Posted on: January 8, 2024 Posted by: Comments: 0

If you’re a woman with a heart that beats for fashion, then it’s likely you have a not-so-guilty preference for one particular type of fashion item. Some girls can’t resist a new pair of earrings, others find the allure of a fresh jumper all too tempting to avoid. I’d say I’m a “shoe person” and have little to no control when I stumble upon a pair of heels that talk to my innermost desires.

Conversely, being a shoe person has made me really good at buying bags (let me explain). Since I’ll fall for almost any fancy piece of footwear that looks at me the right way, I’m far more discerning when it comes to handbags.

Carrying a new bag brand called Mandel at London Fashion Week

This means I’m fussy in many ways. My bags have to be versatile, well-made, current and yet with the potential to last season after season. I don’t love them unconditionally just because they’re new or pretty; they have to earn a place in my wardrobe. As such, I’ve become well acquainted with some of the best handbags in the business.

From affordable options that genuinely look more expensive (and won’t fall apart after a few wears) to the designer names that are actually worth spending your paycheque on, these are my recommendations for every handbag category…

This is my favourite little black bag. It’s by Prada and goes with every work outfit.

First things first: If you’re going to spend big bucks, please do so on something that will last. I’m not into putting down a wad of cash on something that will only look current for a season—my clothes, bags and shoes all have to work hard for the money.

With that in mind, I think there are certain luxury brands that are renowned for their top-quality leather goods as well as being able to tap into the fashion zeitgeist and produce something that feels at once current and timeless. Clever.

This designer handbag list could go on forever because it’s such a competitive market and there are so many options available, but I have narrowed it down to a mere six to help in your search.

Prada does trend-smashing options as well as it does classics. I’m a big fan of the brand’s hardwearing Saffiano leather (that’s like a textured high-shine finish) when it comes to choosing a quality day bag you want to carry non-stop.

Another Italian luxury fashion house revered for its high standards and impeccable finish, Bottega may be better known for its signature woven bags, but a newer wave of styles (like this slouchy, ruched pouch) is proving to be a sales hit. They keep selling out…

The New York tote is undeniably a coveted staple from the brand, but the silhouette’s smaller sister, the Midi New York, is also a great option worth investing in. 

This Spanish brand is known for its incredible leathers, and it’s something that creative director Jonathan Anderson has amped up to the max, creating many It bags since he started at the brand in 2013. The puzzle bag has been particularly popular again over the past year or so and I can see why—it’s so laid back and easy to use.

We can’t talk handbags without mentioning Saint Laurent, their notable Le 5 À 7 is a timeless top handle design. 

Show me a fashion editor who doesn’t have a Gucci bag. Almost every industry person I know has a bit of the GG action in their lives, and for good reason. This brand knows exactly how to created buzzed-about items, but it also knows how to produce a really solid, everyday kind of crossbody mini bag—a holy grail for those of us on the go.

We all know Fendi’s Baguette bag is a thing of beauty and will forever be cool, but the Italian fashion house creates other great handbag styles too. Right now, I’m into this First clutch bag.

Chloé has had more It bags in its time than I’ve had really hot dinners, and many of those styles from the past still stand up today as a worthwhile investment. Many of the Chloé bags feature quite distinct hardware details and I have to admit, I prefer the plainer options. So this canvas Woody tote is the kind of bag I’d happily carry year-round forever more. 

British brand Mulberry is still respected for its top-quality manufacturing and hardworking handbags, but the product offering these days is so much more varied and exciting than it was a decade ago. Creative Director Johnny Coca has injected a whole lot of fun into the brand whilst maintaining a steady stream of sensible, covetable handbags too. I like it when those two sensibilities come together to create something that’s a statement but not so specific you can only wear it with certain outfits. 

Hermès bags are amongst some of the most expensive in the world due to the incredible craftsmanship behind each and every piece. The French brand’s leather goods also tend to retain their value (so long as you don’t completely destroy one) and could be considered a very wise investment if you have, oh, you know, £10,000 or more to spare.

French fashion house Celine is well know for its beautiful handbags, from the iconic luggage tote to modern day classics like the crossbody Triomphe. The perfect black bag, it’s equal parts practical and stylish. Well worth the investment, we feel. 

The Row’s Margaux bag has been claimed by experts as the modern-day Birkin. And we can see why. There’s nothing to not love about this gorgeous creation, and we firmly believe (and hope) it will hold it’s value just as well as the Birkin does. 

Elleme’s raffia Baozi bag

This is the part of the handbag industry that’s been hotting up for years. Hitting around the £300 to £600 mark, new designer brands you can perhaps afford have been cropping up every season. With more to come for the rest of this year, it’s clear that both retailers and shoppers are responding with some real zeal.

Once upon a time, this corner of the market was pretty empty (you could maybe get something around this price point from Marc Jacobs or See by Chloé), but now, it’s hard to filter my favourites down into something digestible for you and your wardrobe. I’ve given it my best shot by grouping together the best contemporary bags I’ve invested in as well as the favourites amongst my fellow editors.

If something classic is your jam, then Aspinal of London is the answer. The British brand has seen great success with its smart top handle bags, toted by some of the most famous celebrities, from Kate Middleton to Jennifer Lopez. Personally I love their woven styles, like this satchel-like crossbody which looks so chic with whites, creams and beige tones.

Australian label Oroton has only recently come to the UK but the brand is over 80 years old and a real favourite in its homeland. It’s all about pared back shapes in neutral colours, aka the kind of simple-yet-effective handbags that go with everything.

Wandler is perhaps the most popular handbag brand in our office (four people own one). New styles are now filtering in and all of us would be more than happy adding to our collection. I’ve carried my mini Wandler (in white, might I add) so many times that you’d expect it to be battered, but it still looks perfect.

When it comes to perfect straw bags, Muuñ is the one. These are handwoven in Ghana, finished in Paris and all come with handy inner pouches to keep your belongings safe.

Elleme is a French brand that I’ve been in love with for a few years now. I own a couple of its styles — a Baozi and one of these Raisin totes (above) — and get plenty of wear out of both. They’re unusual but still plain enough to keep using on repeat, plus they’re beautifully manufactured.

Dragon Diffusion’s bags are handmade and purposefully created to feel artisanal and unique with slightly wonky silhouettes and an aged patina finish. They’re the perfect chuck-everything-in-and-go kind of bags, and French girls are particularly keen.

When it comes to trendsetting bags, BY FAR is always at the start of the curve. Its ’90s inspired shoulder bags have spawned many a copycat, and now they’re experimenting more with iterations like pocket styles and fun colours. 

I’m a huge fan of Marni’s mainline leathergoods (and its Trunk bag is a classic style I’m really keen to save up for one day), but there’s a little diffusion artisanal line called Marni Market, which is full of joyful shoppers and totes in woven, knitted and crocheted fabrics at more affordable prices. They are selling out fast, obviously!

My cat, Folly, and a cute beaded bag from Topshop.

Buying expensive-looking handbags on the high street is still—even in 2024—really difficult. I think it’s best to go one of two ways: Either opt for something really minimal (and ideally made of suede or leather) or choose to indulge the wilder trends and cuter styles on a budget. Sometimes it’s tricky to tell whether a beaded bag cost you £500 or £25, for example. 

COS’s bag offering has really improved over the last few seasons, with super-minimal leather and fabric styles that you could easily trick someone into thinking they’re from The Row. No joke! 

If you’re into designer styles but don’t have the budget to spare, then Mango will be a surefire hit. The brand specialises in affordable, but expensive-looking designs that feel elevated and incredibly modern. 

Charles & Keith’s vegan leather bags are more exciting than your average, and the brand will try quite daring trends. You can also find bags that strike a note somewhere in the middle, like this sleek minimalist style.

Regular readers will know that we really rate H&M for affordable classics you’ll have in your wardrobe for years. The brand’s bag selection is one of the best on the high street, with plenty of staple styles as well as cute evening options and practical totes, too.

Baggu’s reusable nylon bags are just so handy!

Arket’s bags are of a similar ilk to COS: Minimal in style, nicely made and guaranteed to last. Its cross-body bucked styles have been particularly favoured recently.

Zara is always going to be more trend-driven than classic, but grab-and-go styles like this tote will be handy for many years to come.

Zara’s sister brand Massimo Dutti has been serving up expensive-looking handbags for years, but this season’s offering feels particularly special. 

Next up, This Classic Handbag Will Never Go Out of Style – 17 of the Best for Every Budget. 

This story was published at an earlier time and has since been updated.

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