It is a truth universally acknowledged that the accessory that most women are likely to splurge on (or invest, depending on how you see these things) is a handbag. It’s the one piece you’ll wear day in, day out – whatever the weather and whatever the event. Yes, regardless of what your bank manager might say, a dependable, stylish handbag really is an investment. But if you’re looking for what we might call ‘affordable luxury’, paying upwards of £1,000 is probably quite a lot more than you’re planning on spending.
A glance at the mid-range market, and Mr Marc Jacobs and Mr Michael Kors seem to hold an almost-exclusive position. Isn’t there anyone else making stylish, covetable, high quality bags that won’t mean you have to consider selling a kidney? Yes, there is – and these are the names to know about…
A graduate of Central St Martins, Esin Akan cut her teeth at Burberry before going it alone and setting up her own label. Akan’s handbags are created with professional women in mind: chic designs aside, there’s an attention to detail resulting in roomy laptop-sized interiors, pockets for phone/business cards/keys, practical cross-body straps and even detachable day-to-night clutches. These are bags that ensure you stay organised and on top of things. In Akan’s words? “Helping busy women to DO-IT-ALL, be fit, professional, successful and fun – with confidence and style.”
We like Sophie Hulme’s bags so much that we almost don’t want to share our secret with the uninitiated amongst you. But it’s too good a secret not to share. They’re the beautifully-crafted, sublimely understated handbags with the luxe gold hardware that you’ve probably seen a stylish pal or two with. And let us let you into another secret: Ms Hulme’s lovely totes and clutches are a lot more economically priced that you might think. Buttery soft leather, glossy gold accents and fantastic quality. Just don’t tell everyone. Please?
Launched by Dutch-born Anouk de Jonge in 2010, Ella Valentine handbags are designed in Hampstead and manufactured in Florence from the finest Italian leather. The range is sleek, understated and stylish – think simple shapes in a range of chic tones from bold emerald and cobalt to pretty blush and pistachio. “Design follows function. First and foremost a product needs to do its job. Seamlessly. Flawlessly. Tastefully.” In a nutshell? Elegant handbags for smart women that mean business.
Founded by Rachel Mansur and Floriana Gavriel in 2012, the aptly-named Mansur Gavriel is a label purveying the finest of handbags, designed in NYC and made with love, care and craftsmanship in Italy’s Veneto region. Bucket bags, totes and rucksacks, all are simple, elegant and what we like to think of as no-frills luxe. Ask your cooler-than-school pal where she got her bag from, and we’ll bet you it’s a Mansur Gavriel. Beg, borrow or steal one of these babies – if you can track one down.
Frustrated with the lack of stylish yet practical bags, in 2010 by Harvard graduate and ex-management consultant Mireia Llusia Lindh launched her own label, Milli Millu. “Chic Handbags with a Clever Edge,” the brand’s totes and clutches are handcrafted in Spain from Spanish and Italian leather, and all designed to fit laptops, files, tablets and everyday essentials. Each bag is named after a different city – a jetsetting touch we quite like.
A brand “defined by British sophistication, class and elegance”, Florian London‘s bags are made with premium calf skin leather and exquisite in their classic style. From roomy doctor bags and totes to satchels, shoulder bags and clutches, there’s something to suit every age, taste and style. Solidly constructed and beautifully-finished, these are handbags made to last.
And a few more labels we love…
Quintessentially British brands Mimi Berry, Miller & Jeeves, Lamb 1887, Meli Melo and Peony and Moore, upcycling specialists Lost Property of London and fairtrade designer Betty & Betts. Or celeb favourites Modalu and Coach. And for something totally different, try the Muzungu Sisters!