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Whether you grew up longing for a Louis Vuttion Speedy or have forever idolized Gucci and Chanel, the best luxury purse brands never fail in the arm candy department. Though the investment is always a steep one, the bestselling designer purses from the most iconic labels carry their value over time and mean you own a piece of history. So, when determining what among the most popular designer handbags of 2022 deserves a place in your wardrobe, you must first realize the year’s biggest trends. Then, decide what feels most in line with your aesthetic, whether that be everyday satchels, crossbody and shoulder bags or special-occasion clutches and vacation totes.
Lately, ’90s and ’00s nostalgia heavily influences nearly every fashion corner, and the best designer handbags to invest in are all but an exception. Stephanie Gonzalez, a retail merchandiser and pricing specialist at Fashionphile, says this Y2K handbag revival largely centers around the iconic hobo bag, now transformed into crescent shoulder bags with short and crossbody straps. “The half-moon hobo shape is not going anywhere anytime soon,” Gonzalez tells WWD. “A perfect example is the Balenciaga Le Cagole shoulder bag, which was featured in the brand’s fall ’21 collection and has been seen recently on celebrities like Kim Kardashian, Julia Fox and Bella Hadid.” Similarly, she notes that the Monogram Loop bag from Louis Vuitton’s cruise ’22 collection is proving to be another nostalgic favorite.
Minimalism is another peak ’90s look currently influencing the best luxury leather handbags, which are undoubtedly among the top designer purses every woman should own. “Smooth leather bags are everywhere,” Gonzalez says. “The versatile material can be transformed into a flawless, durable and classy textile when made out of calfskin leather, or a very delicate, luxurious buttery finish when made out of lambskin,” she says.
In addition to modern luxury staples, Cassie Smart, head of womenswear at MatchesFashion, says, “we’re also seeing a strong increase in fashion occasion pieces.” Bags of this nature range from uniquely-shaped clutches and wristlets to small-scale bucket and top-handle bags with elegant details, all from the most popular purse brands like Bottega Veneta, Gucci, Saint Laurent and more.
The different types of designer handbags
Designer handbags come in all shapes and sizes to suit every taste and lifestyle.
- Mid-size designer handbags. When crafted from durable materials like leather, suede or canvas, mid-size shoulder and bucket bags, top-handle silhouettes and crossbody designs are ideal for carrying daily essentials like a wallet, phone, makeup and hand sanitizer. They often feature an interior compartment or two for organizational purposes, many with an easy-access pocket to hold an ID or credit card. Polished hardware and chainlink detailing lend edge and uniqueness to these types of bags, while designs featuring brand insignia appeal to logo lovers and maximalists alike. “Both the Saint Laurent Niki shoulder bag and the Gucci 1955 Horsebit shoulder bag make the perfect mid-size bag for day-to-day wearing,” Smart says. “Both styles are such great investments and will work hard in your wardrobe for years to come.” Gonzalez points to the popular Chanel Quilted Medium Chanel 19 Flap for fans of a timeless mid-size bag, deeming it a go-to silhouette. “Available in more than five textiles and several colors, our customers’ favorite version of the purse is done in lambskin leather,” she tells WWD. “The easy-to-open flap with a modern CC turn-lock opens to a roomy interior, perfect for those who despise digging out their belongings from the bottom of their bag and want to find things quickly.”
- Large designer handbags. The best large designer handbags are perfect for those carrying a laptop or tablet in addition to daily essentials. Leather and suede options are, of course, the most durable and elegant styles to pair with work attire and other everyday polished outfits. At the same time, a design made with canvas or woven from natural materials is seasonally stylish to pair with warm-weather dresses and vacation attire. Gonzalez suggests Chanel’s Medium Deauville tote in Lurex Boucle for those who often travel or enjoy a large tote. “This tote has been a staple for a minute now, and it has plenty of room for both your essentials and not-so-essential essentials,” she tells WWD. The Fashionphile expert also highlights The Row’s Margaux and Park tote as two popular choices for more understated styles.
- Mini designer handbags. Whether for an event or special occasion like a wedding, mini designer bags — like clutches, small shoulder bags, buckets bags and top hand styles — in vibrant shades, unique shapes and featuring embellishments are ideal for adding texture and color to an outfit. They’re also some of the best lightweight designer handbags. Classic and neutral designs are versatile staples complementing outfits of all kinds, while more colorful designer handbags and detailed versions can serve as a focal point or play up an outfit’s various design elements and motifs. Gonzalez highlights Prada’s Cleo shoulder bag, Jacquemus’ Bambino and Le Chiquito silhouettes and Bottega Veneta’s Intrecciato Mini Jodie as popular options.
The most popular designer purses
When it comes to timeless designer handbags, Gonzalez points to Hermés and Chanel’s most popular styles: The Hermés Birkin and the Chanel Quilted Classic Flap. “Their unique yet simple silhouettes designed in durable, luxurious textiles make them so desirable and challenging to acquire at times, making them quite the hot topic as of late,” says the Fashionphile expert. “These factors affect their resale value on the secondary luxury market, as the merchandise is not necessarily accessible to all. These gems are worth a lot, especially when they come out of our customers’ closets in immaculate condition.”
Gucci’s Jackie bag and 1955 Horsebit styles are also top-ranked. “Gucci continues to go from strength to strength in the development of signature styles,” Smart says. “In particular, we see our customer resonating with the monogram, which is a timeless design that will never date. It also works incredibly hard and is complementary to your day-to-day wardrobe.”
As for new designer classics worth investing in, Smart says fresh shapes from heritage brands are an excellent investment. “Bottega Veneta’s modernization of the house intrecciato, for example, has led to such desirable and original designs,” she tells WWD. “Both Chloé and Loewe are perfect choices for someone looking for craft and artisanal elements and Saint Laurent and Gucci for someone looking for heritage logos that will never tire.”
Keep reading for the top 20 handbag brands that offer classic luxury handbags, the best designer handbags for work, vegan luxury handbags, the best purses for travel and the best everyday purse options of the designer variety. Plus, find care and storage tips to keep your most treasured totes, satchels, carryalls and clutches in pristine condition.
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A Gucci bag is among the most popular designer purses, from timeless leather styles to instantly recognizable logo-emblazoned versions. Heritage details are a hallmark of the brand, like the horse-bit hardware, which adorns not only the label’s bags but also its shoes, small leather goods and even clothing. “For someone looking for a designer classic shoulder bag, I love the heritage of the 1955 Gucci Horsebit, a true timeless classic encapsulating the heritage of the house,” Smart says. Then, there’s the Jackie 1961, creative director Alessandra Michele’s modern take on a ’60’s archival Jackie design. Net-A-Porter’s Senior Market Editor Libby Page tells WWD, “it’s still hugely popular for our store today and is a true investment purchase — style it with anything, such as a knit, denim and a pair of chunky boots for a go-to weekend look.”
The continued reinvention of Gucci bags includes collaborations with other designer labels, like the Balenciaga x Gucci GG Supreme Monogram Small Hourglass top handle bag seen on “And Just Like That.” According to Gonzalez, “it’s a hot style right now” and the perfect size for fans of smaller, more durable bags. It’s crafted from coated, water-resistant canvas with the iconic GG monogram.
Gucci 1955 Horsebit GG Supreme Shoulder Bag
Gucci Jackie 1961 Small Leather Shoulder Bag
Gucci Jackie 1961 Small Leather Shoulder Bag
Balenciaga x Gucci GG Supreme Monogram Bag
Chanel is one of the most sought-after luxury brands, especially for handbags — which have some of the highest resale values of all luxury bags. The French Fashion house has remained beloved for everything from its new silhouettes in recent collections to its famous quilted Flap, featured on celebrities like Zoë Kravitz, Dakota Fanning, Dua Lipa, Miley Cyrus and more. “Founded in 1910, this brand was one of the pioneers in the fashion industry and has a strong legacy,” Gonzalez says. “Chanel has set standards on shapes and quality, making it an expert on having long-lasting bags when taken care of properly. We see so many brands that have silhouettes inspired by this company.”
Chanel has always been exclusive. Many of its bags aren’t even sold in most department stores or online, making shopping for a bag challenging. Even more, many styles are limited, such as the recently sought-after Large 19 Flap, which was first unveiled in March 2019. This style, in particular, is excellent for everyday use with a soft yet durable shape and roomy interior for holding daily essentials. It comes in quilted leather and cotton canvas with multi-tone hardware — the former beautifully complementing polished outfits and the latter looking great with a T-shirt and jeans.
Chanel Caviar Quilted Medium Double Flap Black
Chanel Goatskin Quilted Large Chanel 19 Flap White
Bottega Veneta’s iconic luxury Italian handbags are synonymous with a signature intrecciato technique developed in the ’60s. Produced in the namesake region of northeast Italy that housed the brand’s headquarters, the style originated to make thin leather more durable by weaving it, not unlike straw or grass baskets. Ever since, Bottega Veneta bags have long been among the most coveted designer handbags, from the hard shell knotted box clutch to the ‘00s-era hobo. Recent #NewBottega iterations under the recent creative direction of Daniel Lee and now Matthieu Blazy, however, take a modern and exaggerated approach. Among the buzziest: The Cassette crossbody, Arco tote and nostalgic-inspired Jodie, all of which feature larger woven leather panels and carry much street-style clout. “Bottega Veneta continues to be a must-have fashion investment seen on, well, everyone,” Page says. “The Jodie has the perfect mini-meets-daytime functionality making it great for all occasions.” On the same note, Gonzalez says the Mini Jodie has been holding its resale value for a while, too. “We don’t expect it to slip out of style anytime soon,” she tells WWD. “For fans of the mini bags, like myself, who don’t carry much in their bags, this mini hobo is perfect,” she adds. “It has room for essentials such as your cell phone, cardholder and lipstick.”
Bottega Veneta Jodie Knotted Intrecciato Leather Tote
Prada may have begun in 1913, but the luxury Italian brand’s iconic bags remain some of the most coveted year after year. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the recent spike surrounds ’90s and aughts styles with a minimalist bent. This includes the ever-versatile and utilitarian Re-Edition nylon bags, like the 2000 and 2005 shoulder styles, both beloved for their practicality and nostalgic feel. If you’re hard on your everyday bag or simply prefer a highlight-durable design with a designer logo, these Prada iterations are unquestionably for you. They come in an assortment of colors from black, gray and white to powdery pastels in blue, lavender and pink.
Then, there’s the dressier Prada Cleo shoulder bag. “This is the bag we have seen everywhere,” Gonzalez says. “The small iconic hobo silhouette is made out of brushed calfskin leather, which gives it a shiny finish, perfect for a night out with girlfriends due to its size and classy look.” It’s another Prada design reimagined from ’90s archives, featuring a slim curved silhouette and offered in various colors and multiple sizes with slightly differing details, like a flap or zippered closure.
Prada Re-Edition 2005 Nylon Chain Shoulder Bag
Prada Re-Edition 2000 Mini Nylon Bag
Prada Cleo Small Leather Shoulder Bag
Prada Cleo Brushed Leather Shoulder Bag
“Saint Laurent, the French house founded in 1961, is synonymous with chic, classic and cool bags,” says Gonzalez, who deems the Kate Satchel bag one of the classic luxury bags everyone needs in their wardrobe. “The Kate Satchel bag has different textiles and colors per season, which are hard to spot for too long on traditional retailers’ shelves,” she tells WWD. Most are made from durable and scratch-resistant materials like Grain De Poudre (similar to Chanel’s caviar leather) and are ideal for those who don’t carry much in their day bag. Even more, the style effortlessly transitions to evening with elegant attire like cocktail dresses and tuxedo blazers. “We see variations in metallic calfskin leathers, patent leather, sequins and crocodile-embossed calfskin and have spotted this bag on celebs like Kendall Jenner, Hailey Bieber, Miranda Kerr, Zoë Kravitz and Taylor Swift,” Gonzalez adds.
If you’re after a designer bag channeling the ’90s redux, Page favors the Saint Laurent Le Fermoir. “This vintage-inspired shoulder bag is the perfect ’90s hobo,” she tells WWD. “Wear it with a black turtleneck, high-waisted blue jeans and over-the-knee boots for a complete Saint Laurent look.”
Saint Laurent Grain De Poudre Small Monogram Kate Satchel
Saint Laurent Fermoir Leather Shoulder Bag
Loewe’s now-iconic Puzzle bag was born in June 2014 after Jonathan Anderson took the creative helm at the Spanish luxury label. The Hammock soon followed for the spring ’16 season, and in every collection since, it seems a new It-bag emerges, from travel-ready totes to irresistible novelty minis. While both the Puzzle and Hammock continue to evolve each season, like this year done in Anagram-jacquard canvas or with the new Nugget interpretation featuring expandable sides, two more recent hits are among 2022’s most popular designer bags: the Amazona top-handle bag and the Surplus woven-leather bag. “The Loewe Surplus bag is perfect for someone looking for more of a sustainable way to purchase,” Smart says. “Presenting a new way to re-think and re-use high-quality materials of previous Loewe collections, this beautifully handcrafted style is a strong addition to the brand’s DNA of craft at the core.” Additionally, Page points to the Amazona as an excellent work carryall with contemporary flair. “Returning from the archive, the Amazona is back with a modern take,” she tells WWD. “With adjustable straps, this classic style is one of this season’s most desirable bags.”
Loewe Surplus Small Woven-Leather Bag
Loewe Amazona 28 Medium Leather Bag
Paco Rabanne first debuted its iconic chainmail bag in 1969 during the glimmering disco era, featuring luminous discs not dissimilar to shimmering paillettes throughout. In recent years, however, you may have noticed newer iterations on the arms of celebrities like Priyanka Chopra and Emily Ratajkowski and fashion influencers including Caroline Daur, Maria Bernad, Courtney Trop and sisters Molly and Reese Blutstein. Why the redux? The answer lies in the French label’s 50th anniversary in 2019, when it partnered with MatchesFashion to launch a collection of six bag styles celebrating the brand’s history and artisanal technique. “I would always look to Paco Rabanne for modern evening styles, and we have seen our customer engage with the new pixel shape (which has now sold out),” Smart tells WWD. “The 1969 is such an iconic shape,” she continues. “The fact it’s 50 years old and still feels modern today presents it as a strong, timeless classic.”
Paco Rabanne 1969 Medium Chainmail Shoulder Bag
Hermés is one of the oldest French brands, founded in 1837, famous for some of the most exclusive (and expensive) bags in history. That’s right; we’re talking about the Birkin. “This classic simple silhouette paired with meticulous craftsmanship makes this model highly sought after in the fashion world for decades,” Gonzalez says. “The top-handle bag is designed to be a durable, timeless and long-lasting style, leading to the long wait times and qualifying purchase history of which Birkin shoppers are familiar with. These hurdles make it no surprise that there’s a market for these beauties in the resale luxury business.” Coming in a mix of sizes, colors and leathers from box calf, clemence, epsom and togo to exotic porosus and niloticus crocodile, the bag has made fans of celebrities like Sarah Jessica Parker, Kate Moss, Olivia Palermo, Kourtney Kardashian, Lady Gaga and more. “We’ve also spotted some elusive bespoke Birkins (aka special order Horseshoe Birkins) on celebs like Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen, Cardi B, Victoria Beckham and Kylie and Kris Jenner,” Gonzalez reveals.
Hermés Togo Birkin 30 Gold
Whether you typically tend toward timeless, minimal bags or are seeking a new designer silhouette for mastering the Y2K redux, you can’t go wrong with a bag by Celine. Of course, the Classic crossbody featuring a flap and sleek clasp, trapeze-shaped Luggage tote and Belt carryall are all among the luxury French label’s best-sellers — each of which debuted under Phoebe Philo’s reign. However, newer designs like the 16 bag, one of creative director Hedi Slimane’s first for Celine, debuting in November 2018, and the Triomphe shoulder bag are two recent hits buzzing amid the fashion crowd. “Celine’s Triomphe shoulder bag is among the most popular smooth leather bags of the moment,” Gonzalez says. The short rectangular strap gives it a fresh look that still calls upon the early ’00s decade from which it’s inspired. Like the Classic, it’s perfect for everyday use, featuring a boxy shape with just enough room inside for daily essentials. However, the more ornate filigree clasp sets the bag apart, giving it an old-world feel that’s at once retro yet modern and perfectly balanced by the silhouette’s clean lines and structured shape.
Celine Triomphe Shoulder Bag
“Christian Dior is another one of our favorite French houses, founded way back in 1946 and known for its classy Lady Dior bag,” Gonzalez says. Beloved for its classically structured and sophisticated appeal, she adds, “This bag has its special name in honor of Princess Diana of Wales.” The versatile design has seen slight updates in construction over time for modernization’s sake and to keep it relevant. The extremely popular mini size includes a chain strap, making it more desirable than older, larger variations with an all-leather strap. Most importantly, the mini fits a phone, small makeup essentials and a credit cardholder — go-tos for a night out or special occasion. “If well taken care of, this style will serve its purpose on your shoulder and then in your bank account later when it’s time to move on and trade it in for something different,” Gonzalez says. Celebrities like Kristin Davis, Paris Hilton, Rhianna and Emma Roberts have all been seen sporting the roomier Lady Dior bag, while artist, model, photographer and influencer Nadia Lee Cohen has been spotted carrying the mini in multiple colors.
Christian Dior Metallic Lambskin Cannage Mini Lady Dior Lotus
Louis Vuitton is one of the most storied luxury fashion houses, started in 1854 in Paris and quickly becoming iconic for its trunks before handbags. Forty-two years later in 1896, Louis Vuitton’s son, Georges Vuitton, debuted the interlocking, floral-accented LV monogram following his ingenious single lock system invention on the label’s heritage trunks. Since then, the LV logo has become one of the most recognizable and cherished worldwide, appearing on famous Louis Vuitton handbags like the Noé bucket bag, which originally debuted for men, the iconic travel Keepall, which debuted in 1930, and later the beloved Speedy, first called the Express. It was actually Audrey Hepburn who requested a smaller-scale version of the Keepall weekender to use day to day, leading to the Speedy 25 featuring two top handles and a zippered closure with a roomy open interior. Catherine Deneuve and Lauren Bacall were also early adopters of the bag. Today, modern versions are carried by Kim Kardashian West, Sarah Jessica Parker, Rihanna and the Hadid sisters, among others.
What’s more, the famous Louis Vuitton monogram is printed on a coated cotton canvas and the dark brown Damier, not leather as many presume. This explains the material’s ability to withstand just about anything while looking great for decades, making it one of the most sound designer investments.
Louis Vuitton Speedy 30 Handbag
If you subscribe to minimalist style, it doesn’t get better than minimalist handbag designs by Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen’s The Row. Though less storied than famous luxury houses like Chanel, Valentino and Gucci, the 2006-born brand has earned its spot among such elite labels, boasting a distinctive look centered around exaggerated shapes and impeccable simplicity. This subtle elegance carries over into The Row’s handbag assortment, including the cult-loved Ascot — an occasion-perfect mini bag featuring knotted handles in lustrous satin — and the delightfully off-kilter Half Moon shoulder bag, coming in brand-right neutral tones like camel, white and black in smooth Italian leather with a supple suede lining. But larger silhouettes from the brand are equally adored by the tote lover requiring plenty of room for day-to-day errands or travel. “Our customer has always resonated with understated luxurious styles, and more recently, The Row Margaux and Park totes have been key bags of choice,” Gonzalez says. “Both these styles are perfect for someone looking for a timeless classic.”
The Row Margaux 17 Buckled Leather Tote
The Row N/S Park Large Textured-Leather Tote
Balenciaga was founded 105 years ago by designer Cristobal Balenciaga in Spain and has since been one of the most coveted designer labels for handbags. “Balenciaga is having a major moment this year,” Gonzalez tells WWD. “Most often, when thinking of a Balenciaga purse, the City bag comes to mind, introduced in the early 00’s. “It’s made a comeback in the last year, and we don’t see it going anywhere anytime soon.” Yet another Y2K feather for your nostalgia cap. “It’s truly one of the first ‘It bags’ in a time when social media was not a presence in our everyday lives and has earned its spot in fashion history,” the Fashionphile expert continues. “We’ve seen the City bag in its early days on celebs like Nicole Richie, Lauren Conrad, Nicky Hilton, Beyonce, Rooney Mara, Hilary Duff, Whitney Port and Lindsay Lohan.”
Primarily crafted from lambskin — a typically delicate and easily scuffed material — Balenciaga’s unique distressing technique on the City bag makes the leather strong and durable, making the style a worthy investment. The slouchy design comes in many colors and size options, while features like a roomy interior, top handles and removable strap make it perfect for those looking for an everyday bag. The tough hardware adds to the cool factor, and even more, the style is no longer being produced. So, finding one in great preowned condition is a serious prize.
Balenciaga Agneau Classic Silver Hardware City
When it comes to mini designer bags, be they for going out, a special occasion or for novelty moments, no brand does it better than Jacquemus. It’s quite a feat to be so singularly linked with such a trendy handbag category as designer Simon Porte Jacquemus is. But since he launched his label in 2009 at 19 years old — the label’s name is an homage to his late mother’s maiden name — the brand’s bags have seen a cult following, particularly with styles like Le Chiquito and the Bambino, which debuted in the fall ’18 and ’21 collections, respectively. “Jacquemus’ Bambino and Le Chiquito are both uplifting styles,” Smart says. “[They’re] great for someone who is looking to add a pop of color to their wardrobe.” Another pro to the Bambino for 2022, which comes in various sizes, is how it hits on Y2K nostalgia while appearing sleek and timeless with polished and playful clothing alike. It comes in many colors, from vibrant tones to neutrals, crafted from leather and suede, appealing to all tastes. As for the Le Chiquito, sizes range, too, from the teensy viral Le Petite version measuring a mere four inches by 2.5 inches to the more practical Moyen, Long and Le Grande versions with larger handles you can actually sling on your arm or wear crossbody. The Le Chiquito are also offered in a rainbow palette of hues.
Jacquemus Bambino Suede Shoulder Bag
From small and large Peekaboos to the Zucca baguette and Mon Trésor, Fendi’s satchels, shoulder bags and buckets are among the most coveted designer handbags. Of late, the label’s ‘90s-era hits are the most popular, of course, with a cult following on the street style scene in New York, London, Milan and Paris. Believe us when we say few bags will earn you as many double-taps as a Fendi design. Also, like many It designer bags, Fendi’s best-selling styles can be hard to get. Yes, the biggest retailers carry them in-stores and online, unlike Chanel’s styles. However, sellouts are always imminent, and if you’re not quick, you’ll miss out. But thankfully, Fendi’s styles are easily shoppable on resale sites like Fashionphile, The RealReal, Rebag, Vestiaire Collective and LXR, all vetted for authenticity and good condition. Look to the label’s Sunshine leather shopper, available in large and small sizes if you’re after newer versions, or the Touch convertible crossbody if you’re more of the hand-free type.
Fendi Sunshine Leather Shopper
Stella McCartney is the pinnacle of vegan luxury handbags. But don’t presume her sustainable designs lack modernity or are exclusively crafted from hemp or raffia. Both materials, however, make for fine designer handbags, particularly for the summer season. As a pioneer of ethical design, the British designer has long used leather alternatives and was one of the first to use plant-based leather alternatives like Piñatex, a natural textile derived from pineapple leaf fibers, and Mylo, a renewable vegan material grown from the underground root structure of mushrooms called mycelium that offers the look and feel of leather. For 2022, McCartney debuted a new carryall to match the appeal of some of her bestsellers like the chain-adorned Falabella crossbody and shoulder bags or Stella perforated-logo tote bag. The new Falabella faux leather and raffia tote is the ultimate city-to-sea style, featuring a roomy trapeze shape and available in a range of colors and prints from bright orange to black and white stripes.
Stella McCartney Falabella Faux-Leather and Raffia Tote Bag
Rockstud detailing is the famed detail that sets a Valentino designer handbag apart from all the rest. The French house’s assortment ranges from sleek shoulder bags, like Medium Rockstud, to the ultra-modern large and small Roman Stud quilted leather designs, all with a decided edginess. The large style is complete with a shoulder strap and top handle for versatile carrying, while the smaller version is more similar to a bucket. These come in vibrant colors like orange and hot pink, appealing to dynamic dressers and those willing to dabble in maximalism. While studded designs are unmistakably Valentino, the plaque-adorned versions are beloved by those who tend to be more classic with their handbags or favor the label’s sleek hardware emblem, like the VLogo leather shoulder bag. This sleek style, offered in versatile shades like black and brown and bright and soft pastels, radiates Y2K-era minimalism, complete with a gleaming chainlink strap for added elegance. Then, there’s the small leather-trimmed raffia tote — a summer-perfect design to pair with breezy white dresses, swimwear, cut-off shorts and tank tops.
Valentino Garavani Roman Stud Large Quilted Leather Shoulder Bag
French luxury label Chloé was founded in 1952 by Gaby Aghion and Jacques Lenoir. Currently, under the helm of Gabriela Hearst, the bohemian-leaning label has been home to many famed creative directors, including Karl Lagerfeld, from 1964 to 1983 and again from 1992 to 1997; Stella McCartney, who was the youngest to earn the title fresh out of school; and later current Celine creative director Phoebe Philo, who took over Chloé in 2001. Though the brand first began designing ready-to-wear, it has put out many an iconic designer handbag, including the Paddington, one of the iconic Aughts It bags designed by Philo, and later the Marcie, which debuted in 2008 under the creative direction of Hannah MacGibbon. Soft silhouettes and bold hardware are instantly recognizable trademarks of both bags. The Paddington features a slouchy rectangular shape with a centered padlock and two handles that can be tossed over the shoulder or haphazardly carried on the arm. The Marcie, a slightly more structured bag, offers an equestrian twist to the era’s buzzy hobo shape, complete with a saddle-link flap punctuated with topstitch detailing, a rounded handle and a crossbody strap for versatile carrying, with hardware throughout. Clare Waight Keller later designed the Nile while at the Cholé helm. This smaller half-moon-shaped bag quickly became beloved by the street style set, featuring a large round bangle á la the wristlet with a jewelry-like luster. The Woody is unquestionably the latest It bag from the French label and a sustainable design to boot. It’s offered in various iterations, from muted to colorful, and combines leather with natural materials like cotton canvas or recycled cashmere, with branded top handles, an open top and linen lining. Consider it your must-have summer bag in 2022, whether you opt for the smaller or large size.
Chloé Woody Medium Leather-Trimmed Cotton-Canvas Tote
Emerging labels are the place to look when homing in on the best value designer handbags. “If you want to be ahead of the curve with shopping new luxury bag brands, Savette is the one to watch,” Page tells WWD. “The Tondo style has versatile straps that can be worn in three different ways and has been spotted on the likes of Rosie Huntington-Whitley and Gucci Westman.” Along with the label’s Symmetry pochette and Symmetry 19 shoulder bag, this bag is flawless with work attire yet easy-looking with casual staples from sweaters to jeans.
This label, founded by Amy Zurek, is quietly eye-catching and another luxury brand sure to appeal to minimalist and timeless tastes. Trademark details include ultra-clean lines and polished hardware inspired by both modern and Renaissance art. Even more, each style is handcrafted using traditional leatherwork techniques in an atelier outside of Florence, Italy. In other words, exceptionally high-quality creations are at the crux of this label. Invest now before prices ascend to those of Chanel, Balenciaga and Hermés.
Savette Tondo 22 Leather Shoulder Bag
Dragon Diffusion is another emerging label to look to for the best value designer handbags or the best designer handbags for moms carrying more their children’s essentials, too. “Dragon Diffusion is very much a brand that started as more of an underground discovery,” Smart says. “Although they’re not super active with their marketing and social campaigns, the Triple Jump and Nantucket baskets have been industry favorites. They’re beautifully handcrafted, durable, comfortable to wear and are perfect all-year-round totes. The newest edition of the Santa Croce is a great update if you’re looking for more of a handbag style while in keeping with the brand’s aesthetic.” With offices in Brussels and a factory in India, designer Craig Wright employs artisans to handcraft the label’s signature woven-leather technique, which shines through beautifully in every bag. Even better, each one is sleek and highly durable as the leather ages beautifully, whether used in the city, for weekends away or both. It’s a huge perk for those who use the same bag every day or put their favorites through the wringer.
Dragon Diffusion Santa Croce Small Woven-Leather Tote Bag
How to store and care for luxury designer bags
A designer handbag requires special treatment when it comes to care and storage. At a minimum, storing designer bags in your closet with the companion dust bag is best. But most ideally, Gonzalez says it’s best to take up extra real estate by keeping them in their boxes to prevent damage or wear to the structure or hardware. “Straps should be tucked inside the bag to prevent imprints onto the leather,” advises Gonzalez. The expert also suggests lightly stuffing bags to help keep their original shape. And one of her biggest no-no’s: “Never store them in plastic, so the materials can breathe and not collect mold.”
When it comes to cleaning, Gonzalez recommends professional treatments. “We don’t recommend too many DIY projects on your luxury bags, aside from light leather conditioners and spot cleaning with a dry white towel,” she tells WWD. “Let the experts, such as the designers themselves or a reputable repair center such as Leather Surgeons, do major repairs, as this will help protect your investment.”
Coated canvas bags, like Louis Vuitton’s Monogram and Damier bags or Celine’s Triomphe canvas bags, are easier to maintain as the textile is durable and easy to clean with a damp cloth. “Do not get leather wet, as some delicate types of leather can become water-stained, such as lambskin or untreated vachetta leather, which is a common textile in Louis Vuitton and Hermés bags,” Gonzalez says. Her final tip: “Avoid carrying pens in your bag; ink marks are never pretty and do affect the resale value.”
Meet the Author
Laura Lajiness Kaupke is a contributing writer for WWD. Her work has also appeared in Harper’s BAZAAR, ELLE, Marie Claire, Glamour, Town&Country, InStyle, Esquire, Women’s Health, Brides, Refinery 29, among others. She covers fashion, accessories, fine jewelry and lifestyle topics, with expertise in luxury market products, including the best designer handbags.
Meet the Experts
Stephanie Gonzalez is a retail merchandiser and pricing specialist at luxury fashion resale site Fashionphile, which is known for offering a range of top pre-owned designer handbags.
Cassie Smart is the head of womenswear at London-based luxury clothing retailer MatchesFashion. Previously, she was MatchesFashion’s buying manager of shoes and handbags.
Libby Page is the senior market editor at luxury retailer Net-A-Porter, where works with the company’s buyers to bring shoppers the latest trends in clothing, shoes and accessories.