WWII import restrictions on raw materials pushed the boundaries of innovation within the House of Gucci that was founded in Florence in 1921 as a saddler shop. In 1947 Guccio and his son Aldo thought that the bamboo cane – still imported relatively easily from Japan – could make for a cool non-leather design touch. They invented the technique of heating and curving the cane into a handle, decorating the most coveted top-handle in fashion history. Aldo also introduced the pigskin as one of the brand’s heritage materials.

The Manufacturing Process

High-skilled Tuscan craftsmen are still bending the cane at the Gucci factory outside Florence with the same patented method. Each unique saddle-inspired handle is crafted from a handpicked cane portion that is softened and molded over open flame. Then it gets lacquered and toasted to acquire the signature golden-brown glossy finish. It takes 13 hours for the bag’s 140 separate pieces to get assembled.

gucci bamboo bag

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gucci bamboo iconic bag

Muses Holding the Bamboo Handles

When the Gucci Bamboo Bag landed Ingrid Bergman’s hands in Rossellini's 1954 ‘Viaggio in Italia’, it instantly became a status symbol. Through the 60s, famous stars such as Elizabeth Taylor and Vanessa Redgrave were obsessed with it. Grace Kelly and Princess Diana were among the adopters. Today Naomi Watts, Florence Welch, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Beyoncé, Cate Blanchett, Rita Ora, and Sharon Stone hold the latest versions.

The New Bamboo Handbag

The first effort at revamping the iconic style after a front-row hiatus was with the advice of Bergdorf Goodman’s Dawn Mello and under the spell of Creative Director Tom Ford. The improvements included bigger/smaller sizes, satin/ suede options, and a detachable shoulder strap. The real change came in 2010 when Frida Giannini redesigned it into the New Bamboo Bag. She kept its interior intact, equipped with two pockets and a mirror, but revisited the handle, adding a long leather strap and a second strap of draped metal chain with a braided base. Other innovations included tassels, raised leather edges instead of top-stitching, and nickel hardware.

Gucci Bamboo Styles

The purse is available in pigskin, soft-grained calfskin, neoprene stamped with the GG logo, Blooms canvas print, python, and crocodile leather in endless color combos by current rule-breaking Creative Director Alessandro Michele. The classic top handle (10.5"W X 7"H X 2.5") features a bamboo twist-lock while the Dionysus version combines the bamboo handle with a metallic dragon lock. Check also the Daily and the bamboo handle on the latest totes and backpacks.