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How Bottega Veneta’s Lauren 1980 went from film set to fashion cult

Paul Schrader’s 1980 movie, American Gigolo is inevitably one of the most crucial turning points in the fashion industry. The young Richard Gere’s character of Julian Kaye, a narcissistic male escort, became the lynchpin to Giorgio Armani’s rise to fame. Gere’s Armani wardrobe in the movie created a new sartorial trend – relaxed, classic Italian bespoke tailoring – that defined the all-American style in the early 80s.

Lauren Hutton and Richard Gere in American Gigolo. (Credit: Paramount Pictures/Photofest)

But it was Michelle Stratton, an unhappy character of a senator’s wife, played by the legendary model-turned-actor Lauren Hutton that stole the limelight with one particular look that she carried throughout the entire movie – a Bottega Veneta clutch.

Of course, her wardrobe was equally stunning; reflecting the quintessential cool and confident tailored look of the era. Whether she was in a grey trench, a sleek purple shirt or a loose feminine blouse, the soft-woven-leather clutch – in this particular red tone – was always by her side, tucked under her arm.

The Bottega Veneta clutch was always by her side. (Credit: Paramount Pictures/Photofest)

The movie, however, received mixed reviews from critics. Following the movie, the bag, which was first presented in the Bottega Veneta collection during the late 1970s, found its way into the brand’s archive, presumably to never be seen again for the next decade to come.

During Bottega Veneta’s 50th anniversary, Tomas Maier (former Creative Director of the brand) also celebrated his 15-year tenure in the fashion house. The year was 2016, and it was the year when the brand decided to bring back this archive bag to live. The same year, Lauren Hutton was invited to walk the Spring/Summer 2017 runway show – of course, carrying the exact same clutch paired with a beige trench – in honour of her stylish character from the movie.

Bottega Veneta AW17 Milan Fashion Week witnessed the revival of the Lauren 1980 clutch. (Credit: Bottega Veneta)

The re-edition of the bag named ‘The Lauren 1980’ (for obvious reasons), paid homage to the supermodel and the year of the movie. Since its auspicious reappearance on the runway, fans have made The Lauren 1980 a cult favourite.

This iconic Bottega Veneta bag is one of many archive pieces that have resurfaced. Of late, leading fashion houses have been drawing ideas from their history books to project a modern reinterpretation of classic looks.

Still, the idea of the past informing the present is not new. Iconic pieces like Gucci’s Sylvie and Dior’s Saddle Bag have transcended time and recognised today for their unique features, intricate detailing and signature look. Similarly, the Lauren 1980 was reintroduced with the exact design and material of the original version — paying tribute to its archetypal silhouette.

It’s really impossible to not pay attention to the Intrecciato Nappa leather that has become synonymous to Bottega Veneta’s code of aesthetics. This keepsake perfectly illustrates how each Bottega Veneta’s piece could mould itself to its wearer over time; leaving a classic and timeless touch to its unassuming designs.

When it was first reignited, the bag only came in one exclusive colour, the Gigolo Red. No prizes for guessing why, the shade is an elegant hue that creates a pretty good argument for investing in a classic number like this. Similar designs were subsequently introduced in various exotic textures such as crocodile and ostrich skins, with a myriad of flattering colours from desert rose to teal and dark bronze.

The re-edition respected the original aesthetics but sported a much more seamless and sleek look. The leather underwent a special tannery procedure called nuvolatura, which highlighted the chiaroscuro effect and produced an antique shine, ubiquitous to the style in the late 70s.

A contemporary take on the iconic Lauren 1980 bag. (Credit: Bottega Veneta)

Following its successful return, The Lauren 1980 took a fun and playful turn during the Fall/Winter 2018 show with checkered graphic cube leitmotifs, which were carefully crafted through a seamless weaving process. The outcome is stunning and modern, giving the clutch a refreshing transformation from its monotonous charm.

The Lauren 1980 is a revival of Hutton’s enigmatic and sophisticated character in American Gigolo. The unpretentious bag that highlights the meticulous Italian craftsmanship has also brought Bottega Veneta’s name a few notches up, especially being such a ‘young brand’ in the early 80s.

The stunning Hutton during the Spring/Summer 2018 show. (Credit: Bottega Veneta)

Its release from the archival repository has been a special moment for Hutton who shared in a 2017 interview (flashing the revived clutch): “At the end of filming they let me keep my whole wardrobe, but I couldn’t remember what had become of the bag, but there it was! They had it!”

How Bottega Veneta’s Lauren 1980 went from film set to fashion cult

Martin Teo


Martin has a bent for history and food culture, especially of the Peranakan heritage. Since the pandemic, he finds joy in plant parenting and continues to expand his collection of Philodendrons, Anthuriums, and Syngoniums. On his free time, he finds time scouring through the latest cafes in search for the best croissant in the city.


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