If there's one thing I'm asked most frequently as a shopping editor, it's what designer bags are worth the investment. It's a pretty big question to answer, as so many things come into play. After all, one person's idea of what is affordable and expensive depends on their budget. There's also the practicality consideration—some of us would happily forgo a roomy interior for an attractive design, whereas others require their handbags to fit everything except the kitchen sink.
I'm probably somewhere in the middle. I find it hard to get on board with the micro-bag trend, and I require my bags to be versatile. However, I am the sort of person you'll see lugging around a canvas tote bag with a water bottle, laptop and tissues while my handbag remains unsullied by such weighty responsibilities. I find that midsize bags, such as my Wandler Hortensia, fit the bill nicely, but what other designer bag styles do I rate from the current season? I hit the Matches townhouse in Carlos Place (you have to go if you've never been) to try on some of this season's heavy hitters IRL and give you the full lowdown.
I've purposefully included both big-name brands and lesser-known names to present a full spectrum of what's on offer—sometimes some of the coolest designs are to be found from up-and-comers. Also, it may sound obvious, but note these are all within the "designer" handbag realm, so prices are on the upper end, but I've tried to include a few options within each price bracket. From Gucci's Diana to Wandler's Penelope, scroll down to see and shop the designer bags that are worth the investment this season.
Dragon Diffusion Santa Croce
Style Notes: Dragon Diffusion has been the new designer bag on the block making its quiet presence felt with its woven leather bags. With a timeless elegance that will undoubtedly age beautifully, these bags come in a range of sizes and colourways, but I personally love the brand's Santa Croce large tote, which is perfect for day trips with its roomy interior and long shoulder straps.
Style Notes: You know when Alessandro Michele drops a new Gucci bag design that it's worth paying attention to. This season, it's the Diana (no guesses as to who it is named after), a classic structured tote with a retro-inspired bamboo handle, which is a house hallmark from the iconic 1947 collection, longer shoulder strap and subtle GG gold logo. The interior features two sizable compartments and a middle zipped pouch, making it both practical as well as pretty. An heirloom in the making.
Style Notes: On the more affordable end of the designer-bag market is Staud, a brand that has become adept at delivering cult-worthy styles—the Bissett bucket bag was one of the first to hit the big time—to its adoring fan base. More recently, Staud has looked to the '90s and noughties for inspiration with baguette bag silhouettes, including this fab Scotty style, which comes in a classic navy leather and is designed to be worn over the shoulder. Ideal for both parties and quick shopping trips, this is one bag that will offer plenty of bang for your buck.
Style Notes: If there's one bag that, communally, the Who What Wear editorial team has been fawning over, it's Prada's Cleo. Following the successful re-issue of the nylon mini bag, the Cleo follows a long line of sellout styles harking back to the brand's classic designs, all of which feature the iconic triangle insignia. This style has a simple silhouette but offers texture via its glossy spazzolato leather, which makes it feel suitably polished.
Style Notes: I am a proud owner of a Wandler Hortensia bag, a midsized tote that has carried me through fashion weeks, weddings and weekends away. So naturally, I am always keen to see the new styles that the brand brings out. This season, it's the elegant Penelope that instantly drew my eye with its two-tone leather, skinny shoulder strap and classic, clean-lined silhouette. It's probably a little smaller than my Hortensia due to the fold-over opening, but I think I can safely say that it will be worth your investment due to its versatility.
Marni Market Tote
Style Notes: Inspired by the traditions of global city markets, Marni Market was launched in 2014 and is a limited-edition collection that offers intricate, one-of-a-kind pieces handmade by Colombian artisans. The bag designs within this collection rarely stay in stock for long thanks to their vibrant colourways and practical roomy sizes. Case in point: this red-and-white style is the perfect alternative to this season's trending straw shoppers. It's ideal for holidays but also has the potential to be the world's chicest grocery bag.
Jil Sander Tangle
Style Notes: This season, Jil Sander has given us a lesson in saturated colourways in the form of its A/W 21 bag edit. From rust reds and grass greens to cobalt blues, it's proof that minimalist style needn't be contained to neutral beiges and monochrome. I chose this iteration as the colour felt particularly A/W 21 and is beautifully complemented by the suede fabric and clean-lined shape. While it comes with a knotted strap, I can imagine it doubling up as a very cool oversized clutch.
Style Notes: Hereu might not be as well-known as the likes of Gucci and Prada, but this Spanish-born brand has garnered a cult following since its inception in 2014 with its nostalgic, folk-inspired designs and collaborations with brands such as Cecilie Bahnsen and Studio Nicholson. With its statement handle and bright colourway, the Cala is the perfect example of the brand's timeless appeal.
ACNE Studios Musubi Mini
Style Notes: ACNE Studios may be better known for its leather jackets, but the brand's new Musubi bag has been making the rounds on the feeds of Instagram's best dressed. Featuring knots at each side inspired by Japanese obi sashes, the Musubi comes with both a thick cross-body strap and a short handle and is available in a range of colourways: from brown and blush pink to mint green and black. Perfect for all occasions.