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 navy 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 any ol’ fancy piece of footwear that looks at me the right way, I’m far more discerning when it comes to handbags.
Carrying the Antonia bag from Shrimps.
This means I'm fussy in many ways. My bags have to be versatile, well-made, on-trend and 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 handbag bags 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…
Best Luxury Handbag Brands
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 is doing the trend-smashing options as well as 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 new wave of styles (like this slouchy, ruched pouch) is proving to be a sales hit. They keep selling out…
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. This woven tote is my absolute favourite—an entirely classic, wear-with-everything option with so much pizzazz.
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 a sucker for anything with its logo.
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. Perhaps, in my opinion, the chicest of them to date is the C bag pictured here. It's a truly classic shape with bold-yet-unobtrusive metal hardware. If only…
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. This bucket is a great example.
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.
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.
Best Contemporary Handbag Brands
Me and Deputy Editor, Emma Spedding, with our favourite Wandler bags.
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.
You certainly get a lot of design bang for your buck with American brand, Staud. Despite its styles being a bit more out there, I still think they transcend seasons and can be carried confidently for a long, long time.
Scandi label Boyy definitely veers towards a more expensive realm, but have you felt how butter-soft its leathers are? Or seen the beautiful suede linings? Well worth it.
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.
Trademark was once a ready-to-wear brand, but its accessories were so strong that it's now become the focus for the American brand. This quirky front-handled bag has become something of a signature for them.
If you're looking for the new name to know and a brand that not everyone is carrying yet, meet Cafuné. I own one of these egg bags in a cream leather colourway and it always garners compliments. This brand is truly offbeat and unique.
Turkish brand Manu Atelier is something of an influencer favourite. You'll spot its mini trunk bags on literally everyone we follow, but now there are new, very cool styles coming through like this trapeze shape—far more practical for day-to-day life and the required toot we need to carry around.
Scandi label ATP create both the coolest minimal bags and the very chicest summer sandals. We're partial to buying both because they're handmade by local artisans and finished using veg-tanned leathers, so they're more economically friendly to boot.
Italian brand Nico Giani creates really cute structural shapes in multiple block colourways. It's still one of those slightly under-the-radar brands that your entire gang won't know about yet.
Best Affordable Handbag Brands
My cat, Folly, and a cute beaded bag from Topshop.
Buying expensive-looking handbags on the high street is still—even in 2019—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, novelty styles on a budget. Sometimes it's tricky to tell whether a beaded bag cost you £500 or £25, for example.