Fashion is seeing an upheaval, and that includes the realm of handbags. Legacy labels and cult indie names — these are often discovered on Instagram — are jostling for the limelight, with both delivering ‘It’ bags season after season. Up ahead, the strong, emerging contenders to know now:
First came the bag that spawned the 100-name-long waitlists: The fortune cookie-shaped Nina Bag with the long handle and clasp closure. Then came the Demi bag that cemented the brand’s cult status. The smaller variation of the Nina won over celebrities and royals alike with its tinier size and bigger variety of materials and fabrics it’s made in, such as satin, suede and snake. True to Gabiela Hearst’s slow fashion’s mantra, these bags are not available for immediate purchase and are instead, made to order. She avoids using polyester, and uses linen that’s treated with aloe instead of water to minimise consumption.
London-based Yuzefi took the internet by storm two years ago, when it was discovered by London-based boutique Browns and subsequently on Instagram by e-commerce brands Net-A-Porter and Shopbop. The brand launched with three signature designs, including Delia, a boxy, bucket bag with a gold-tone ring and a chain strap, and the camera-bag inspired satchel Asher. Founder Naza Yousefi had no prior training in handbag design, instead looking to artefacts and interior design for inspiration on craftsmanship and forms. This lack of know-how served her well. Her designs are experimental, modern and unusual, often incorporating leather moulding and bonding techniques used in furniture design and bolts to seal moulded panels instead of conventional joints, gussets, or stitching of your standard handbag. Yuzefi’s designs are instantly recognisable by their buttery leathers in bold colours and clean, structured shapes.
Carolino Santo Domingo
Every so often a bag comes along and blows up on social media — Staud’s Bissett Bucket bag is one of them. Designer Carolino Santo Domingo has finally put her name on her clean-cut designs as part of her namesake label, which champions Italian craftsmanship with contemporary silhouettes. Case in point is the beautifully constructed Amphora Leather Tote, which features a trapeze silhouette and is attached to a wide top handle to make a statement.
A Bienen-Davis bag is so exquisitely made that it’s included in the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s permanent collection. Founded in 1931, the brand merged American design with Italian craftsmanship, gracing the covers of Vogue and other high fashion magazines, adorning the arms of well-dressed women and Hollywood stars until it closed in 1976. Resurrected in 2017 by fourth-generation scion Richard Bienen, the brand works with the same Italian artisans who crafted the previous collections, creating exquisite, ultra-luxurious pieces such the 4am collection. Taking inspiration from the Studio 54 girl, the collection’s standout piece is a black silk satin piece adorned with over 5,300 Swarovski crystals in a Lady Guadalupe motif. Moving up the scale in price and beauty is the Kit bracelet bag: A modern interpretation of a 1930s design, featuring over 5000 crystals, and a gold and an Art Deco-inspired handle in hand-dipped 24K gold brass.
Danse Lente may mean “slow dance” in French, but its ascent into the fashion circuit was by no means a crawl. It exploded into the scene in 2016, quickly becoming the darling of the fashion world and spotted on the street style set. The London-based brand describes its aesthetic as bringing “playful and curious elements” into its elegant yet simple designs. Founder Youngwon Kim was more well-versed in footwear, translating the curved lines of shoes into the lines and shapes on her designs’ hardware. Its newest silhouette is the Bobbi basket bag; instantly recognisable by its cylinder shape, with contrasting upward stitching, and statement half square ring. Its classic is the Johnny: A sculptural piece inspired by Constantin Brâncuși abstract sculptures, and features an origami-style opening with an exaggerated D-ring in the center.
Seoul-based The Volon takes inspiration from furniture and interior design. Designer Eujung Jang’s began her career at her parents’ interior design firm; her fascination with architecture organically translated into a love for sculptural shapes. Together with two designers, they create bags in a wide range of designs, colours and it wasn’t long before big online retailers and some of the world’s biggest fashion influencers began to take notice. A particular standout piece is the panelled purse shoulder bag, which features a feather detail at the very bottom.
You won’t find outrageous, sculptural forms or exceedingly contemporary details on Hunting Season’s designs. Founder Danielle Corona describes her work as ‘modern heirlooms’ — each of them are elegant, timeless creations with classic silhouettes. Created in 2006, Hunting Season closely collaborates with Colombian craftsmen. Straw details are woven by hand as part of a tradition passed down generations of women, wooden box frames are created by master carpenters and all of its Italian hardware are made in France.