hen we reflect on what we considered to be essential over the last year, our handbags will likely not even feature in the top 100.
Our bags deserve a night out on the town, and so do we. We’re hitting the virtual shelves in the hunt for the ultimate finishing touch to our post-lockdown looks with styles that transcend seasons and will stand the test of time in our accessory arsenal.
Over the years, bag trends have yo-yoed from one extreme to the next. We’ve seen the teeny-tiny, constantly shrinking micro-bag that will hold a stick of gum if you’re lucky, as well as supersized styles that will fit everything but the kitchen sink. There are pared-down palettes and muted tones as well as sartorial statements in eye-popping patterns and prints. The enduring 90s fashion revival has seen the resurrection of baguette shapes and beaded bags and with the return to office life, we need a timeless tote to trek our laptop to and fro, and a reliable bucket silhouette that’s perfect for carrying champagne to the park. Summer also signals warm weather-ready styles of the basket nature.
While still being a forever style, emerging handbag brands have proven that it need not require a crippling mortgage to flex your style credentials. There are contemporary labels offering up future icons for less than £300 – much kinder on your piggy bank than the major design houses – while still placing craftsmanship at the forefront.
See our edit of the affordable handbag brands to have on your radar.
Parisian accessories label Elleme (pronounced ‘elle aime’ or ‘she loves’ to those on this side of the Channel) combines the effortless styling that the City of Love is known for with the brand founder Jingjing Fan’s Asian heritage.
From soft shearling tote bags, to sumptuous leather pillow bags, Elleme’s offering extends to devotees in all camps. Minimalist and maximalist alike will be soothed by the colour palette that ranges from warm muted beiges to nods to neon. Opt between smooth constructions, raffia or croc embossing set on teeny minis or the carry-it-all structured Vosges model. The brand’s signature can be found with pleated rings for the handles, while there’s trend-led designs too with the baguette and envelope silhouettes.
If you’re not heading to the brand’s Le Marais-based store, it is stocked at Harvey Nichols, My Theresa and directly on the brand’s site.
You will have likely spotted the Staud bags on your Instagram feed without even knowing it. The collection of irreverent and statement designs are a fan-favourite among the style set since the brand’s inception in 2015 for the instant intrigue that they bring to any ensemble. The LA-born label are committed to doing things differently – a raison d’etre that has served them well and led to some of the most unique silhouettes on the market.
Pay particular attention to the beaded shoulder bags, the work-ready polished-leather triangle bags that have sophistication in spades and the Moon silhouette that acts as the sartorial representation of craftsmanship and understated elegance.
Your post-lockdown party look is missing one crucial detail – but no fear, Roop is on hand to resolve your outfit woes. The out out-ready bag offering at this London-based, black-owned and eco-conscious label is calling for a night on the town.
Natasha Fernandes Anjo crafts the bags from home with a sustainable edge – using surplus, discarded fabric. The style takes inspiration from a traditional Japanese cloth wrapping technique known as furoshiki and comes complete with an elasticated scrunchie-eque strap. The bags come in an extensive range of colours but don’t hesitate – as the materials are sourced from leftovers, you may just find once it’s gone, it’s gone.
For the Ages
Putting an accessible twist on a designer item, New York-based brand For The Ages is changing up the accessory game with its range of extraordinary bags at a more affordable price point.
Designer Jacqueline Syms has crafted capsule collection of baguette bags that take inspiration from the city in which they are created. Crafted for urban dwelling, the pieces have a 70s inspired curved silhouette, cotton-blend construction and a shimmery finish in the right lighting.
The line may only extend to a small quantity of variations but they make up for it with the vibrant hues. These are not understated bags, they are to be worn loud and proud in pink, yellow, or orange moiré.
Now considered cult among the Instagram set, By Far is beloved for its retro styling, taking inspiration from the 90s for its bags and shoes.
The Bulgarian brand has been donned by everyone from Kaia Gerber to Michelle Obama where each piece is handmade from sustainable Italian leather or suede. The baguette shoulder bags are the perfect size to house just the essentials and come in lively, bright hues. They are all crafted in the same family-run factory with a nod to sustainability with the use of responsibly-sourced and deadstock material.
Budapest-born, London College of Fashion graduate Sandra Sandor founded Nanushka to bring you impeccably constructed pieces that will form the basis of your capsule wardrobe and accessory collection. The bags are modern, minimalistic and perennially chic with butter soft vegan leather constructions.
The bag range extend from the mini to the oversized with an extensive selection of styles and silhouettes to suit all tastes – whether its macrame, a ruched pillow or a sophisticated canvas shoulder bag. There’s a nod to current trends but always with a long-term outlook – these are bags that you will cherish for years to come.
First put on our radar with the best-selling ‘Ark’ bag – a summer favourite that was constructed in a crescent shape from bamboo – Cult Gaia has gone from strength to strength with accessories that transcend seasons and more closely resemble jewellery than bags.
While you’ll still find the cage constructions that will always be a signature to the label, they have been elevated with chunky chains in line with the popular embellishment found across the runway in recent seasons. While this hardware may have previous heavy connotations, it is made feminine and elegant. Look out also for the acrylic glass-like Art Deco-inspired geometric clutch and the awe-inspiring Pearl Bag that is a true Objet d’Art and belongs on the red carpet and on our arms.
If you resisted the recent trend for ever-shrinking micro-bags, then Kassl Editions will be the breath of fresh air that you’ve been looking for with its timeless and actually rather practical offering of shoulder bags.
The accessories are crafted with technical fabrics that are not only durable but also are water-resistant. These are bags that you don’t need to be precious with, they are made to stand the test of time in line with the brand’s objective to counteract overproduction. The oil-coated, cotton-blend canvas is used on small and medium shoulder, totes, clutch and carrier bags. Our favourite is the wool-blend felt design in two-tone grey and black.
Heimat Atlantica was founded with the desire to preserve traditional craftsmanship, where each piece is handwoven by artisans in Spain and Portugal. The designs too take inspiration from Europe as is evident by the porcelain charms, while the colours are bright, joy-inducing and playful.
The perfect antidote to your all-black winter wardrobe, these basket bags bring instant happiness to be worn come rain or shine. They have boxy constructions that fit far more than you’d think and are adorned with braided straps.
All the pieces from LASTFRAME are made in Takanohiro Okude’s hometown of Ishikawa, Japan. While the bags are vibrant and fun, they also are created with the intent on protecting Japanese craftsmanship.
The modern market bags put your tatty tote bag to shame with a specialised technical yarn that has a ribbed, pleated effect and playful patterns of the striped and checked nature. The designer uses contrasting colours and genderless designs that ensure they can be enjoyed by anyone and everyone.
Scottish-founded, Spanish-made accessory label Strathberry has become globally recognised as a favourite of Meghan Markle’s and it’s clear to see why.
The brand combines quality materials with contemporary designs made for everyday wearing. The classic designs are modern, playful and feminine to take you from picnics in the park to drinks after dark. They are offered alongside the brand’s seasonal capsule collections in line with the latest trends including canvas models adorned with tan leather. You’ll find the brand’s signature bar embellishment adapted in one way or another.
These are bags that will be passed down from generation to generation.
Stockholm-based accessories label puts an understated twist on designer handbags. While other brands may swathe their logos across the exterior, Little Liffner has no brand signifiers, taking a far more minimalistic approach to its designs.
The refined styling has made this a favourite with Kendall Jenner who is no doubt won over by the pared-back quality of the bags that puts silhouette and function in prime importance. The colours range from muted neutral browns and black, to pretty pink and neon greens set on tulip totes, evening croc baguette bags and angular box designs.
London-based bag label DeMellier hand crafts its wares in southern Spain and has become a go-to for the royals where Meghan Markle, Princess Beatrice and the Duchess of Cornwall have all been spotted adorning the brand as well as Beyonce, Lily Collins and many more.
The celebrity fan base is a testament to the practical, elegant designs. But this brand goes beyond just style – to which they have in spades – with every purchase, they’ll donate to its permanent charity initiative A Bag, A Life that gives medical treatments and vaccines to children in need in line with the label’s ‘by women for women’ ethos.