Temperatures are soaring again, signalling the commencement of summer. And while international travel remains limited in the time of the pandemic, scoping out your local out-of-town hotspots, whether it be the beach or the countryside for a bit of sun and fresh air, is a most welcome option, all while practicing safety measures of course.

These summer getaways come with the need to arm yourself with a good bag to store daily essentials – from your favourite pair of sunglasses to that all-important tube of sunscreen. One of the season’s key bag trends is the woven basket/market tote. And since this bag has become a recurring staple each year, commercially popular brands have taken to launching their own “luxe” versions of the same style. 

Personally though, I like choosing summer bags with more personality rather than those with styles that look identical across brands, with only the name or logo as their differentiating factor. Summer is always a happy, more carefree time, and having a variety of price-friendly bags that I can switch up depending on my mood or on the day’s schedule definitely adds to the fun!

Here are five of my top summer bag picks for 2021:

Zarah Juan Wicker Jeepney Crossbody Bag

Some five years ago, I became acquainted with the bags of Zarah Juan at a Philippine trade exposition for export products. This Wicker Jeepney Bag is a quirky interpretation of a well-known public utility vehicle in the Philippines, the Jeepney (an adaptation of the Jeep, a rugged military transport) which is also one of the main cultural symbols of the country. Adding to the bag’s nationalistic character, the Jeepney bag is also a result of a careful collaboration between artisan communities located in different cities within the Philippines. This bag doesn’t just make a great cultural souvenir and conversation piece, it’s also an easy, hands-free accessory to carry throughout summer. Added bonuses: the bag has a removable shoulder strap to convert it into a clutch, and comes in different colours to match your personality!

Chila Aria Weave Bag

Social media has become a great way to explore new brands, and Chila Bags is my latest happy discovery. Their bags take anywhere from 10-15 days to be meticulously handcrafted by women from the Wayuu tribe in Colombia. I greatly appreciate that Chila Bags’ founder works directly with these craftswomen, effectively eliminating middlemen and ensuring good working conditions and fair pay for them. This colourful Aria bag is a two-thread woven bucket style drawstring hand bag with a braided strap. The fun pompoms attached to the ends of the drawstring add extra quirk and character, making this bag an excellent choice for those carefree summer weekends!

Inouitoosh La Mer Tote

Since discovering Inouitoosh a few years ago while on holiday, I find myself looking forward to the label’s new prints each season. This French brand, which had its beginnings in a small but very picturesque town in Saint-Valery-sur-Somme, takes inspiration from different landscapes for their prints on scarves, pochettes, and bags. The La Mer tote is made with cotton and adopts a navy sea and sky print, and is paired with saffron-striped shoulder straps. Perfect with a solid-coloured sundress or summer co-ords, this lightweight and roomy printed tote is sure to hold your all summer essentials in style.

La Maison en Pierre Vintage Linen Tote

I first came across this brand while in search for independent labels that use sustainable or recycled materials. La Maison en Pierre’s totes stood out in my book because of their authentic Provence-countryside chic aesthetic. Each bag is made from vintage, thick Provençal linen – a light but very durable textile – and is constructed with a cotton lining and vegetable-tanned leather handles to give it a more organic feel. This rustic linen tote makes for an ideal summer carry-all. And what makes the bags from this French brand even more special is this: no two totes are ever alike!

Aranaz Pandagat Market Tote

Aranaz is a Philippine-based brand established in the early 2000s, specializing in handcrafted bags made with natural materials like abaca, raffia, coconut shells, and rattan among others. I am particularly fond of this colorful Pandagat (which means “for the sea” in the Philippine national language) woven market tote because of its straw-wrapped, sea shell-shaped handles. The bag is roomy and has a built-in shoulder strap for easy hands-free carry, making this a versatile piece to use from an afternoon at the beach to a casual night out in the city.