Handbag Icon – The Gucci Bamboo

I’m not much of a handbag person, having grown up thinking that John Romain and Aigner were the height of fashion.   I’d always been perfectly satisfied with Coach until they left New York City for first Costa Rica and then China.  But then, so had most other domestic handbag makers.

I’ve not bought a new handbag in a while for that reason.  Instead I’ve turned to vintage and recently I came across one of the best of the best.  It’s the Gucci 0633, or the bamboo-handle bag.

The Gucci records are incomplete, but according to research by fashion historian Aurora Fiorentini, the bag probably was created in 1947.  The usage of bamboo might have been a way to reduce the amount of leather to make the bag, as a result of the continuing wartime shortages.  It is thought that this design was based on a bag Aldo Gucci had brought back to Florence from a trip to London.  It was a departure from all previous Gucci handbags as it was made of rigid leather, whereas before it Gucci bags were relatively unstructured and soft-sided.  The handle was shaped by holding the bamboo over a flame, and was shaped by hand.  Gucci continued to make the 0633, with slight modifications,  for years.

A Gucci bamboo-handle bag as illustrated in a 1960 Harper’s Bazaar.  The price was $69, or around $535 in 2012 dollars.

By the late 1980s, the Gucci name was not what it once was, having been cheapened by over-licensing and the production of cheaper canvas products with huge logos.   In 1989 Maurizio Gucci hired American Dawn Mello to revamp Gucci and to try and restore the company’s reputation as a luxury maker.  One of her first acts (even before she hired Tom Ford…) was to revamp the bamboo-handle bag.  It was enlarged, and was given a detachable shoulder strap.  They also made a smaller evening version out of colored satin and suede.

Today Gucci still makes the 0633, though it is greatly tricked up, with tassels and contrasting trim and exotic leathers.  They cost considerably more than $535 and I like mine better.

Thanks to the Gucci must-read book:  The House of Gucci, Sara Gay Forden


Filed under Collecting, Vintage Clothing

11 responses to “Handbag Icon – The Gucci Bamboo

  1. Beautiful! I would love to see the interior also! : )


  2. What a magnificent find! Where did you get it.. if you got it at a garage sale for $10 I’ll be very jealous. Truly a great piece!



  3. Great bag! I’m not much of a handbag person either. Maybe because my young woman-hood was concurrent with the popularity of blingy and logo-covered bags–neither of which is my thing, at all. I don’t know what the newer Gucci bamboo bags look like, but your description makes me pretty certain you own the better Gucci!


  4. PY

    This Gucci Bamboo is absolutely beautiful! It’s so timeless, classic and retro. It lets me think of the retro old Hollywood era, the great Hollywood Golden Age…


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