To Have and To Hold:
The New Handbag Players
For years, “It” bags dominated the handbag world: With each splashy launch, exotic skin, over-the-top hardware, or collaboration came the desire to one-up the last. But not everyone wants to be on a waitlist, pre-order a bag six months in advance, or give in to a four-figure price tag. Thankfully, a new crop of designers have come onto the scene, each one putting their own spin on what kind of bag a modern woman wants, without sacrificing a commitment to sourcing, craftsmanship, or creativity. Below, get to know the new guard.
Simon Miller is redefining the “of-the-moment” bucket with the Bonsai Bag, which features streamlined shape and is finished with polished golden ring top-handles. Originally a men’s denim line when it launched back in 2008, this New York-and-LA-based brand was reborn as a full-fledged men’s and women’s lifestyle brand in 2014 with Daniel Corrigan and Chelsea Hansford at the helm. Their minimalist aesthetic melds Japanese fabrication and American craftsmanship—a winning combination, as far as we’re concerned.
Launched in 1999, Sacai is no newcomer—designer Chitose Abe, formerly of Comme des Garçons, is a something of a fashion legend. So it should come as no surprise that the first-ever handbag collection, done in collaboration with consultant (and handbag guru) Kate Hillier, which debuted in Spring 2017, was a runaway success. The hybrid approach familiar to fans of Sacai’s cultishly cool, ever-luxurious clothes is applied in the design of the bags, be it a mix of materials (leather, fur, wicker) or functionality (think: a tote that converts to crossbody-backpack for on-the-go versatility). The result? A happy marriage of fashion and function, which is, in and of itself, both modern and timeless.
Danish designer Lulu Johansen Eschelman cut his teeth working in fashion in Copenhagen, London, and Paris before starting her own label of luxury bags in LA. The premise: Danish design—hence the bags’ versatile, pared-down aesthetic, handmade in California. Each sleek shoulder bag, clutch, and carry-all tote is crafted from supple leather.
Unmistakably modern but inflected with vintage touches (think: wicker-and-crocodile picnic baskets, square trunks, and cylindrical clutches), Hunting Season’s bags appeal to those in search of the perfect bag. Designer Danielle Corona relocated from Rome, where she’d worked in Valentino’s accessory atelier, to New York, to launch her own line of accessories, each with a playful nod to nostalgia and uncompromising sense of craftsmanship.
Officina del Poggio
Texas-to-Italy transplant Allison Nicole Hoeltzel founded Officina del Poggio in Bologna in 2014. Beautifully handcrafted in Italy with durable yet luxurious leathers that only get better over time. The designs, inspired by traditional satchels, equestrian gear, and her husband’s vintage motorcycle bags, happen at her home atelier in the hills of Bologna, which also happens to be the brand’s namesake (Officina = workshop, Poggio = small hill). The modern-meets-heritage vibe and impeccable quality make these bags investment-worthy pieces.
Rosie Assoulin’s bags are clever, sculptural, irreverent recreations of timeless shapes—not unlike her namesake ready-to-wear line. Rosie honed her eclectic sartorial know-how under great designer likes of Oscar de la Renta and Alber Elbaz before launching her eponymous brand, so her commitment to thoughtful details shows.
Known for their large buckle closure, which adorns everything from the Karl Top Handle bag to the Fred Clutch, the brand, started by Thailand-based designers Jesse Dorsey and Wannasiri Kongman, was firmly put on the map after popping up on just about every street style blog in back in Fall 2016. With brick-and-mortar stores across Copenhagen and in Bangkok, they’re showing no signs of slowing down.
Founded by sisters Beste and Merve Manastır, MANU Atelier is perhaps best known for its Pristine bag, a boxy shoulder bag with hand-stitched, reinforced edges. (Did we mention the price point is well below what’s becoming the “going rate” for a bag these days?) The handbags are a family affair, with Beste and Merve focused on design, and their father, Adnan, who used to make the girls’ backpacks when they were in grade school, leading a team of artisans in a small workshop in Istanbul’s Beyoğlu district.
Myriam Schaefer is a something of a legend in the handbag world: She was the designer behind Balenciaga’s smash-hit City bag, and Tibi founder Amy Smilovic enlisted Myriam to help design the brand’s first handbag line. Her eponymous line is geared towards the working woman: the tote bags are roomy, yet incredibly lightweight and durable. They’re a bit anonymous—but that’s what makes them so special.
Created by Philipp Bree, PB 0110 makes structured, leather handbags that are pure minimalist eye candy. Vegetable-tanned leather is a luxury handbag novelty in itself; it endows leather with a smooth, matte finish that wears beautifully over time, on top of being much cleaner than conventional tanning processes, which use toxic chemicals that, inevitably, make contact with your skin. Indeed, Bree consciously built the production process with time-honored elements: hand-selecting cowhide from Belgian and Polish tanneries that’ve been in operation for centuries; sourcing linen (for lining) from the same Tuscan family who’s supplied ropes for church bells for ages, and opting for top-notch brass hardware.