SPOTLIGHT

Back in the (Dior) Saddle

Under creative director Maria Grazia Chiuri, Dior reissued its Saddle Bag in 2018. The house’s top-selling piece, Grazia Chiuri’s iteration has been received with just as much fanfare as John Galliano’s original debut. Follow our timeline, which chronicles one of fashion’s most iconic ‘IT’ bags from its creation through today.

As nostalgia for ‘90s and early-‘00s fashion hit an all-time high, it was only a matter of time before Dior reissued its Saddle Bag. Originally designed by John Galliano in 1999, the house’s current creative director Maria Grazia Chiuri updated and rereleased the cowboy-inspired style in 2018. Just as in demand as before, every tastemaker has been chomping at the bit to carry the Saddle Bag once again. 

The inspiration behind the icon

John Galliano, the then-creative director at Dior, designs the Saddle bag as his very first bag for the fashion house. A short-strapped shoulder bag, it is shaped like the side of a horse saddle and features a swinging, gilded ‘D’ charm that resembles a stirrup. Though Galliano has never confirmed it, the bag is believed to be inspired by Helmut Newton’s “Saddle I, Paris” (1976) (From website ArtsyNet) – a racy black-and-white photograph of a model posed on her hands and knees with a horse saddle harnessed over her back. Galliano aptly names it the Saddle Bag.

Dior

118 items
  • Beige Leather Dior Saddle Bag

    Dior

    Beige Leather Dior Saddle Bag

    2833.46 EUR

  • Beige Leather Dior Saddle Bag

    Dior

    Beige Leather Dior Saddle Bag

    2890 EUR

  • Brown Fabric Dior Saddle Bag

    Dior

    Brown Fabric Dior Saddle Bag

    2104.27 EUR

  • Black Leather Dior Saddle Bag

    Dior

    Black Leather Dior Saddle Bag

    2956.91 EUR

Follow our timeline, which chronicles one of fashion’s most iconic ‘IT’ bags from its creation through today. 

1999:

As mentioned above, John Galliano is the mastermind behind the design and he came up with in 1999. Later that year, the Saddle Bag makes its debut in Dior’s Spring/Summer 2000 collection (From article by Vogue). At a time when most designers are obsessed with Y2K, anticipating what the future will hold, Galliano instead looks back, referencing the hip-hop culture and western trends of the 1970s. To Lauryn Hill’s “Everything is Everything,” models emerge wearing asymmetrical skirts, halter tops, knee-high, lace-up boots, and the Saddle Bag.

2000:

The Saddle Bag is tucked under the arm of every style setter – both fictional and real! 

Though some of Carrie Bradshaw’s fashion choices are questionable (to name just a few: a belt worn over bare abs, the ‘80s prom dress styled with a silk Hermès headscarf, and flower boutonnieres galore), her bags are indisputable must-haves. Among them, the Dior Saddle. In Season 3, Episode 5 of Sex and the City, she carries a silk, pink-and-white patterned iteration on her second date with Aidan, fumbling to open it to retrieve her hidden cigarette. 

While Carrie Bradshaw is on everyone’s screens, Paris Hilton (the notorious hotel heiress, wild child of the new millennium) is on the cover of every tabloid. Long before Instagram, Hilton’s street style looks are snapped by the paparazzi. From her Von Dutch trucker hat to her handheld, teacup Chihuahua, she has all the early-aught accessories. Most notably, the Saddle Bag in white calfskin leather. 

Photo: HBO

2001:

Following its breakout success, Galliano releases the Saddle Bag in a variety of styles, including the Christian Dior Daily newsprint, tricolor Rasta, Adiorable, and floral Girly. With new materials, patterns, colors, and embellishments coming out every season, the Dior Saddle Bag becomes a collectible. 

Within just one year, the Saddle Bag is really hitting its stride. WWD reports that it has already increased Dior’s accessories sales by 60%. (From article by Garage) 

2002-2005: 

As the Saddle Bag becomes Dior’s top-selling piece, it is rumored that someone in the marketing department is tasked solely with determining how to best display it in stores. 

2006:

Galliano presents 12 limited-edition Dior Saddle Bags, each representing a country that has influenced him and his design aesthetic. For the United States of America, there is a white leather one encrusted with rhinestone stars. For Egypt, there is a black silk one embellished with gold sequins. For Japan, there is one with red tassels and enamel letter charms. And, so on. 

In a New York Times article covering the capsule collection, Galliano proclaims, “It was the first bag I created here at the house of Dior, and she’s still with us. She’s become a classic.” (From article by The New York Times) 

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Photos: The Vintage Bar

2007:

Following a sharp decline in sales, the Saddle Bag is no longer on Dior’s runways. The ‘IT’ bag that was once reimagined according to the theme of every collection virtually disappears. 

2011:

At La Perle, his neighborhood bar, Galliano is videotaped slurring anti-Semitic, hate speech at other patrons. After The Sun broadcasts it, more allegations surface and Dior fires Galliano. Following his abrupt dismissal, Galliano is replaced by Raf Simons. Eager to distance the French fashion house from Galliano, Simons instead looks to Dior’s early history. He puts his minimalistic spin on some of the founder’s original designs, moving Dior in a radically different, much more understated direction. John Galliano and his contributions, including the Saddle Bag, are all but forgotten. 

2014-2016:

Dusting off their vintage styles, celebrities are ready to saddle up again! In 2014, Beyoncé steps out with a black-and-blue, tie-dyed Saddle Bag (From article by The Purse Blog). Two years later, K-pop star CL (From instagram by chaelincl  instagram profile) shows off a Saddle bag from the very coveted, very rare Adiorable line on her Instagram feed. 

Resale shops begin selling out of the style, which they once priced as low as $150. 

2018:

The Saddle Bag is experiencing a major comeback, and Dior’s latest and first-ever female creative director Maria Grazia Chiuri takes notice. Responding to the increased demand, she reissues the Saddle Bag in Dior’s Fall/Winter 2018 collection (From article by Vogue Runway). In her show, which draws inspiration from the Paris student protests of 1968, Grazia Chiuri reintroduces the Saddle Bag in beaded fringe, denim patchwork, printed canvas, and grained calfskin leather. Modernizing the classic silhouette, it is now larger, comes with a detachable crossbody strap, and features the updated Oblique logo. Grazia Chiuri proves, that after 18 years, the Saddle Bag is still “one of those emblematic pieces that always manages to remain contemporary.” (From article by Vogue) 

Later that year, in July, Grazia Chiuri launches a social media campaign to promote the Saddle Bag before it hits stores. She enlists 100 of fashion’s insiders to post photos of them carrying it to their Instagram feeds. Within hours, the platform is flooded with #DiorSaddle. Because few of them tag Dior or mark their posts as sponsored, violating advertisement terms, the campaign is widely critiqued. But, searches for both vintage and reissue Saddle Bags still spike by 957% within 48 hours. (From article by Who What Wear)

Photo: The Daily Front Row

2019:

Kim Jones, Dior’s artistic director of menswear, follows suit and reinterprets the Saddle Bag for men. Showing in Jones’s first collection for the newly renamed Dior Men, his take replaces the ‘CD’ letter charms with an industrial-style buckle from Matthew Williams of ALYX and transforms the silhouette into a belt bag and backpack. 

Present: 

Because Dior has resurrected the Saddle Bag, vintage styles now sell for up to $3,500, depending on their rarity and condition. 

It is time to giddy up, and get a Dior Saddle Bag! 

How to care for a Dior Saddle – vintage or ReIssue

In case you already have a Dior Saddle bag and want to make it last as long as possible (for yourself or for potential resale), here are a few tips that are good to follow!

The Saddle bag is available in a plethora of materials, most famously leather or Oblique jacquard.

If your Dior Saddle bag is made from leather, you can easily dust of the bag with a dry microfiber cloth – or a damp cloth and then dry it off –  after use. This will prevent possible stains from drying up and getting harder to remove. It’s always a good idea to use a leather conditioner in order to keep your leather items looking nice and fresh, and we recommend you do this four times a year as the seasons change.

Besides leather conditioner or cream, you can actually also spray your leather goods with water repellent. This is especially a good idea for the fall and winter periods.

In order to preserve the Oblique jacquard best possible, we recommend that you wipe it with a dry microfiber cloth in order to avoid small stains and dust collecting after every use. Avoid wearing the Oblique jacquard bag with dark denim and items with sequins or other things that can get stuck and tear the material.

As with all bags, you should always strive to store the Dior Saddle bag in its dust bag to avoid discoloration from the sun as well as moisture. Remember to empty out the bag when it’s not in use and instead stuff if with something like tissue. 

Written by Anna Villani, edits by Alberte Gram
Anna Villani is a fashion writer based in Copenhagen
The people pictured are not associated with The Archive
or The Vintage Bar, and do not endorse the products shown.