It took a year to create, and when four prototypes were unveiled last March at the Chanel show in Paris, they were closely guarded. After their catwalk debut security guards whisked them away like diamonds to an underground vault. Fashion experts took note: the 2005 had arrived.

To the people at Chanel these ergonomic miracles were well worth protecting. For the 2005 (pictured) is the single most exciting handbag to appear in decades. Its hard, rounded and moulded shape has been achieved thanks to the development of an injected polyethylene shell, hand-coated with fabric or leather, and it has been likened to a futuristic lunchbox, the curve between a woman's hips and waist, a piece of aerodynamic equipment from a space rocket, an aeroplane headrest, a pear, a bean and a pebble. It is simply a "body-friendly" handbag with no sharp angles, which can be tucked comfortably under the arm or snuggle against the hips when attached to the shoulder straps.

Karl Lagerfeld wanted a new accessory to take the house of Chanel into the next millennium, and knew that to achieve this he had to create something that most people would find, if not downright odd, at least a little hard to take on board. The 2005 was the answer.

And the truth is, if the Classic 2.55, the quilted and gilted bag introduced by Chanel in 1955, is your idea of a handbag, then the 2005 is not for you - yet.

The 2005 is for modern-minded individuals, and the black leather version I managed to get hold of (they also come in chocolate, black and red jersey, and an orangey pink tweed) looks a dream with a bit of navy, black or red modern minimalism. It also looks good with sportswear but not with anything remotely frou- frou.

It is in two parts held together by steel plates, which act as hinges - branded with the famous interlocking C's - and inside are eight sections for all those little things girlies put in their handbags. My wallet, keys, compact, lipstick, mascara, cheque-book, mobile phone, and pen fitted, but my book didn't. And that's the thing about the bag: it is so "well" designed that each new owner must learn where the designer intended things to go. It is sadly not a case of chucking it all in and hoping it will fit.

The official party to launch the 2005 (price, a cool pounds 900) was on Thursday night, and no doubt the society ladies, party girls and celebrities in attendance were getting their first in-the-flesh look. Some will have placed their orders immediately, some will have turned their nose up. But rumour has it that Meg Matthew's Christmas stocking will have a peculiar bulge on 25 December.