When we discussed the possibilities of Alexander Wang’s handbags for Balenciaga back when the young American designer was named to replace Nicolas Ghesquiere as the head of the brand, most of you were not particularly optimistic about Wang would do, particularly compared to the genius of his predecessor. After all, precious few brands can boast a line that’s been as successful as the Balenciaga Motorcycle Bags, which were Ghesquiere’s brainchild. As it turns out, though, Wang’s Balenciaga Fall 2013 Handbags show some promise, as did the entire collection.

Wang’s always had a good sense of what women want to carry – handbags have long been one of, if not the, most successful parts of his eponymous brand – and the handful of petite, highly structured bags that appeared on the runway showed a good deal of maturity and a good grasp of what’s been going on with Balenciaga up to this point. The angular, fluid closure hardware was also mirrored in cuffs and boots, and with the addition of a long, slender shoulder or crossbody strap, I could see these bags being carried and coveted by plenty of fashion folks. A smart, slightly conservative outing – just what Alexander Wang needed.

[Images via Vogue]

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I can’t believe it’s already the end of Milan Fashion Week! Paris is underway as we speak, but before we fully commit to a new city, we’d like to take a look at some of the best pieces and trends that came out of Italy for Fall 2013. Both fur and exotics are still going strong, and you might want to look for pieces in bright red and cyan to hit stores six months from now. It’s too early to start shopping, though, so let’s take a look at the best runway bags Milan Fall 2013 had to offer.

Sometimes I find it hard to go to a show at fashion week and not get carried away in the beauty of it all. I end up leaving a show and thinking how magical it was, but then I remember that just because the experience is great doesn’t mean the clothing was as well. That’s absolutely not the case for any J. Mendel show I’ve been to; actually quite the opposite. Each and every time, J. Mendel manages to take me away to an ethereal world of beauty and grace. You might only associate the brand with red carpet looks, but watch out, this designer has a blossoming knack for accessories that was on display during the Fall 2013 runway show.

Big shocker, you guys, but Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana? They’re from Italy, and they’d like you to know more about it. In fact, Dolce & Gabbana has been telling you about it for seasons, often through extremely literal handbag embellishments and occasional pasta jewelry. For Dolce & Gabbana Fall 2013, we have actual mosaics in purse form.

The influences on this collection are actually both Sicilian and Byzantine, but the goal is clear – to make clothes, shoes and bags that are rich in Italian history and the Italianate aesthetic. If you appreciate literalism and are maybe a European history professor (or Anna Dello Russo), these art-based bags and clutches are probably just what the doctor ordered. If not, Dolce also offers almost starkly stripped-down versions of the bags, which look like a midcentury modern throwback without the tapestry and embellishment. This collection’s bags are a study in two extremes – moderates need not apply.

[Images via Vogue]

Of all of the fraught issues in fashion (and believe me, there are plenty), fur is probably one of the most fraught. It has both ardent defenders and detractors, but mostly, luxury consumers are somewhere in the middle, just like yours truly – aware of the ethical issues with wearing fur, and not necessarily a fur customer, but also not constitutionally opposed to someday becoming a fur customer, were the right piece to cross our paths. For Fendi Fall 2013, it seems as though Karl Lagerfeld’s entire goal was to tempt those of us in the murky middle. (more…)

My feelings about any Prada collection are complicated. I know that I’ll love what Miuccia Prada sends down the runway, with few exceptions, but I also know that the bags are almost sure to underwhelm me. (Again, with few exceptions.) That was exactly the case with Prada Fall 2013 – both the clothes and the feel of the show were exceptional; a bravura performance from one of the generation’s great masters, doing what she does best. For the bags, my praise is somewhat tempered.

It’s not that they were bad, it’s just that I wanted more from them. The runway featured only two shapes: a simply, generously sized day clutch the likes of which fashion people adore, and an oversized carryall with frustratingly lowered handle attachments. This season’s Prada girl had shades of a Hitchcock heroine in peril, so the need to beat a hasty exist with the essentials in tow made sense. What still seems unnecessary, though, are those aforementioned handles; placing the attachment so low on the bag recalls the plasticized, long-handled weekenders of big box discount stores, which cheapens the look a bit. With pieces finished in custom tweeds and crocodile, that simply shouldn’t happen.

[Photos via Vogue]

In the accessories world, Gucci has some of the best-known and most unique signature details. Horsebits, stirrups, the famous Flora print, the green-and-red webbed stripe – there are a lot of non-logo ways that you can immediately tell you’re looking at a Gucci bag. Perhaps the most recognizably bit of Gucci regalia, though, is bamboo. Introduced in 1947, the famed bamboo handle is getting a thoroughly modern upgrade in matte black for Gucci Fall 2013..

A bit of the traditional brown (plus a bit of the bag’s color) still peeks through in this new, modern bamboo, but the feeling is a tad more youthful, with just a bit of edge. Gone are the coordinating bamboo closures with which we’ve become accustomed in the past five years; instead, these bags boast sleek pushlocks against a host of exotics both dark and colorful. Gucci’s had great success with snakeskin accessories in particular in the past couple seasons, and I’m glad to see the brand stick with it; you’d be hard-pressed to find a more beautiful python bag anywhere.

[Photos via Vogue]

In some ways, London Fashion Week is my favorite, season after season. It’s the shortest of all the cities – something of a Fashion Long Weekend, if we’re being honest – and in that space, it packs in tons of incredibly talented young designers who are doing bold, sometimes even brave, things with clothing, alongside a few bold-face names like Burberry and, this season, Tom Ford.

The downside of LFW, at least as it pertains to what we do here, is that few of the designers who grace us with their presences are known for bags, and a lot of them don’t even make so much as a clutch. Still, we tracked down 10 lust-worthy runway handbags from the runways of London Fashion Week Fall 2013, from beautiful exotics in traditional shapes to, well, the kind of zaniness for which London fashion is known.

As quickly as it snuck up on us, Fashion Week has left. It happens every season – fashion week comes and goes in the blink of an eye, and we want to be able to share a bit of the madness that we experience with you. Through our posts, you get a chance to hear about the collections, but with the instantaneous nature of the Internet, you can easily watch the shows and follow along yourself. What I want to share is what it’s really like to be part of the industry and at the shows. Amanda has covered a behind-the-scenes look before, and now I want to share a Fashion Week postmortem.

1. It’s work, a lot of work. People forget that while the fashion industry is made out to be glamorous, and movies like Devil Wears Prada tell the audience that “everybody wants to be us”, this is a job. The majority of people who attend shows are there for work, to watch the show and report on it to their respective outlets, plan editorial shoots or plot what department stores and boutiques will stock on their shelves. The shows are crazy packed, and there is a lot of time spent moving from venue to venue and trying to get to your seat. The Internet gives everyone immediate access to the majority of the shows, so we have to worry about how we’ll report on something everyone has already seen.

2. It’s exhausting. It seems like I’m complaining, and I don’t mean to, but Fashion Week really is tiring. On the morning of Day 5, it typically hits me, and it hits me hard. We go all day everyday, with shows every hour followed by lunch meetings and dinner parties and after-parties. Most people are running on very little sleep, and Day 5 is also when everyone becomes cranky. Mix cranky people with hungry people (so many fashion people are on a diet at all times), and now you’ve got a whole lot of attitudes in a relatively small venue together. On top of that, the lack of sleep makes everyone more susceptible to illness – what people not-so-affectionally call the “fashion week flu” runs rampant.

3. Being a model isn’t easy. No, I am not a model, but being backstage at shows and able to watch their run-thrus and see them in action has shown me their lives aren’t all rainbows and butterflies. Yes, they are blessed with great genes that make them freakishly tall and thin, but they have to work at it. These girls are under scrutiny at all times to look a certain way. At the end of a stressful day of shows, I plop on my couch at home and order in a carb-filled dinner with a massive dessert – models don’t generally have that luxury.

Also, almost no models are paid like Heidi Klum or Karlie Kloss. Many girls aren’t paid much (if anything), but much is expected of them. They go from one casting call to the next hoping to be chosen so that maybe their star will rise and they’ll start commanding bigger checks. They wear uncomfortable clothes for many shows but the shoes? These girls are put in some of the most uncomfortable shoes, which often aren’t anywhere close to the right size, they’re expected to walk in front of thousands of people and photographers as if they’re in a pair of slippers. Us normals like to pretend being a model is easy, it’s not.

4. Sometimes I feel more like I’m at the circus than Fashion Week. I’ve not been in the industry that long, but I understand why fashion vets are annoyed with the new blogging world. Each season, the amount of “photographers” that wait outside the tents and venues multiples, as does the number of bloggers and other randoms desperately trying to be photographed. You know the pictures you see of people wearing the most random, awkward, and uncomfortable looking outfits? Well, those people don’t just randomly get snapped, they are TRYING to get photographed, as often as possible. In fact, they walk around quite slowly and talk their friends and boyfriends into taking their photos in hopes of tricking the real photographers into thinking they’re noteworthy.

Once you get in the tents, it doesn’t end. It’s just more photographers and more people begging to be photographed. This continues happening right up until the show begins, and it makes navigating the venue and enjoying the experience frustrating. Trust me, most editors I speak to despise this part of fashion week. Generally, we talk about it while we’re corralled behind barricades, waiting to be let into the next space. It’s kind of like being cattle.

5. We complain, but the majority of us know how lucky we are. I’d be lying if I said there aren’t times I want to pinch myself. Growing up, I had no idea that I’d be in the high-paced and extravagant fashion industry. In fact I spent my college days pre-med. Now it’s my life and I consider myself extremely lucky. I won’t deny it, the shows are fun. When a designer invites you to a show it is an honor; he or she is sharing his or her hard work with you and hopes to have you share it with others. Watching well-known models strut the catwalk in designer wares in the same room as high-powered fashion editors and celebrities will never gets old for me.

Mulberry makes full lines of ready-to-wear, shoes and accessories, of course, but we and they both know what everyone wants to see every season: the bags. Mulberry has been an enormous reputation off of its stylish, functional, totally covetable leather day bags, and by all indications from the Mulberry Fall 2013 show, the brand has no desire to change that. Want a new work bag or roomy weekend bag? This collection likely has something you’ll want if you’re a fan of Mulberry’s general look.

As has been the trend so far this season, the show featured plenty of dark neutrals, plus a few colorful accents by way of teal and yellow. The collection also includes several new shapes for the brand, including the Mulberry Suffolk Bag, a soft, simple single-handle satchel with a metal bar across the top that feels a little bit like a Dolce & Gabbana Miss Sicily, and a double-handle satchel reminiscent of the Givenchy Lucrezia. Those are both very relevant shapes right now, so it makes sense that Mulberry would add them to their lineup, in addition to the beautiful Willow Tote that debuted for Spring 2013. (And which still hasn’t hit stores, but that’s just a personal gripe on my part.)

[Images via Vogue]

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