When I first laid eyes on the RED Valentino Embroidered Quilted Shoulder Bag, I felt confused. Surely the brand was marked incorrectly; this design has every bit as much detailing as you’d expect from a full-fledged Valentino bag, and it has the same refined, utterly ladylike look. I felt even more confused when I saw the price. Less than $500? How could that be? Then I figured it out – the bag isn’t real leather. But maybe it doesn’t matter, considering all the other stuff we already discussed.

I am a leather person. I don’t spend money on fancy bags and shoes that aren’t real leather. I will never darken the door of the Stella McCartney accessories department. But at the right (reduced) price point, and when a considerable amount of design work has obviously gone into a bag, the case can be made for non-leather, even to me. This bag is beautiful and expensive-looking, much more so than the McCartney bags that sell like hotcakes. If you’re someone who avoids leather for ethical reasons, I doubt there’s a more refined, luxurious handbag choice for you anywhere else on the market right now. Even if you’re not, this bag’s the best argument I’ve seen for paying anything more than Target prices for PVC. Buy through Luisa Via Roma for $476.

When it came time to design Mackage x PurseBlog Nomad Bag, my idea was to make a bag that is ideal for the lady on the move, which I constantly am. When I’m home in NYC, I change my bags out often, but Vlad and I travel a ton and I’m not someone who takes along a bunch of bags when I’m on the road; they’re cumbersome to pack, they could get lost, there’s just too much hassle. I told the designers behind Mackage, Elisa and Eran, that the Nomad needed to be made with a hectic lifestyle in mind. I wanted to make something both compact and spacious, which is not an easy feat. On top of that, I wanted the bag to be convertible.

After a very long design day, many emails back and forth and months in the making, we ended up with a bag that actually gives you three bags in one. From a two-compartment shoulder bag, to a stand-alone clutch that can be zipped off of the rest of the bag and carried alone, to a pouch with an optional shoulder strap, this bag is the ideal travel companion. And for everything you get, the price can’t be beat – $395 via Mackage.

I’ve been traveling with my Mackage x PurseBlog Nomad Bag the past few months and wanted to show you the journey of my Nomad bag, from the pink sand beaches of Bermuda to the Toronto Needle (CN Tower) to the bag’s launch parties in both Toronto and NYC.

Bermuda

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The journey with my Nomad started in beautiful Bermuda
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We started the day with walks on the pink sand beaches and ended with dinners overlooking the sunset
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“The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” ― Lao Tzu

Toronto

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A warm welcome from the Mackage team when we arrived in Toronto
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Wherever you go, always remember to look up…
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“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” – Dr. Seuss
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The Mackage x PurseBlog Nomad, enough said – $395 via Mackage

New York

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A wall of Nomad bags in the Mackage store
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DJ Brendan Fallis and Mackage designer Eran Elfassy
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Two of my favorite people, Theophilus London and Adrienne Bailon, who loved her Nomad
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The center of attention, the Nomad, $395 via Mackage
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Eran Elfassy and Elisa Dahan of Mackage, Megs and Vlad and DJ Brendan Fallis
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“The journey starts beneath the stars…” – Theophilus London
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The design trio of the Mackage x PurseBlog Nomad Bag, Elisa, Eran and myself

Usually, there are two things guaranteed to make a bag enormously expensive: exotic materials and a significant amount of detailing, like beading or embroidery. Somehow, the Rafe Celia Satin Clutch manages to combine both of those elements, plus a generous proportion, and still slide in right under $300. (more…)

I’m a little embarrassed to say that my iPhone has seen much, much better days because I don’t have a bag like the MICHAEL Michael Kors Phone Compartment Crossbody. Not only do I have a year-and-a-half old 4S (not even a 5!), but its screen is significantly cracked in one corner because of a post-brunch texting incident a couple of months ago in which it met an untimely end against a Third Avenue sidewalk. If those two things weren’t enough, I’ve noticed recently that my screen protector (which I’ve kept in place to keep the glass shards away from my delicate finger meat) has several gouges in it. After some thoughtful deduction, I’ve realized that those gouges are probably because the bag I’m carrying right now doesn’t have any interior pockets and my keys are attacking my phone willy-nilly.

As much as I love bag trends heading toward minimalism, it does present a few problems. My bag came with a separate pouch for all the things you don’t want crashing around in your purse, but I use my phone too much to zip it away completely in a pouch that I would need to fish in and out all the time. Even if a bag has a compartment that’s nominally intended to house a phone, it’s usually tucked away in the unreachable depths of the interior, which is also a dealbreaker for me.

This little MICHAEL Michael Kors bag gets it exactly right – your phone is easily reachable, but it’s also completely protected from everything going on around it. With out-of-pocket iPhones costing in the vicinity of $700, they’re often the most costly thing we carry on a daily basis, other than our bags themselves. It’s always nice when the bag pitches in to keep them safe, especially when the bag is as cute and well-priced as this little leopard number. Buy through Bloomingdale’s for $148.

MICHAEL Michael Kors Phone Compartment Crossbody Exterior

As we’re all well aware (and at times, far too aware), designer handbags are, by their very nature, expensive. Often prohibitively so. As much as we think it’s often worth it to save your pennies and splurge on that $2,000 bag you want, sometimes that’s just not in the cards, no matter how much you restrict your outside-of-the-house activities and how closely you follow our 18 Easy GIF Steps. Or maybe you’re not sold on $2,000 handbags as a concept quite yet and simply prefer to keep your expenditures in a more comfortable realm. Either way, we’ve got your back.

As we do every season, we’ve rounded up what we think are the finest handbags in the land for under $600. Every season, that gets harder to do – the prices of contemporary bags are inching up just like everything else, but we’ve persevered. ‘Tis our duty. Check out our choices below, which range from stalwart favorites to brand new designs, and remember that ShopBop, one of our favorite sources for bags in this price range, is offering 25% off almost any purchase with code INTHEFAMILY25 through tomorrow, October 17.

If you’ve been hoping that American handbag stalwart Coach would do things a little bit differently, your time has come. Last week, we got a peek at the Fall 2013 version of the Coach Borough Bag (that should be landing at Coach.com any minute now) on the arm of none other than accessories tastemaker Sarah Jessica Parker, and now Coach Spring 2014 reveals that the new design will be the foundation of its forthcoming season.

I still can’t get over how little the Borough Bag looks like a “Coach bag” in the traditional sense. Even when Coach makes a really great bag, the design tends to always be clearly underpinned by details and designs from the company’s design history. Heritage is important, of course, but with a brand that elicits the kind of strong opinions (both negative and positive) that Coach does, displaying a little bit of creative dexterity can mean all the difference in expanding your market. In fact, that’s the lesson that Louis Vuitton is learning right now.

The modern, practical Borough Bags, in all their sizes and colors, are the clear winners of the season for Coach, and the line also includes a bunch of roomy totes and a few surprisingly sophisticated dome satchels. To check out all the bags from Coach’s preview, which will be available by early 2014, check out our gallery below. To shop Coach’s current selection, head on over to Coach.com.

We love a party, and we could let one of our favorite bags’ first birthday slip by without a little celebration. The Loeffler Randall Rider Bag turns one year old this season, and we’re marking the occasion by making sure that one of our lucky readers gets to join the Rider Club. (Megs and I are already members, and trust us, it’s a great place to be.) In order to make that happened, we’ve teamed up with Loeffler Randall to give away the Rider bag of your choice. (If I were you, I’d pick the pink calf hair Rider that you see above – as you already know, I’m totally obsessed with it.)

To win the bag, all you have to do is head over to Facebook and like both our page and Loeffler Randall’s. You can enter through October 6, so hurry up, what are you waiting for? If you’re not confident in your chances of being the lucky winner, for today only, you can head over to LoefflerRandall.com and get 15% off any new Rider with the code PBRIDER1YR. For how beautiful they are, the Rider bags are already a great deal, and this code only makes them an even better bang for your buck.

Fashion Week is fun and all, but it’s a different kind of fun to check out collections once they hit their first pre-orders at Moda Operandi, usually mere days or weeks after first debuting on the runway. It allows us to find out design names and prices of our favorite bags, like these from 3.1 Phillip Lim Spring 2014, a lot sooner than we normally would, plus it gives consumers a peek at the non-runway accessories that we can expect from the brands once full collections hit stores.

Lim’s accessory presale is the first to really give us pause this season. Not only is the brand new 3.1 Phillip Lim Wednesday Bag included in several different iterations, including the standout cracked leather version from the runway, but so are Ryder bags in new colors. The fan-favorite Pashli gets both a super-trendy holographic finish (for the mini version) and a super-trendy backpack shape, both of which sort of feel like Lim throwing a bone to the accessories fads of the moment. Check out the accessories from the sale below (it also includes shoes) or shop the full selection via Moda Operandi.

I doubt Tory Burch would be irritated to hear me say that hers is not a “heritage” brand by any stretch of the imagination. It hasn’t outfitted anyone for wars or saddled up any horses in its time, and that’s fine; not even billionaire Burch can go back in time and move back the birth of her brand by 100 years. Heritage is big business, though – high-end customers place tons of value on a brand’s history, and that’s probably why the brand new Tory Burch Saddalrina Large Saddle looks like it could be based on an archival bag from the brand’s imagined past.

Or, perhaps, from a brand like Coach’s actual past. The shape and finish of the leather remind me a lot of both the Coach bags my mom carried when I was a kid and the highly-prized classic Coach finds you can occasionally uncover in a vintage store. The long shoulder strap, the medium-tone gold hardware, the glossy-but-not-shiny finish of the leather – it’s all exactly right. Tory even did herself a favor and omitted her signature logo hardware, opting instead for a block T built into the bag’s turnlock closure. (Turnlock! Another classic Coach-esque thing.)

Coach doesn’t capitalize on interest in vintage-looking bags like this quite as ardently as it could, so, to be perfectly frank, I’m glad someone is. At Burch’s price point, this is what heritage looks like, and this bag does a great job pretending that it has a carefully cataloged predecessor from decades past sitting in an archive somewhere. Buy through Neiman Marcus for $495.

Also available in tan via Bloomingdale’s for $495.

Coach Saddalrina Large Saddle Bag

Fashion Week, with all its lavish parties, decked-out street style looks and high school-cafeteria-on-steriods seating arrangements, can make even someone pretty flush with cash feel like a bit of a pauper. Seriously, where (and how) do people get all this stuff? After a few seasons of the circus, you also start to ask why anyone thinks they need it, and at that point a bag like the ONE by Ampersand as Apostrophe Half Tote becomes pretty attractive.

Fashion swings from one extreme to the other like the weightiest of pendulums, and minimalism – especially in accessories, where things are easily taken to their most maximal – is a natural response to the nearly baroque levels of embellishment we’ve seen recently. Everyone’s eyes need a break from trying to figure out how they’re supposed to focus when met with a bag covered in python, studs and fur, and thankfully, this is the sort of visual break that can also help out your wallet. A simple, well-executed, sharp leather bag doesn’t have to cost a fortune because it doesn’t require the extra man hours needed to make crocodile look like leopard or whatever.

That’s why Celine’s extremely simple Cabas totes struck such a chord, and it’s likely why people are still asking me on Twitter where they can get Mansur Gavriel’s unlined, hardware-free, solid-color shoulder bags. This Ampersand as Apostrophe tote, part of ShopBop’s exclusive ONE line, carries on those bags’ aesthetic ideas. For less than $350, you get an all-leather tote that’s handmade in the US, and the unfinished edges, unlined suede interior and half-hidden, half-exposed (hence the bag’s name) stitching provide all the design details you could need. Every inch of the bag is purposeful and considered, which seems like the ultimate luxury.

Buy through ShopBop for $330 in grey, black and brown.

ONE by Ampersand as Apostrophe Half Tote Black ONE by Ampersand as Apostrophe Half Tote Brown

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