I don’t envy the position that new handbag lines find themselves in. The accessories market is super competitive, in part because it’s super profitable and a great way to reach a wide range of consumers, but that also means that how a new line is positioned at its launch is critically important. The look and price not only need to be in sync with each other, but they should be attuned to what else is going on within the accessories industry. And first impressions are hard to shake – getting that stuff right up front means a lot when consumers are deciding what they think of a new line.

Unfortunately, I don’t think Belstaff‘s new line of high-end handbags gets many things right on its inaugural outing. The prices are akin to those of handbag stalwarts like Prada and Gucci, but what you get for that hefty investment remains to be seen. Even if the materials are top notch (which they might be, I don’t know), they styling of most of these bags leaves something major to be desired, especially at their elevated price points. The very structure of most of the bags feels outdated and a bit low-rent.

The Belstaff Dorchester 36 Tote is the most attractive of the bunch, but Belstaff hasn’t earned my trust in a way that enables me to spend $2250 (or $2850 for woven leather) on it that and still feel confident in the fact that I’ve gotten my money’s worth. Prices like that aren’t a given; they have to be earned, and customer bases have to be built. Check out a few more pieces of the brand’s inaugural line below and let us know what you think.

Belstaff Tredington Metal Clutch, $2875 via Neiman Marcus

Belstaff Tread Weymouth Shoulder Bag, $1995 via Neiman Marcus

Belstaff Dorchester 36 Woven Leather Satchel, $2850 via Neiman Marcus

Belstaff Dorchester 36 Leather Satchel, $2250 via Neiman Marcus

Belstaff Ashley Tread Satchel, $2395 via Neiman Marcus

I’ve been eyeing the Celine All Soft Shoulder Bag ever since Celine Spring 2013 popped up on the Internet (for Celine newbies, the brand calls its resort collection “spring” and its spring collection “summer”), and now that the line is set to launch in Celine boutiques on Thursday (along with the rest of spring), it seemed only fitting to take a closer look at what makes the bag so appealing. Besides the fact that it’s Celine, of course.

In my view, Celine makes two categories of purses: Celine Bags and Celine It Bags. You can probably guess which ones fall into the latter category – the Luggage Totes and Trapezes of the world, which are highly recognizable and meant not only to do brisk sales, but to increase the brand’s public profile among those who might not be in the market for furry Big Bird pumps. For a brand like Celine, those bags are the quickest route to profitability, and creative director Phoebe Philo is a master at making sure those pieces are in place at whatever company she’s helming.

The other bags are a bit more rank-and-file; simpler, cleaner-lined, less noticeable to someone passing you on the street. The All Soft, with its DNA taken from the successful Celine Cabas Tote, is firmly a part of this second group, and for me, that’s part of its appeal. With these careful color configurations, the bag can be worn with almost anything, and the lack of serious structure means that it’ll likely be very light and easy to carry. I’ll have to wait and see it in person to know for sure, though; according to the staff at the Celine Madison Avenue boutique, the bag will retail for around $2,000 when it debuts on Thursday – the all-leather versions a little lower, the leather and suede versions a little higher. The associate I spoke to declined to give me exact figures in advance of the launch.

When the reviews for the Proenza Schouler Resort 2013 collection started rolling in this past summer, I became agitated. Not because of what I saw, but because of what I didn’t – the reviews mentioned a bag known as the Proenza Schouler PS13 that had been shown at the brand’s press previews, but not a single outlet published a picture of it. That was intentional, of course; Proenza Schouler had restricted photos of the bag to keep it away from the eyes of potential counterfeiters and fast-fashion copycats like Zara and Forever 21.

Even in this age of Twitter and Instagram, Proenza was successful; the brand somehow managed to completely shut down any efforts to distribute photos of the much-anticipated design. I googled and googled and tried to ferret my way into the corners of the Internet that might contain any kind of visual on the PS13, and I was rebuffed. Our Forum members tried to do the same thing, a quest at which they are generally successful, and they faced similar failure. Until now.

While I was on vacation last week, a friend tweeted me the image above, from Net-a-Porter’s Cruise 2013 lookbook. Finally, the elusive PS13! What Proenza has done with this bag is clear – it’s a sequal to the ever-popular PS1, so much so that I’m surprised the company isn’t calling it the PS2. It’s a bag meant to be carried everyday and everywhere, with the option of a solid shoulder strap (not long enough for crossbody wear, it would seem) or double top handles that appear to be sturdier than the single handle of the PS1. The design also seems ripe for spinoff shapes – most notably, a clutch in the shape of the bag’s front pouch is on its way. The possibilities for colors, materials and shapes are many.

Vogue magazine seems to agree, which is important for any designer hoping to score a hit, particularly in the US. The influential publication gave the bag, in the black-and-white snakeskin, its coveted back page in the November issue, on newsstands now. One of our Forum members was kind enough to scan Eric Boman’s photo of the bag, below. Vanessa Traina also carried the bag around Paris Fashion Week, but at the time, no one knew what it was. You can also find an action shot of her with the bag below. (If you know who took this photo, please let us know so we can credit appropriately!)

As for pricing? The python version is $6550, according to our Forum members, with the regular leather version listed at $2495 in NAP’s lookbook, which seems a bit high. I would have guessted $1995, based on the photo and Proenza Schouler’s other bag prices, but perhaps the brand is trying to creep its way into a high accessories price bracket. Shop now via Proenza Schouler.

Not only do I love finding new handbag designers to share with you all, but also I found a designer whose bags are so lovely I am certain many of you will add them to your wishlist. I know I am. I am talking about Sophie Hulme, a British designer who graduated from Kingston University in 2007 and followed graduation by launching her ready to wear brand immediately. Most importantly, Sophie Hulme knows what she is doing and this is evident in her designs, as you can see why this young designer is building true traction for her refined and sleek bags.

Her designs are a bit different and much of this she credits to growing up in a converted toy factory and taking inspiration from her unconventional surroundings. Her bags are entirely classic yet stand out much more than the typical bags we think of on a day to day basis as being classic. The hardware immediately grabs your attention, but is not distracting. The designs themselves have a bit of a masculine touch with a structured finish. All in all, this is a brand to watch and a designer I expect we will hear much more from in the coming years. There is always room for a break out handbag star, and Sophie Hulme is about to start her time in the US spotlight after making waves in Britain. Her bags are available via Net-A-Porter. (more…)

All these years later, my all-time favorite DvF bag is still the Stephanie. I own two of these bags, they’re my go-to when it comes to traveling. I love that for this bag, the shape is crescent-like, which means it’s so roomy that it fits everything I need. Furthermore, every time I carry my Stephanie, people praise it. It should follow suit that DvF continues to pump up her handbag game; she’s churning out lust-worthy bags each season.

Right now, my attention is drawn to the Diane von Furstenberg Limited Edition Box Clutches, which are so cute and quirky that they’re giving Kate Spade and Olympia Le-Tan a run for their novelty bag money. (more…)

Narciso Rodriguez is a man whose clothes are known for their modern angles and respect for the natural contours of the body, so it only makes sense that his first handbags should have that same sensibility. Time and again, it’s proved difficult for American ready-to-wear designers to effectively channel their aesthetic visions into covetable handbags, but what I look at this bag, I see pure Narciso, particularly in the sharp black accents. That’s no small feat.

The bags, which are currently exclusive to Barneys, are expensive even for most designer bags – the all-leather bowler above costs $3,200, and the prices range up to nearly $8,000 for an ostrich satchel accented with lizard. I’ll abstain commenting on whether or not they’re worth it until I’m able to check them out in person, but it does seem like a lot of money for a debut, even if the orange-and-black version above is undeniably beautiful in a very modern way. Check out a few more of Narciso’s bags after the jump and let us know what you think, or simply pick up one of these for yourself for $3,200 via Barneys. (more…)

The perennial cool kids of Opening Ceremony have taken one more step into the accessories realm: just this week, they’ve launched their first in-house bag line, which feels like a long time coming. As you might expect, the bags ring up at a contemporary price point and they look like exactly the sort of thing that Opening Ceremony’s hipper-than-thou clientele wants to carry when their It Bags start to feel overexposed.

That being said, I don’t think there’s a true standout in this group. There are three basic shapes, and although they form a good foundation for later expansion, I was hoping for a splashy debut. As it is, I like the orange, red-trimmed Opening Ceremony OCLA Mini Flap Bag enough to stalk it until it goes on sale. Check out the entire line after the jump or shop via Opening Ceremony. (more…)

It’s rare that I come across a line of bags at Neiman Marcus that I don’t immediately recognize, but that’s what happened when I was browsing the retailer’s new fall arrivals online recently. The SW1 Podplaza Satchel, above, immediately caught my eye for its spare, confident design; it takes some nerve to design a bag that’s so aggressively minimal, because the eye doesn’t have anything by which to be conveniently distracted when evaluating the finished product.

After some research, that level of confidence wasn’t so surprising. SW1 is a high-design, Milan-based offshoot of American shoe powerhouse Stuart Weitzman, and the man behind the line is Alvaro Gonzalez, who has worked in accessories for Jimmy Choo, Tod’s and Valentino, among others. The bags are designed by Gonzalez and his team and produced in Weitzman-owned European factories, and so far, the results are particularly good. All of the pieces that Neiman Marcus carries are under $1000, and although the line might not be entirely at that price point, it’s a good place to start. Check out a couple more of our favorite pieces after the jump, or pick up the bag you see above for $995 via Neiman Marcus. (more…)

Over the last few years, I have become a full-fledged Bottega Veneta girl. I started with their handbags and slowly began adding shoes, and before I knew it I was buying their clothing as well. This is a brand I know and love and hands-down can proclaim that if I could, I would wear and carry Bottega Veneta every single day. As the brand has grown, so has its offerings. From home accents to furniture to jewelery, Bottega Veneta continues to expand into a luxury lifestyle brand.

Recently Bottega got us talking with its Initials Project, and now I am excited to talk about the introduction of Bottega Veneta Intrecciomirage and Intrecciolusion.


With so much flash in the luxury accessories industry, it’s nice to come across a brand that goes in entirely the opposite direction. There’s something to be said for a simple, perfectly made leather bag that embraces subtlety, and that’s exactly what you’ll find from Mark Cross. The American brand dates back to the mid-1800s, and although it was shuttered in the late 90s, new leadership reopened the brand in 2010 as a heritage leather goods line.

Barneys picked up the bags almost immediately, which should tell you a little bit about the quality and craftsmanship that goes into them. The designs are free of external branding and lack flashy hardware, which means that the materials take center stage. Most of the shapes are traditional and familiar, although not directly reminiscent of another brand’s signatures, which leads to an overall feel of traditional luxury. Best of all, though, the bag’s prices don’t reach into the realm of the Hermeses and Delvauxes of the world. check out our favorites after the jump. (more…)

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