Today, bag brands recognise the increasingly fast-paced lifestyles of their consumers and continue to address their bag needs. In late 2014, under the creative direction of Jonathan Anderson, a boxy, origami-like structured bag called the Puzzle debuted from Loewe. The bag can be stored flat without deforming its structure, and can be carried at least five different ways. The Puzzle bag was revolutionary because it redefined style versatility. These days, a bag without a detachable shoulder strap has a lesser chance of getting sold, no matter how striking it may be. Detachable and adjustable shoulder straps, once optional, have since become the standard.
To underscore the strap’s importance, Fendi ignited an accessories revolution in 2016 with the launch of its Strap You collection. Shoulder straps of different colours, textures, and styles adorned bags and became a way to “personalise” a bag, setting it apart from another. Other brands followed suit and launched their own versions of the detachable shoulder/ cross-body strap, sold separately from bags. The bag, already an accessory, was accessorised. Versatility has become of paramount importance, which is why bag designs and styles constantly evolve.
Bag selections have burgeoned in recent years, and if you’re looking for a bag without yet deciding on any one in particular, the choices could overwhelm and at times confuse. A quick search on bags from some of the leading fashion e-commerce sites will yield at least 1,000 results – each! And because prices have been on the up, your bag purchase should be a calculated and thoughtfully studied one. After all, bags are considered one of the biggest fashion “investments” a person can make. Factors like price, size and weight, colour, material quality and craftsmanship, brand, and bag style should all be taken into account when deciding on a bag.
To help you with your selection process, here are my five essential bag styles worth owning.
Shopping Tote/Shopper Bag
Perhaps one of the most useful bag shapes worth investing in is the tote. While the tote has plenty of room to store your belongings and then some, a bag organiser is a good addition, to keep all your things in place. Totes are usually larger in size to accommodate more contents, so choose one that is sturdy and can handle daily rough and tumble but is still lightweight.
SPLURGE: Fendi California Sky Shopper Tote
Street artist Joshua Vides collaborated with Fendi to produce a collection which features black and white, cartoon-like trompe l’oeil scribbles on classic bag shapes of the house, which include this lightweight tote.
SAVE: Rue de Verneuil Canvas Tote
Made with sturdy linen and twill canvas, this no-fuss, basic-chic tote also comes with a detachable shoulder strap for hands-free carry.
Top Handle Bag
The top handle bag is a personal favourite. This style has more structure and is typified by a short handle located on the top of the bag, hence its name. Top handle bags traditionally have trapezoidal or boxy proportions though shapes continue to evolve. Make sure to pick a size that you can be comfortable with because you don’t want the bag to overwhelm you. Somewhere between 30cm to 32cm is most favourable because this size can easily transition from a day to night bag.
SPLURGE: Roger Vivier Beau Vivier
This top handle bag has a more rounded form and features the brand’s signature pilgrim buckle from the 60s in a vertical orientation, giving it a cool, “mod” vibe.
SAVE: Botkier Cobble Hill
This leather bag gives you great value for money. The Cobble Hill has an asymmetrical flap enclosure, three interior compartments, and comes with two detachable straps—one in canvas, and one in leather. Excellent value for your money!
The clutch was a style once reserved for evening affairs but this has all changed. These days, the clutch comes in larger sizes, is chic to carry during the day, and can also transition easily as an evening bag. Most clutch bags also feature a detachable strap, adding to their versatility. A style tip though: for formal occasions, it is still better to carry a smaller clutch or a minaudière.
SPLURGE: Givenchy Antigona Clutch with Side Handles
A versatile piece from Givenchy’s AW20 collection, this large zipped bag can be carried as a clutch or lengthwise as a top handle bag.
This inverted fan-shaped bag is impressively made with 100% sustainable materials – vegan fiber and recycled plastic bottles. The bag is secured with a zipper and can also be carried hands-free.
Presumably named because these bags would have been perfect to store those brick-shaped point-and-shoot cameras from the turn of the century, camera bags are very handy to use. The style is characterised by a very basic, boxy shape that comes with a top zipper closure and side straps for shoulder or cross-body carry. The camera bag is perfect for casual nights out or for weekends.
SPLURGE: Gucci Marmont Camera Bag
The quilted Marmont no-frills camera bag with gold interlocking double Gs is Alessandro Michele’s classic Gucci, updated from the popular older Soho Disco camera bag which debuted during former creative director Frida Giannini’s time.
SAVE: Demellier Oxford
This London-based brand updated the classic camera shape by giving it a more utilitarian facelift with the addition of an exterior envelope pocket. The bag can be carried on the shoulder or cross-body.
This style’s history goes all the way back to the 1930s with Louis Vuitton. Vuitton’s Noé bucket bag was conceptualised with the intent to safely transport five champagne bottles. The drawstring on top was meant to secure the bottles in place. The bucket bag has since become a classic, and brands have been creatively reinterpreting the style season after season.
SPLURGE: Loewe Balloon Bag
Loewe’s balloon-shaped bucket bag (hence its name) has double drawstrings to open and secure the bag, and comes with two straps for carrying versatility – either for shoulder or cross-body wear.
SAVE: Bonastre Lune Bucket Bag
This urban-chic leather bucket bag punctuated by a thick leather strap with metal “hooks” modernised by Spanish designer Fernando Bonastre comes with a zipped side pocket and a mini pochette attachment.