If you’ve been aware of designer handbags for more than, say, the past day or two, you’ve seen your fair share of black and white bags. The sharp, modern color combination fits perfectly with the backlash against uber-trendy neons, prints and embellishments, which at times all appeared together on the same bag. (Of course, leave it to fashion to combat trend culture with a new trend.) Seemingly every designer under the sun has tried their hands at the look, but a relative handbag newcomer has beaten almost all of them with the Narciso Rodriguez Mixed-Media Envelope Shoulder Bag. (more…)

If I had to pick a handbag brand to categorize as perpetually underrated, it would be VBH. The brand turns out handbags in both regular leather and exotics that are consistently subtle, elegant and totally luxurious, and unlike similarly priced bags from more famous brands, you’re not going to buy one of these and then immediately realize that four people in your social circle already have it. Finding something fresh in fashion feels harder every day, but VBH’s bags never cease to provide that for me. I don’t get tired of looking at them, and now there’s a fresh crop of Spring 2014 bags up for pre-sale at Moda Operandi for our admiring pleasure.

The collection includes bags ranging from woven fabric to ultra-luxe crocodile, and for me, the real standouts are (of course) the exotics. Not only are the croc bags predictably beautiful, but VBH’s use of lizard is outstanding. (Lizard, like VBH, is woefully under-appreciated in the accessories world.) Check out our favorite ultra-pricey pieces from the collection below or shop the full selection via Moda Operandi.

Jason Wu’s gorgeous, ladylike read-to-wear collections are always a joy to behold, but I’ve been waiting for the young designer to put out a handbag that really catches my eye. For reasons that are likely obvious, the Jason Wu Jourdan Painted Eel Tote is exactly that bag. Wu’s previous bag collections have been full of pretty, simple pieces that were nice but not bold or modern enough, and this tote solves those problems at one fell swoop.

Before I read the name of the bag, I thought that Wu and his team had simple chosen a geometric colorblocked pattern and run with it. When you look closely, though (or, uh, read the name), you can see that the colorblocking is actually dictated by narrow strips of eel. Eel skin is an under-used exotic, and it imparts a texture that’s subtler than stingray or most types of snakeskin. It also doesn’t boost the price tag as much as those materials, something we all can appreciate.

I’d be interested to see this bag in just black and white, but as it is, the addition of deep violet and gold add a bit of a royal quality to the structured, elegant tote. I’m not sure I love the hanging tag in the middle, but that’s a signature Wu detail that I’ve been skeptical of from the beginning. If you could have this bag in any color combination, what would you pick? If this one’s already idea for you, pick it up for $2,195 via Neiman Marcus.

I’m not one who usually buys lotto tickets; in fact, I’ve only done it twice in my life before now, but when I realized the Powerball jackpot had swelled to $600 million, I totally got in on that. It’s easy to see why so many people love to buy lotto tickets – that slight feeling that you just might win is enough to get you excited.

Not only did I not win, but I didn’t even get one number right. Some man in Florida won it all, and it’s so insane to think of going from having whatever amount of money you have to being an extravagantly wealthy multi-millionaire over night. But if I were to have won that insane amount of money, I definitely would have bought this bag from The Row.

Everyone is aware of the much talked-about The Row Alligator Backpack, and while I actually like that bag, I know I’d find much more use out of The Row Alligator Drawstring Bucket Bag.

This bag is super chic, the glazed alligator skin looks entirely luxe and the color really is eye-catching. The pairing of a downtown aesthetic with an uptown material makes this bag one that I entirely covet. It looks like perhaps the Powerball winner had the same idea and bought the bag already, because it is currently sold out. Price is $29,000 via Barneys.

Until I saw the Balenciaga Serpent Arena Classic Work Bag, it had never occurred to me that I hadn’t ever seen a snakeskin Bal Motorcycle bag. After all, the design has been around in one incarnation or another for over a decade, and we’ve seen it in everything from straw to crocodile – surely there had been at least a python version, right? Well, according to my research, only the Papier bags have come in snakeskin, none of the classic Motorcycle styles. In light of that, it seems like it’s about time that Balenciaga got a little serpentine.

Snakeskin isn’t as thick or rigid as exotics like crocodile and alligator tend to be, so it automatically lends itself well to the slouchy, soft structure of the Motorcycle bags. Instead of python, this design uses narrow panels of elaphe snakeskin, which isn’t considered as luxurious as python but does offer rows of small, neat, uniform scales that have charms unto themselves. The bag is trimmed in standard Moto black leather, and the black-on-grey combination seems particularly appropriate from new creative director Alexander Wang. This collection wasn’t designed under his oversight, of course, but Balenciaga fans can likely expect to see more bags like this one in the future, if Wang’s past work for his own brand is any indication. Buy through Barneys for $3,350.

In scouring the Internet for our article on the Internet’s most expensive luxury handbags, one thing became clear: even if a brand doesn’t do much to actively promote its most expensive pieces, almost all of them have those bags waiting in the wings for the right client. Under previous creative director Stefano Pilati, Yves Saint Laurent was one of the brands that mostly dealt in regular leather, with an occasional snakeskin or ostrich bag here and there. Under Hedi Slimane, that (along with so many other things) appears to have changed with the Saint Laurent Alligator Cabas.

First, a general note: It’s not entirely clear what Slimane intends for this redesigned version of the Cabas ChYc to be called. SSENSE, which carries this alligator version (the most expensive Cabas ever, by our calculations), calls it the Chyc Tote. Net-a-Porter calls the leather version the Cabas Classique. Neiman Marcus has it as the Y Ligne bag. The Saint Laurent web store pretends the bag doesn’t exist entirely, along with any other design that isn’t a complete Slimane original. For a brand as concerned with a stark rebranding effort as Saint Laurent, you’d think this would have already been settled. At least one thing is certain, though: Slimane intends to take the brand’s accessories in an even more expensive direction than before.

Oddly, it’s one of his decisions that makes the most sense. Consumer interest in handbags at the top price tier of the market continues to grow, especially in Asia, and Saint Laurent has the name recognition to make that buying decision seem less risky. I’m also of the (apparently minority) opinion that the new, sleeker Cabas ChYc is an aesthetic improvement on its predecessor, and this alligator version takes full advantage of its simplified lines. What we have here is definitely the most exciting bag to come out of the brand since Slimane’s arrival, although I’m not sure it’s such a compliment to say that when the bag in question is a simple, black alligator tote based on the work of his predecessor. Buy through SSENSE for $29,500.

By now, some of you have likely read Friday Night Lights author Buzz Bissinger’s instantly infamous GQ piece on his Gucci leather shopping addiction. (If you haven’t and you’re interested, you should read it, but be warned, the whole thing takes a bit of a strange turn circa page four.) I’ve known a few people with compulsive shopping issues in my time in fashion, but Bissinger’s story caught my attention because, for him, it all started online and eventually mushroomed into a half-million dollar habit. But how much damage can you really do with online shopping? As it turns out, quite a bit – we searched out the Internet’s most expensive handbags, and with these kinds of pieces, it wouldn’t be hard to blow through a couple hundred grand in an afternoon, let alone in a year or two. (more…)

Compared to fall, spring’s textures can be a bit…down-market. We love raffia and canvas as much as anyone else, but naturally, we love snakeskin and leather even more. So what’s the secret to incorporating successfully what might feel like a heavy material into your warm-weather wardrobe? Why, a mini crossbody bag, of course. (That’s the answer to a lot of spring and summer bag problems, trust me.) The only other problem with exotics in particular, of course, is that it’s a look that tends to cost an arm and a leg; fortunately, it doesn’t have to.

We’ve taken the liberty of assembling a quick-reference list of ten exotic (or “exotic,” in some instances) bags that will give you a luxe look all the way through to fall without weighing you down or looking season-inappropriate. We found as many genuine snake pieces as we could and filled in the rest of the list with the most expensive-looking embossed leather we could find for the price. Check out our picks below!

It likely won’t shock anyone to hear that VBH’s Fall 2013 handbags are pristine and luxurious; that’s sort of what the brand is know for, after all. The line of satchels, totes and clutches, which are available for pre-order via Moda Operandi through March 21, are in keeping with the clean, strong lines and elegant finish for which the brand has become well known. If you’ve been a long-time fan of the Brera Satchel, there are some more shapes in this collection that I think you should take a look at immediately.

My favorite of the bunch is the angular Trevi Tote, which comes in both vitello leather and glossy crocodile. This isn’t the kind of design that becomes a highly recognizable It Bag; instead, it’s the kind that makes you crazy with both jealous and curiosity when you see someone carrying it from afar. What could it be? Who makes that? Beyond just the Trevi, this collection is chock full of exactly that type of bag. Check out our favorites below or shop the full selection via Moda Operandi.

If having too much of a good thing is truly possible, then I think I’ve had a little too much python lately. Because of strong markets for ulta-premium accessories, exotics are having something of a golden era at the moment, and although that’s yielded a lot of utterly lust-worthy handbags, its also yielded a lot of stuff that all sort of looks the same. Expensive, but not inventive. All it took to cure my snakeskin ennui, though, was one look at the Dax Gabler Python Shoulder Tote. A friend sent me a link to this bag yesterday, and talk about an afternoon pick-me-up. (more…)

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