I’m looking for an adult bag to graduate into for fall. No logos. No funny business. No saggy, crumpled silhouette. I don’t want to look like I’ve been dragging an exhausted sack of leather through the city, busted from borough to borough. I need something a bit more…serious. No ’ciaga City Bag for moi (anymore). As a fan of vintage bags, I have another iconic 2000s piece on my mind: Yves Saint Laurent’s Mombasa bag. It’s delicious with quality leather, dangerous with a hefty horn handle, and comes in a classic shape.
My newly revived obsession with this bag bizarrely comes at the perfect time. This past week, for Bottega Veneta’s spring 2023 collection, creative director Matthieu Blazy churned out kidney-shaped bags similar to the Mombasa, with a metal handle in the shape of a horn. Now they are Bottega-fied and available in a soft yolk yellow, optic white, and standard black leather.
The pieces looked oh-so-Mombasa that I received several texts about the bag that was everywhere in the early 2000s. There’s a great piece by Cathy Horyn in the New York Times titled “Must You Have the Bags They Say You Must Have?” from June 11, 2002 that muses on about the ubiquity of the bag–and, more so, what makes an accessory hot, and eventually not.
The Mombasa, named after the Kenyan coastal city, was created by Tom Ford, the purveyor of slick naughty sex, during his tenure at Yves Saint Laurent. He sent it out to 50 editors in total in New York City, as well as Gwyneth Paltrow. (Strategic gifting is a key part of the story behind all buzzy bags; Proenza Schouler’s PS1 and the Balenciaga City bag soared to popularity thanks to their respective designers doling the pieces out to friends.) The trick worked for Ford. According to Horyn, the Mombasa hit stores, sold out, manifested a waiting list, and helped YSL sell 90 million dollars of accessories, accounting for 26 percent of total sales.