I think most of us, me included, thought that there was a decent chance Alexander Wang might fall flat on his face at the helm of Balenciaga. Maybe not probable, but not exactly impossible, either. Thankfully, Wang’s results in two seasons as Balenciaga’s creative director have yielded the exact opposite – two focused, luxurious, modern collections that are built solidly atop Balenciaga’s historic foundation. That extends to the collections’ handbags and shoes, including the cleverly closured bags from Balenciaga Spring 2014.

Over his tenure at his won brand, Alexander Wang has developed a pattern with his bags – he only shows a couple during runway shows, and they’re all from a very slim portion of the brand’s eventual offerings. That’s true to some extent for all brands, but Wang does it in extreme, both at his eponymous label and at Balenciaga. We only got one type of bag during the brand’s show, and it was a hand-held oversized clutch (and eventual shoulder bag, no doubt) that bore a faint structural resemblance to the similarly scaled clutches in Wang’s spring show several weeks ago. This version is several orders of magnitude more refined, though, even if the the framed closure is straight-up jacked from a Dunkin Donuts Munchkin takeout box.

In addition to black, the bag made appearances in white, soft grey and pale pink, all of which have been recurrent colors throughout the Spring 2014 accessories collections. There were also two crocodile versions, indicative of the important place that exotics have earned in the business, particularly when it comes to enticing the most lucrative customers at the top end of the market. Check out the bags that made an appearance during the show below.

[Images via Vogue.com]

If you’re in the mood for a fun, exuberant, spring-like bag collection, Bottega Veneta Spring 2014 is simply not for you. On the other hand, if you’d like something slightly dour and vaguely Japanese (in the bags, at least – there was no vagueness in the clothes), well, step right up and take a look. There’s enough grey for everybody, even if you weren’t really looking for any.

The collection goes beyond grey, of course, but it’s an incredibly muted group of bags on the whole, even by somewhat conservative Bottega Veneta standards. The most vibrant bright you’ll find among these bags are a few pieces in brick red, but then it’s back to more leather, python, lizard, crocodile and tweed in desaturated neutrals. The simple, sumptuous duffel styles were easily the best bets, while the tweedy frame top handles left me wondering who actually buys those bags. I have yet to entirely puzzle that one out. Check out the collection below.

[Images via Vogue.com]

Usually, I can count on Italy to give me at least one collection of handbags per season that hits me right in the heart. The Italians know their leather, and their Fashion Week is stocked with brands as well known for their bags as they are for anything. This time around, though, Milan Fashion Week Spring 2014 felt at times more like it was revisiting its greatest hits than charting new territory. I saw some new versions of existing bags that I loved, but I never got that new thing that flooded my brain with serotonin.

That’s not to say that there weren’t some accessories highlights – in fact, they were abundant. The new versions of the Fendi 2Jours were excellent, and the Prada face-painted bags are sure to become collectors’ items. Beyond that, there were lovely exotics in light colors galore, from Ferragamo to Versace. Even if the season wasn’t fully satisfying, there was plenty to love. Check out our picks for the best of the season below.

[Images via Vogue.com]

Every season, the fashion season frets over trends. Every season, the fashion industry tries to find new inspiration, new materials, new shapes, new colors. Every season, we try to reinvent the wheel, while every season, Dolce & Gabbana trots right alongside us, doing its own parallel thing and selling clothes and accessories hand over fist. It feels like it’s been a decade since Dolce gave us a collection that wasn’t overtly and aggressively inspired by Domenico Dolce’s homeland of Sicily (actual time: 2.5 years), and the brand may very well never give us another non-Sicilian collection again, for all I care. Oh, and the bags from Dolce & Gabbana Spring 2014 aren’t bad, either.

It didn’t really click for me until I one day saw a woman walking down the street in New York, wearing a crisp white shirt, simple pumps and a gorgeous, midi-length full skirt printed with a Sicilian seaside vista. These clothes, for all their kitsch when laid on top of each other, actually look incredible when split up into someone’s actual wardrobe. And not only that, but because they’re not beholden to obvious trends or dependent on model-proportioned bodies, they can look incredible on almost anyone.

Dolce’s bags usually aren’t its first concern, but this season did bring us a new staple from the brand by way of a trim, tailored executive tote in a variety of leathers. It’s nice to see something from the brand beyond the Miss Sicily and Miss Dolce and the usual ultra-thematic runway pieces, and I’m sure Dolce fans will gobble it up. Check out the full collection below, straight from the runway.

[Images via Vogue.com]

Sometimes feminism and the fashion industry find themselves at odds, but Miuccia Prada has been dutifully doing her part for years to demonstrate that the two can peacefully coexist, and, what’s more, fashion can actually act in service of female equality and women’s rights. For Prada Spring 2014, she chose to do that in a somewhat literal way – she commissioned pieces from six artists, all of which depict women’s faces, and recreated them in her show space and on many of the items of clothing themselves, including the bags.

The painted bags are totally striking and easily my favorite pieces from the collection, but if you prefer something slightly less literal, the spring is full of structured, heavily compartmentalized satchels that harken back to the 1960s. Perhaps that’s a pointed choice; after all, the 60s were the era that women’s liberation really caught fire, at least in the US, and it feels pretty subversive to see models wearing modern street art and athletic-inspired footwear carry bags in shapes that my grandmother would recognize. I only wish that Prada’s show space had allowed photographers a more straight-on view of the bags themselves. Check out what we can see of the collection below.

[Photos via Vogue.com]

For the past two seasons in a row, Fendi handbags have been easily my favorites of Fashion Week, both Milan and beyond. Karl Lagerfeld and Silvia Venturini Fendi have combined to create handbags that meticulously walk the line between luxury and innovation, a line of which almost all other designers choose to fall to one side or the other. As in previous seasons, the bags of Fendi Spring 2014 are very well balanced. (more…)

If you don’t like fringe, it’s not time to panic quite yet. Generally, Gucci runways display a small, hyper-focused fraction of the bags that are forthcoming from the brand for any particular season’s collection, and this season, the aforementioned focus happened to include quite a bit of fringe. Long fringe. Creative director Frida Giannini has a tendency to add bohemian touches to the brand’s signature sexy, luxurious look, and that seems to be the avenue she’s decided to take with these bags.

The collection itself has numerous sportif notes, but those don’t come through on the bags, which have a much more 70s vibe to match the collection’s exquisite silk caftans. In the context of the Gucci world, the bags make sense, but I suspect fringe this long may be difficult to wear. Will you spring for one of the runway bags, or will you wait for a version without so much fringe (which is almost surely forthcoming)?

[Images via Vogue.com]

London Fashion Week is by far the shortest of the four major global fashion parades, but in a lot of ways, it’s my favorite. The British have developed a very distinct spot in the fashion world for themselves and their bold, young designers, and that means that looking at the collections that surface from LFW can at times feel like peering into the future. London doesn’t produce quite as many commercially viable handbag collections as New York, Paris or Milan, but you get some bang for your metaphorical buck by way of interesting, forward-thinking design from some of the industry’s brightest emerging stars. Below, we’ve picked some of the bags that we thought were standouts from the long weekend in London.

[All Images via Vogue.com]

Marc Jacobs is pretty good at subverting expectations, but he might have outdone himself with the Marc Jacobs Spring 2014 show. He lead everyone into a cavernous (and sweltering) beach scene, and then instead of showing the deconstructed swimwear the scene seemed to imply, we got tapestry, tassels and high-neck lace dresses. The only thing the runway was missing was a Victorian-style, full-coverage swimsuit. Maybe next year. (more…)

New York Fashion Week is so long, so packed with shows, that we felt it responsible to split our list of The Best Spring 2014 Runway Bags into two parts. Last week, Megs covered the best accessories that the first few days of shows had to offer, and today, I’m here to round out that list with my picks from the last few days. That includes shows from such American handbag luminaries as Proenza Schouler and Reed Krakoff, so you’re definitely going to want to check out what’s happening below.

[All Images via Vogue.com]

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