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…)

If you’ve been paying attention over the past few years, then you already know that J.Crew has ambitions beyond its mid-priced mall-brand origins. CEO Mickey Drexler and Creative Director Jenna Lyons have helped exponentially elevate the brand’s fashion status, and while J.Crew remains a good source for accessibly priced sweaters and cute statement jewelry, the store would also like to sell you handbags that cost four figures.

The J.Crew Edie Alligator Bag is the brand’s first private label foray into the world of luxury handbags. J.Crew has seen a lot of success with its mid-priced leather bags, and considering the brand’s desired upward mobility, remaking one of its biggest hits in a premium material makes a certain sort of sense. With that in mind, $1,500 for an alligator bag is actually not too terrible – a bag of this size, in this material, by a brand with a more high-end reputation would likely cost several thousand dollars more.

Still, four figures from J.Crew is a bit of a tough pill to swallow, although it seems that the brand knows that. This bag is only available at J.Crew’s Madison Avenue flagship, which means it’s more of a press piece than a true retail venture, and to that end, it seems like a successful undertaking. A python version of the bag, which retails for $795, is available via J.Crew’s website as well as at the Madison Ave store. It wouldn’t surprise me to see J.Crew launch more widespread high-end accessories lines in the future, though – would you be receptive, or is there a ceiling to how much you’re willing to pay for anything from J.Crew?

You can shop the leather Edie bags, which start at $238.

Christmas parties are tricky, almost universally. Except for one or two per year where you get to see your actual friends who don’t really care what you wear because they remember that time you thought adult knee socks were a good idea, the opportunity for judgment is rife. Not only is it important to strike an appropriate, chic note at your own office Christmas party, but at that of your significant other, where no one else knows you? Super important. (Not to mention any in-law situations that may come up during the holidays.)

For any of those situations, I don’t see how anyone could find fault with the Kara Ross Priscilla Clutch, which comes in at slightly less than $1,000, despite being made largely of black lizard. The combination of a beautifully sequined silver flap closure and light gold hardware means that it can be worn with almost any dark-colored evening ensemble, and in the winter, how many evening ensembles aren’t dark-colored? I could see this clutch paired with winter whites too, so all your bases are covered.

Not only that, but the clutch looks quite elegant. Sequins can sometimes go down-market in large quantities, but the flap on this bag has them arranged in such a way that they look luxurious and full of texture. Indeed, the entire design is full of subtle visual interest, the combination of which makes the bag well worth its price tag, especially at this time of year. Buy through Neiman Marcus for $975.

Our friends from Heritage Auctions are at it again. Have a Holy Grail Handbag in your mind? An exotic? Some Hermes? Exotic Hermes, maybe? Or exotic…anything? Those are the bags that dreams are made of, naturally, and Heritage Auctions is in the business of making those dreams come true. In the Heritage Auctions Handbag & Luxury Accessories December Auction on December 4 in Dallas, the selection of dream bags up for grabs is truly mind-blowing. We’ve been passing the auction catalog around the PurseBlog offices to ooh and ahh since it arrived – even to jaded handbag pros, it’s an incredible assortment of pieces.

We’ve teamed up with Heritage to bring you a preview of the best of the best from the huge auction listing. Sun-kissed Chanel Classic Flap? We’ve got it. Diamond-encrusted crocodile Hermes Birkin? That too. The auction features lots of regular leather bags from the most sought-after brands in the world as well, but it’s the exotics and limited edition pieces that are the biggest pleasure to be hold. Below, check out our favorites, or peruse the full selection via Heritage Auctions.

Hermes Birkin 35cm in Violet Porosus Crocodile, starting bid: $40,000 via Heritage Auctions

Hermes Mini Kelly in Limited Edition Sterling Silver, starting bid: $10,000 via Heritage Auctions

Hermes 25cm Birkin in Ombre Lizard, starting bid: $15,000 via Heritage Auctions

Hermes 32cm Sellier Kelly in Poudre Alligator, starting bid: $7,500 via Heritage Auctions

Chanel Matte Crocodile Jumbo Classic Flap Bag, starting bid: $8,000 via Heritage Auctions

Hermes 35cm Birkin in Black Porosus Crocodile with Diamond-Encrusted 18k White Gold Hardware, starting bid: $100,000 via Heritage Auctions

Hermes 35cm Birkin in Electric Blue Clemence Leather, starting bid: $8,000 via Heritage Auctions

Hermes 40cm HAC Birkin in Matte Amethyst Prosus Crocodile, starting bid: $50,000 via Heritage Auctions

Yves Saint Laurent Special Order Crocodile Sac Uptown in Shiny Red Crocodile, starting bid: $2,000 via Heritage Auctions

I had a close encounter of the VBH kind over the weekend. I was shopping with some friends at the Woodbury Common outlets north of New York City (HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, by the way), and at the Last Call Neiman Marcus store, I found the little corner of the handbag section where they were hiding the stuff you’d actually want to buy: Jason Wu, Marni, and most excitingly of all, VBH. There was only one VBH bag, but even in that less-than-glamourous setting, it was the clear winner of the whole group. I somehow managed to stop myself from buying it, but obviously I’m still thinking about it quite fondly several days later.

Thankfully, our friends at Moda Operandi have conspired to distract me from my reverse buyer’s remorse, and naturally, the only answer is more VBH. From now through October 28, you can preview (and most importantly, pre-order) VBH Spring 2013, which includes lots of exotics and beautiful colors in classic VBH shapes like the Brera satchel and Manila envelope clutch. Check out the full assortment below or shop the pre-sale via Moda Operandi. (more…)

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