Although subjective and mired in controversy, a bag’s staying power is nevertheless a topic of particular interest among us purse-lovers.
Sometimes, we can all unanimously agree when a handbag has run its course and should be discontinued by its brand.
At other times, we at PurseBlog are entirely overwhelmed by your support for a purse (like the Givenchy Antigona) that continues to impress year after year.
Rarer is when a handbag, nay, an entire range of handbags and shoes (that many in the fashion set so wisely proclaimed wouldn’t last beyond a season or two), not only become a mainstay in the designer’s lineup for more than a decade into its release but actually ingrains itself into the very house-code of the brand.
Well, such is life – sometimes we are in for a surprise where we expect it the least.
And that is the surprise Valentino’s Rockstud line has been giving us, the lovers of all things fashion, since its inception in 2011. Featuring handbags in every silhouette imaginable, shoes ranging from sneakers and boots to pumps and kittens, SLGs, accessories, and even jewelry, the Rockstud has become as integral to Valentino as… honestly, I can’t think of anything else at the moment that feels as Valentino as the Rockstud range.
Valentino’s history had two distinct phases – a pre-Rockstud era and a post-Rockstud era. And me, being the unashamed product of the post-Rockstud timeline (or, at least, having learned about the brand well after the launch of the collection), I seem to have a hard time associating the brand with anything else!
But if you were to come across any of the myriad studded purses currently available in the sphere of luxury brands, would you buy it – without any regard to its staying power, trendy/classic appeal, financial implications, and the various other factors we take into consideration when making a sound purchase?
Chances are slim. That’s because the stud-centric aesthetic has rarely been seen as a timeless or classic design. Rather, known for their rock-chic appeal, most studded purses generally embody a biker-esque look associated with all things trendy and/or seasonal. And we’re all aware of how quickly those run the risk of looking dated, right?
So, how has Valentino maintained the Rockstud’s status as an iconic cult item rather than something that would slide into obscurity for most buyers after a season? To understand that, we need to delve deeper into the nature of studded purses.
A Brief History of Studded Handbags
Believe it or not, studs have been around longer than most popular purse adornments, like crystals or sequins. In fact, one of the oldest purses in the world, dating back to nearly 5,000 years ago, was uncovered in modern-day Germany and found to be a highly fashionable affair: a large leather handbag with a flap closure embellished with hundreds of dog teeth! Cool with an uppercase C existed way back in the Stone Ages!
But the more widespread use of studs came much later when fashion entered its era of obsession with handbags. Yes, I’m speaking of the 90s and the Y2K era – when maximalism was at its peak. And if you’re speaking of flashy purses, it goes without saying that studs will be on them. Thus, many (and I mean MANY) of our favorite nostalgia-inducing bags feature an array of studs. From the more ornamented renditions of the Prada Nylon Backpack and Givenchy Nightingale to the Christian Louboutin Paloma, the infamous Versace Snap Out of It bag, and the Balenciaga City – studs reigned supreme on many of these styles.
But most of these purses range from the period when brands were racing to release the next it-bag for the fashion set to be enamored with. And with that came the inevitable folly of it-bags – they were quickly replaced by the next big thing. Thus, for the house of Valentino Garavani, which released the Rockstud line of purses in 2011, a similar trajectory was predicted. And at the time, the design seemed to have all the trappings of an it-bag too. Yet it has lasted for over a decade in the high fashion hall of fame.
If you know fashion, you’re aware that the Valentino Rockstud range started off not as a line of handbags but of shoes. With varying heel heights that were both daring and comfortable, the Rockstud slingback pumps were launched to massive fanfare in 2010, to polarizing reactions. While its relative comfort (especially compared to the designed-to-be-painful Louboutins), pointy toes that elongated one’s legs, and overall funky aesthetic earned it instant recognition, many quickly announced that the style would rapidly saturate the shelves of budget retailers and fast fashion outlets. Its originality wouldn’t hold for much longer.
Proving them wrong, not only did the design endure, but the brand released its first line of Rockstud handbags by the next year. The most popular design was undoubtedly the Rockstud Trapeze tote, which was made available in various sizes, were instant sell-outs, but the house went on to release the bag in a horde of other silhouettes and materials. The Rockstud Chain Shoulder Bag, featuring quilts interspersed with both large and small studs, appeared to be a clever nod to the Chanel Classic Flap without seeming like a sloppy imitation. The Rockstud mini backpack, on the other hand, earned a place on the virtual shelves of influencers and a real place in the hearts of us commoners riding on the wave of the mini backpack trend.
Speaking of influencers, the rise of social media stars in the 2010s was undoubtedly a massive impetus for the brand. We all know online adverts have a habit of chasing us until we’re practically in love with it. But it wasn’t just that; the Rockstud’s vibe had a way of growing on people, even if they weren’t big fans, to begin with.
And alongside that, Valentino has constantly been reinventing the Rockstud, releasing it in a backdrop of denim, nylon, distressed leather, and more while also switching up the color of the studs themselves, like tone-on-tone red and black or graphic white on a contrasting background.
Even in Wednesday Martin’s 2015 book The Primates of Park Avenue, the author speaks of how enclosed the set of handbags women carried in New York’s Upper East Side were: rarely deviating from Hermès or Chanel except for the occasional Valentino. Clearly, it appears as if the Rockstud has earned its place as a sort of the handbag alter-ego of the more mainstream Holy Grail purses.
How the Rockstud has Remained Relevant
Valentino’s inception dates back to the 1960s when Valentino Clemente Garavani launched his namesake brand and debuted his first couture collection at the Pitti Palace in Florence. Ever since then, up to his retirement in 2007, the designer was known worldwide for his couture, with a penchant for the boldness of the color red (that he also trademarked, much like fellow shoe-and-handbag maestro Christian Louboutin), and boasted a vast and influential clientele including Queen Paola of Belgium, Elizabeth Taylor, Audrey Hepburn, and Jackie Kennedy.
The secret to the success of his couture? A sense of daring feminism, marrying old Hollywood glamor with aristocratic chic and modern confidence. The look was not only eye-catching but stayed with them too. In fact, Jackie O reportedly spotted a black Valentino dress on another woman and ordered six of the same for herself, later going on to wear a custom bridal dress at her wedding.
But although Mr. Garavani made himself known as one of the most iconic designers of the late 20th and early 21st centuries, the brand itself wasn’t known as widely for its handbags and shoes during his tenure as it was for couture. That all changed after he departed from the company; however, when Maria Grazia Chiuri (yes, currently of Dior) and Pierpaolo Piccioli assumed the position of the creative leadership of the brand jointly in 2008, and the Rockstud line was the brainchild of the dynamic duo and arguably the first major milestone in the brand’s transition towards a more updated identity. So, you might remember certain older purse styles from the brand, like the Bow Tote and the Nuage Hobo, but the Rockstud is what will undoubtedly dominate your search results for Valentino handbags.
And while the Rockstud line may have seemed like a completely different pivot for the brand initially, the underlying influence of Mr. Valentino makes itself known – have you ever seen a handbag that was so edgy and feminine at the same time? Plus, the design is highly flexible – the studs can show up along the edges of the purse like in the Trapeze Tote, or all over as in the case of the Chain Shoulder Bag, or in accordance with the puffy quilted trend in the more recent Candy Stud and Roman Stud ranges, or simply as one shining, statement-making jewel, like the brand’s newest addition to the studded line, the One Stud Bag.
Speaking of jewels, perhaps the best thing about the Rockstud and Valentino’s other studded handbags is that they’re just as adaptable as jewelry is on people. Just like how an exquisite piece of ornamentation, like a Tiffany and Co. ring or a Cartier love bracelet, can be styled with multiple outfits, be it jeans, formals, or even a wedding ensemble, Valentino’s studs are like little pieces of jewelry on a handbag, spicing up the more generic quilted flap or making even the most boring tote interesting. And it has single-handedly given the stud an air of elegance. Be it via a dainty top-handle, a rocker shoulder bag, or a work carryall with a slight edge.
The Rockstud line has endured through the times and still makes itself instantly recognizable. It may not be a conventional classic like the Hermès Birkin or the Chanel Flap, but its funky-meets-refined style will always remain a cult classic. And if you’re worried about whether it will look dated or unstylish, don’t worry – it’s as much of a signature to Valentino as Mr. Valentino himself!