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The best designer tote bags are undoubtedly the chicest way to carry more than your phone, keys and wallet — think your laptop, a change of shoes or a backup sweater. Perhaps they can hold even on-the-go beauty elixirs and a complete lunch, too. But more than being practical, extra-roomy bags are becoming more coveted, possibly, than the trendiest of mini bags.
While the tote bag has been a mainstay and solid bestseller in collections from Saint Laurent to Christian Louboutin for many seasons, Lisa Aiken, fashion and lifestyle director of Neiman Marcus, tells WWD, “One of the key trends we’ve seen on recent runways is oversized totes, roomy enough to carry all of your essentials. Adding, “Fashion-forward brands such as Khaite and luxury labels like Bottega Veneta are adapting to shifting lifestyles by rethinking proportions for a more elevated and practical look.”
Citing Proenza Schouler’s XL ruched carryall, Gabriela Hearst’s Hildegard knotted leather tote and Loewe’s Flamenco XL drawstring shoulder bag as recent examples, Libby Page, senior market editor at Net-A-Porter tells WWD, “The ‘XL’ tote has made a return and is the perfect practical and functional bag to carry around all your day-to-night essentials.”
Top Designer Tote Bags
- Best Embellished Leather Tote: Christian Louboutin Cabata Empire Spike Studded Leather Tote Bag
- Best Canvas Tote: Gucci Ophidia Medium Leather-Trimmed Canvas Tote
- Best for Work: The Row Park 3 Medium Leather Tote
- Best for the Beach: Ulla Johnson Surfside Straw Basket Tote Bag
- Best Colorful Tote: Christian Dior Large Dior Book Tote
- Khaite Medium Amelia Envelope Pleat Woven Canvas Tote
- Best Modern Leather Tote: Bottega Veneta Arco Woven East-West Tote Bag
- Loewe Amazona 28 Medium Leather Tote
- Celine Large Square In Textile With Celine Print & Calfskin Vanilla
- Best Sustainable Tote: Chloé Woody Recycled Cashmere Medium Tote Bag
- Best for Going Out: Saint Laurent Niki Large Crinkled Calf Shopper Tote Bag
- Best Logo Print Tote: Louis Vuitton Neverfull MM Tote Bag
- Also Consider Sustainable Tote: Stella McCartney Large Half & Half Tote Bag
- Best Splurge: Chanel Maxi Shopping Bag
- Prada Re-Nylon Logo-Plaque Tote Bag
What to look for in the best designer tote bags
This current craving for pragmatic pieces indeed explains the tote bag’s recent appeal — a shopping trend that’s continued since the onset of the pandemic. “We’ve found that a good majority of our customers are looking for multifunctional pieces for both every day and back-to-work, which is why totes, especially with grained leather, coated canvas and crinkled calfskin in solid colorways like classic black or neutral tones, have continued to be bestsellers,” Aiken says. Page notes versatile colorways and durable materials as key details to look for when choosing the perfect work tote. “Loewe’s Cushion tote has become a workwear staple, whether in canvas, leather or felt,” she says. “Easily styled with any outfit, it serves as an elevated option that fits all the essentials and suits any workwear attire.”
With spring on the horizon, Aiken says, “We know our customers are going to be excited for bold pops of color, saturated bright hues, fun neon and acid colorways.” On this note, Page suggests considering unexpected fabrications “like shearling and sequin, which can work perfectly for a more fun and casual weekend look.”
If not for daily life, travel is another reason many consider a designer tote bag. “Spring is a time when our customers are looking to travel, more so than ever this year, so the pieces with woven natural materials such as raffia, crochet and macrame are perfect for both beaches and city streets,” Aiken says. Even more, Page points out the versatility of these airier materials. “A raffia tote makes for the ideal travel bag and will take you from airport to beach to bar,” she tells WWD.
To suit all tastes, the latest designer totes bags are offered in a range of styles from minimal to vacation-ready, available in just about every fabrication, from leather and suede to knitted and woven designs. “Craftsmanship and natural materials such as raffia, crochet and macrame are really important right now,” Aiken adds. “Chloé, under Gabriela Hearst’s creative direction, and Ulla Johnson are great examples of this.” Echoing Aiken, Page says, “The raffia tote isn’t going anywhere soon and is a must-have in your wardrobe,” like Marni’s embroidered raffia Tropicalia top-handle and Khaite’s leather-trimmed raffia carryall.
Aiken also predicts an uptick in nuanced versions of luxury tote bags. “For spring, we are also expecting timeless classics like Bottega Veneta’s Arco tote, [iconic] logo bags such as Versace’s Greca tote or Burberry’s new check tote to be popular with our customers,” Aiken says. She notes a craving for innovative fabrics among eco-conscious shoppers, too. “A focus on sustainability continues to be a part of the conversation, with leather alternatives such as Stella McCartney’s mushroom leather or Chloé’s recycled bottle bag,” she says.
Scroll on for an edit of the 15 best designer tote bags for work, weekends, travel and more, from durable luxury leather styles to lightweight woven raffia options.
Christian Louboutin Cabata Empire Spike Studded Leather Tote Bag
Best Embellished Leather Tote
Like your assortment of LBDs, your black tote bag assortment should include options. So look to this studded creation for a less-expected carryall for edgier moments, featuring an open-top, lobster clasp closure and leashed interior zip pouch. “The Louboutin Cabata bag is a classic tote that comes in several sizes and styles, so it’s easy to find the perfect bag for every occasion or mood,” Aiken says.
Gucci Ophidia Medium Leather-Trimmed Canvas Tote
Best Designer Canvas Tote Bag
Gucci’s Ophidia tote is the ideal designer tote bag for logo lovers with an affinity for heritage style, combining three of Gucci’s unmistakable signatures — the interlocking G’s, the Supreme motif and the striped webbing. It’s crafted from durable canvas with sturdy leather trims and a single zipped pocket inside. On a smaller scale, Page suggests getting your Gucci tote bag fix with a decades-past design re-worked for the modern era. “Alessandra Michele took inspiration from the archival Jackie style first introduced in the ’60s. It’s still hugely popular for us today and is a true investment purchase,” Page says. “Style it with anything, such as a knit, denim and a pair of chunky boots for a go-to weekend look.”
The Row Park 3 Medium Leather Tote
Best Designer Tote Bag for Work
There’s no greater designer label for minimalists than The Row. So naturally, an extra-roomy luxury tote bag is par for the course with the label’s signature, oversize-everything sensibility. The bag’s clean silhouette is equally apropos with elegantly slim handles crafted from supple Italian leather.
Ulla Johnson Surfside Straw Basket Tote Bag
Best for the Beach
Ulla Johnson’s straw basket tote bag exudes summer ease with a dose of polish with undulating blue detailing, not dissimilar to the ocean. Flat-top leather handles with tassel trim lend a touch of sleekness, made even better by the tie closure for keeping your belongings secure. “With spring around the corner, a straw or canvas basket tote will be my go-to bag for weekend getaways to the beach or a day out with friends in the city,” Aiken shares.
Christian Dior Large Dior Book Tote
Best Colorful Tote
J’adore a Dior tote bag? We give the French house’s iconic Book Tote an emphatic yes for such a craving. Each season new cult versions emerge, all with a luxurious dose of whimsy. This year, the new multicolor zodiac embroidered style is in the stars as your next purchase, complete with a latte Toile de Jouy Zodiac motif and the Christian Dior signature along the front. Carry yours by hand or toss it over a shoulder.
Khaite Medium Amelia Envelope Pleat Woven Canvas Tote
Highlighted by Page, Khaite’s woven tote bag touches on the natural materials trend while remaining sleek for day-to-day use, whether you’re toting a laptop, tablet or portfolio. It features origami-like folds at the base to create a unique shape while simultaneously increasing its capacity. The open-top offers easy access to essentials while protective feet safeguard the fabric when set down.
Bottega Veneta Arco Woven East-West Tote Bag
Best Modern Leather Tote
Bottega Veneta’s iconic intrecciato technique is eternally stylish, proving at once timeless and versatile in the label’s many silhouettes. Modern reinterpretations of the woven leather look, like these oversize panels, are a must-try for a bold update to your tote bag collection. This style, in particular, features an open top with a self-tie closure for quick access to your essentials. “Timeless luxury classics like the Arco Woven Tote Bag will always be popular,” Aiken says. “We continue to see black as a bestseller in almost every collection.”
Loewe Amazona 28 Medium Leather Tote
The professional aesthetic of a doctor bag — originated to carry medical essentials — translates to modern style in the form of Loewe’s Amazona tote. “Returning from the archive, the Amazona is back with a modern take,” Page says. “With adjustable straps, this classic style is one of this season’s most desirable bags.” This one’s on the smaller side — a suitable pick for those carrying a lot, but not the entire kitchen sink.
Celine Large Square In Textile With Celine Print & Calfskin Vanilla
No one will mistake your taste for luxury with Celine’s large leather-trimmed canvas carryall with bold yet refined insignia. It captures Spring 2022’s au natural aesthetic with an air of sophistication that’s on point with tailoring and smart workwear in the city. Gold detailing along the interior zip pocket lends to the refinement.
Chloé Woody Recycled Cashmere Medium Tote Bag
Best Sustainable Tote
This vibrant carryall is undoubtedly one of the best sustainable designer tote bags to debut recently. It’s detailed with leather, combining city sleekness with a wanderlust mindset, featuring branded top handles, an open top and linen lining. “Our customer loves a branded tote, and the Chloé Woody happens to be one of my personal favorites,” Aiken tells WWD. “The recycled knit cashmere element of this particular style is truly special.”
Saint Laurent Niki Large Crinkled Calf Shopper Tote Bag
Best for Going Out
One of the most classic leather black tote bags detailed with designer insignia is Saint Laurent’s crinkled calf leather shopper. As coveted as the iconic YSL logo is the equally famed stitching and chain-link handles for achingly chic style. “A durable leather, such as the crinkled calfskin used for the Saint Laurent Niki Tote, is an innovative material that will endure daily wear and tear,” Aiken says.
Louis Vuitton Neverfull MM Tote Bag
Best Logo Print Tote
A Louis Vuitton tote bag is certainly one of the most iconic and a no-fail approach to designer carry-alls. For an au courant twist to the classic monogram canvas, how about the luxury house’s Spring 2022 rendition of the Neverfull tote? Done in cream and black, it features an oversize LV motif in Monogram Empreinte leather with contrast stitching that recalls the heritage Malletage pattern.
Stella McCartney Large Half & Half Tote Bag
Also Consider Sustainable Tote
As Aiken stated, Stella McCartney is a pioneer in the leather-alternative space. She continuously develops new cruelty-free fabrications with a signature touch of luxury, like Mylo, an infinitely renewable vegan material grown from the underground root structure of mushrooms called mycelium with the look and feel of leather. The designer’s large half-and-half tote is the perfect way to combine city sleekness with an on-holiday sensibility, complete with a mixture of raffia and faux leather, the label’s signature whipstitching and curb-chain detail.
Chanel Maxi Shopping Bag
A Chanel carryall is unquestionably the upper echelon of designer tote bags. It’s always wise to seek out designs featuring the French label’s iconic quilting and chain links for a timeless investment, like the Maxi shopping bag from the spring ’22 pre-collection. If not supple black calfskin leather, choose a tweed rendition for a bolder statement.
Prada Re-Nylon Logo-Plaque Tote Bag
If a Prada tote bag is on your shopping list, look to a design from the label’s buzzy Re-Nylon project, which aims to convert all virgin nylon products into regenerated nylon by the end of 2021. This beige tote bag is a worthwhile investment from a style standpoint, too, featuring two rounded top handles and an internal zip-fastening pocket, detailed, of course, with a signature triangle logo plaque.