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HomeFashionThis Is the Best Time to Invest In YSL’s Iconic Mombasa Bag

This Is the Best Time to Invest In YSL’s Iconic Mombasa Bag

A version of the Mombasa for Saint Laurent fall 2002 

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.

Bottega Veneta spring 2023Photo: Armando Grillo / Gorunway.com
Bottega Veneta spring 2023Photo: Armando Grillo / Gorunway.com
Bottega Veneta spring 2023Photo: Armando Grillo / Gorunway.com

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.

YSL Mombasa bag, $245; therealreal.comPhoto: Courtesy of TheRealReal

The beauty of the Mombasa is that there was a version for everyone. In my own search, I had my eye on a teensy shoulder bag version, a light green canvas iteration with the littlest bone as the handle. Aw. Then there are the classic versions—larger and rounder—that come in every material from suede, animal hair, leather, to the aforementioned canvas. The colorways are extensive: black, caramel, white light pink, fuchsia, and lipstick red–the list goes on. The handles themselves are available in a standard animal horn, two tiny horns attached together, and curved, notched metal. There’s a sexiness to the bag; a ’70s loucheness that echoes a hobo bag shape but is tighter with more structure. A sturdy handle that can act as a weapon also helps anchor the piece and add some weight, ever-so-sensually.

A close-up of a version of the Mombasa for Saint Laurent fall 2002 

I have no hesitation that Mombasa is due for a comeback, partially because Bottega’s similar style is likely to be a hit. Under the previous creative director Daniel Lee, the Bottega bags sold like hotcakes. Intrecciato leather was whipped up into Instagram-ready square clutches in blinding slime green hues. The bags were so popular that at one point, leather goods ended up accounting for 74 percent of the Italian House’s profits. Their retail price could go up to $4,000, but some bags also retained 90 percent of their value on the secondary market. Not bad! Blazy’s first two collections for Bottega were strong, which can only bode well for attention on those horn-handled bags. I predict they will sell well, too.

But those will go for a pretty penny. Not everyone can cough up for a bag in the quadruple digits! Right now, those vintage Mombasa bags hover from $250 to $300. You’ll be right in step with a trend–and have a cool history on your shoulder, too.

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