chanel bag hero
Image: Shutterstock/Creative Lab

Chanel handbags: The complete buyer’s guide

04 Dec 2023 | |By Kari Colmans

They're among the most coveted (and expensive) accessories in the world - so it pays to know your stuff before investing in a Chanel handbag

All products are chosen independently by our editors. Luxury London may earn commission on items purchased.

A global icon, Gabrielle ‘Coco’ Chanel overthrew the fashion narrative of her time by designing practical clothes for the modern woman – before the modern woman even knew she needed them. Breaking down prescriptive barriers with each piece she crafted by introducing trousers for women and making pockets a must, many were outraged by her bold ideas that focused on practicality and comfort, as well as a new kind of fierce femininity.

Left to grow up in an orphanage after her mother’s death, Chanel was taught to sew by the nuns who raised her. And how. Founding her first shop on Paris’s Rue Cambon in 1910, she initially specialised in beautiful and unique hats, and later opened stores in Deauville and Biarritz, which encouraged her to branch into clothing. With her famous collarless suits, little black dresses, and Chanel No5 perfume, it wasn’t long before Coco, and her brand were a mainstay within the upper echelons of Parisian society. But nothing sealed her fate quite like her first handbag.

Why are Chanel handbags so popular?

Today, a Chanel handbag is a style status symbol of its own. From the classic black flap to a spray-painted rucksack, with all manner of tweed, pearl, and sequinned beauties in between, the brand can do no wrong when it comes to its arm candy. From international influencers sporting bum bags and phone cases to chic grannies with their now vintage clutches, the appeal of a Chanel handbag knows no bounds.

chanel cream bag
Image: Shutterstock/Creative Lab

How much does a Chanel bag cost?

It’s no surprise that Chanel, alongside most other luxury brands, increases its bag prices year on year, and 2023 was no exception. The price of a new Chanel Classic flap bag increased 16 per cent, with the Chanel Coco Handle, Chanel 19 and Chanel Pearl Crush price tags increasing 14 per cent, according to Sotheby’s. The average Chanel bag will now set you back anything from £2,600 upwards and the best time to buy is always the present. Indeed, Chanel CFO Philippe Blondiaux was recently quoted explaining, “We usually revise our prices twice a year. That’s what we’ve always done and will continue to do.”

Although rising production and supply costs are partly to blame, with Chanel bag prices increasing at least one per cent per year since 2016, limited supply of new designs also plays its part – with the strength of the resale market demonstrative of the enormous level of demand.

In fact, with new Chanel bags only available to buy in the brand's boutiques, many designs are now worth more second-hand than they are fresh out the box. We've done our bit for the planet and rounded up the best places to buy these heirlooms pre-loved. But remember, a Chanel bag isn’t just for Christmas…

The most iconic Chanel bags

Chanel 2.55 Flap Bag

chanel classic flap bag
Image: Shutterstock/Andersphoto

First designed by Coco in February 1955, the 2.55 Flap Bag was a revelation. The first women’s bag to be made with a shoulder strap (yes, really), ladies were finally liberated from the constraints of their clutches and the design attracted shoppers in their droves. With a focus on practicality, each specification – from the adjustable chain strap, made up of flat metal links, to the accessible back slip pocket – was designed by a woman, with women’s needs in mind.

The Chanel bag of all Chanel bags, the design manifested two symbolic details: the diamond-stitched quilting, driven by the designer’s equestrian spirit, and the deep burgundy hue of the interior lining, which was the colour of Coco’s childhood convent uniform. Set apart by its Mademoiselle turn-lock fastening, it was first sold in 1955 for less than £200. Fast forward to 2023, and the same bag can now sell for closer to £10k.

2015 Chanel 2.55 handbag

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Chanel Classic Double Flap Bag

chanel classic double flap bag
Image: Shutterstock/Creative Lab

The handbag most would assume to be Chanel's firstborn - the Classic Double Flap - was not created until 1983. First introduced under Karl Lagerfeld’s reign as creative director, it was designed as an homage to the original (above), but with added details and flair. Easier to identify when it comes to brand spotting, the reinterpreted model boasted two new features – a leather woven chain and a double C turn-lock closure.

A symbolic statement piece, it is available in a range of sizes, colours, materials, textures, hardware, and styles. A first-time purchase must be classic black in either quilted or chevron leather – while for your second, third, or even fourth splurge, go wild with colour and embellishment. Each Classic Double Flap bag is handcrafted at the Atelier de Verneuil-en-Halatte, one of Chanel’s prized Metiers d’Art workshops, with the process taking a total of 15 hours per bag.

This Old Thing pre-loved Chanel handbag

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Chanel Grand Shopping Tote

chanel grand shopping tote
Image: Shutterstock/Tinxi

A Noughties icon that was discontinued in 2015, this original Grand Shopping Tote, which was produced in three sizes, is currently seeing a resurgence in covetability thank to all things Y2K being back in vogue. Only available in a classic quilted style, complete with an interlocking CC logo stitched on the front, the two hardware colours on offer are gold or silver. Although current canvas and soft totes are still popular choices in store, this original boxy, structured classic goes down in handbag history, with its appeal living on among collectors and fashionistas alike.

2013-14 Chanel Grand Shopping Tote

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Chanel Boy Bag

chanel boy bag
Image: Shutterstock/DKS Style

Despite its conception just over a decade ago, the Boy Bag quickly became one of Chanel’s most coveted pieces, made even more desirable by its countless celebrity fans. Named after Arthur ‘Boy’ Capel, who was said to be the love of Coco Chanel’s life, it is neat, practical, and slightly sportier than its traditional contemporaries. Recognisable by its large, brick-like logo lock and clean, streamlined silhouette, it is repeatedly revered for its multitude of limited-edition sizes and colourways – not to mention the litany of similar accessories it has inspired.

Chanel Nº5 Perfume Bottle Bag

chanel no5 perfume bag
Image: Shutterstock/Alesia R

Designed in 2016, this totally extra mini bag is everything the OG handbag isn’t. Playful, tongue-in-cheek, and anything but subtle, it is, of course, an homage to the house’s most iconic scent. Designed with a lifelike perfume bottle shape in plexiglass and stainless steel, and finished with a signature interlocking CC logo, it’s an heirloom best saved for special occasions, and a sure-fire conversation starter at any party.

2016 Chanel Paris-Roma No5 Perfume Bottle bag

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Read more: Inside the V&A's blockbuster Chanel exhibition