 11.12

  • Chanel 11.12 making of
    The tweed is quilted by needlework according to a herringbone quilting pattern.

Each piece of the body of the bag is cut according to a template. To achieve a perfectly aligned bag after assembly, the cutter must seek out the best and most ideal points to make the cut. Consider exotic skins or tweed: it is of utmost importance for the scales to follow through, and for tweed patterns to be well and impeccably aligned.

Following the pattern cuts, each piece is “pared down” or thinned out, in preparation for quilting. The quilting is stitched using a needle (with the exception of exotic leather), as is done for the double C embroidery on the flap.

On assembly, the pieces are first mounted flat and inside out. The body and base are then combined with the “bag in bag technique”, by hand. The first bag is mounted (as the interior), followed by the second one (as the exterior). The craftsperson then turns the bags inside out, before sewing both together with “point de bride” seams.

Finally, the finishing touches in the manufacture process before quality control: The hand plaited leather interwoven chain distinctive to this 11.12 bag is laced through the pierced hook and eyes. And the crimping and placement of the double C clasp to the flap.

Chanel Handbag Stories

Looking beyond the classic styles, we now shift the spotlight to the other handbag stories by Karl Lagerfeld. There are six annual handbag collections at the Maison, and Lagerfeld would dream up new carryalls, backpacks, minaudières, bucket bags, evening clutches, trolley bags, and hobo bags, in shapes that never fail to amaze us, every season.

For the Spring-Summer 2018 handbag campaign, staying true to the legacy of the Maison, Lagerfeld invited model Kaia Gerber to Mademoiselle Chanel’s apartment, where every piece of furniture and object has been left exactly the way it was in Gabrielle Chanel’s time.

  • Chanel Handbag Stories campaign: behind the scenes

Bags featured in the campaign include the 11.12, Boy Chanel, Gabrielle, Vanity bag, and Camera case. So many more stories to tell, and we promise to share in our posts to come.

We round up this post with these playful and beautiful renditions of the 11.12 (bag family) that we love, articulated through Lagerfeld’s visionary prism for the Spring/Summer collection.

  • Chanel Spring/Summer 2018 11.12 bags

Standout pieces poised to become treasured collectibles in the most stylish of wardrobes.


All images courtesy of Chanel.


Related links:

Chanel Spring/Summer 2018: An Aquatic Story 

The Chanel 2.55 bag: What and How




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