I’ve always associated Longchamp Le Pliage Totes with sorority girls and prepsters of all types, but that may not be exactly accurate anymore. Sure, the brand is beloved by college students nationwide for their simple, lightweight, tan-handled nylon totes, but the French brand seems as though it would very much like to expand its reach beyond pear-studs set. Not only has Longchamp done several high-profile collaborations with bad boy designer Jeremy Scott, but its regular line of bags just got a big dose of modernity.

After looking at the images below for a little while, I’ve decided that it’s really the black handles that set the stage for the more fashionable future of Longchamp. You wouldn’t think that it would make such a big difference (after all, there are plenty of gorgeous designer handbags made of tan leather), but it totally does. The bags attached to those handles, in rich-toned leathers and textiles, feel a lot more grown up and stylish than their preppy predecessors.

We’ve long lamented the dearth of reasonably priced handbag lines with a modern look, and lately, our prayers have begun to find answers. First Mansur Gavriel came along, with its elegant, understated line of functional handbags and totes, and now we’ve found KARA Handbags, a young line that just got picked up by ShopBop. If you lust after Celine, Alexander Wang and 3.1 Phillip Lim but want to splurge on something under $500, meet your new favorite brand.

The New York-brand, which was named after karaoke, was founded by Parson’s grad Sarah Law in 2012. Fall 2013 is the brand’s second full collection, and it covers urban-trendy ground from mini crossbodies to minimalist backpacks in leather and shearling, rendered in a limited palette of black, burgundy, tan and lavender. The implementation of shearling, which is generally a material with which accessories designers have some trouble, is particularly well done. Resort 2014, which can be seen on the brand’s website, promises of-the-moment delights like marbled calf hair that can generally only be found on handbags much, much more expensive. Not only are the bags generally much more expensive-looking and well-designed than anything else in the price range right now, but all your friends will want to know where you found such a cute bag. Get in on the action while KARA is still under the radar by checking out our picks below or shopping ShopBop’s fall selection.

Generally speaking, high-low designer collaborations have seen better days. They were all the rage for a while – Lanvin x H&M, anyone? – but at some point, they jumped the shark. I’m not sure whether that moment was the Missoni x Target online ordering fiasco or the Neiman Marcus x Target x Every Designer In America three-way flop, but it happened, and ever since then, our expectations have been low, if not nonexistent. 3.1 Phillip Lim x Target is here to restore some of our faith in high-low. (more…)

Alice + Olivia’s signature brand of exuberant girlishness has been delighting the brand’s many fans for years, but for that whole time, something very important has been missing: handbags. Obviously that’s a gap in the brand’s product line that really hit us right in the heart, so we’re pretty pleased to tell you that Alice + Olivia handbags are now available for your ordering pleasure.

Like any inaugural handbag line, the brand has some design kinks to work out here and there, but the marquee design, the big-but-not-too-big Alice + Olivia Olivia Satchel is a good place to start, as are the simple fold-over clutches. Perhaps most impressively, many of the bags in the line’s first collection are rendered in printed calf hair, which is usually a material that drives up the price of a design. Even with plenty of calf hair, though, none of the bags exceed $600. My favorite is the black-and-white spotted duffel at the top end of that range; the only serious misstep is…well, look through the options below and I’m sure you can spot it. Alternately, you can shop the brand via Neiman Marcus.

As far as school bags go, I think my experience in college was pretty typical of what happens at most universities, especially those that tended toward preppiness – the fashion-conscious girls carried either Longchamp or Herve Chapelier totes in bright colors, and everyone else carried backpacks. The Louis Vuitton Neverfull Tote didn’t yet exist during my days at school, although I’d assume it’s pretty popular now as well, in all of its various incarnations. I was a Herve Chapelier girl, mostly because the straps were flat and more comfortable on my shoulder if I needed to lug my laptop; I still have a few of those old, beaten-up totes in my closet, in case I should need them. They’re nostalgia pieces for me, and I can’t bring myself to throw them away.

If I had to pick a school bag now, though, I’d do things a little differently. Not only is the contemporary market full of large, casual, attractive tote and backpack options, but Longchamp now makes Le Pliage totes far more interesting than the red version favored on my campus. (You know, school colors.) Below, we’ve assembled 10 to get you started on your search for the perfect college bag, whether you’re buying one for yourself or looking for a gift to give your daughter, niece or little sister. By our calculations, all should have room for your regular purse contents, plus a small laptop or tablet and a textbook. Unless you’re taking, like, organic chemistry. Then just get a Northface and call it a day. Your shoulders will thank you.

Now that the calendar has officially rolled over into August, young men and women across the country are preparing to head off to college, either for the first time or as season university professionals. Either way, everyone who’s going will need a good, sturdy bag to lug around campus, and we thought we would take this Man Bag Monday opportunity to introduce future and current collegians alike to a half dozen school bags that are also pretty good-looking, in addition to being practical.

If you’re a mother, big sister or girlfriend of a dude who’s headed off to college and you want him to start presenting himself like the adult he’s about to become, sending him off with a great bag as a gift is among the best ways to do it. With that in mind, we’ve picked some basics from accessible brands like Filson and Jack Spade that don’t require a keen fashion sense to appreciate. You can even draw on one of them like a chalkboard.

There aren’t a whole lot of uber-popular bags from the mid-2000s that could make a comeback. Chloe tried to make both the Paddington and Silverado happen again earlier this year, to the excitement of absolutely no one. Fendi doesn’t seem interested in re-introducing the Spy, thankfully, and its Baguette bags have required major embellishments to pique the interests of consumers all over again. Let’s not even talk about the Dior Saddle Bag – I’m pretty sure Raf Simons doesn’t want to, either. That’s to say nothing of the host of popular contemporary bags from the time period that would look like absolute monstrosities by 2013 standards. Somehow, though, the Botkier Trigger Bag, reissued as the Botkier Legacy Satchel, makes it work. (more…)

It’s only been a couple seasons since Brian Atwood launched B Brian Atwood, a reasonably affordable footwear line aimed at contemporary customers and styled like his uber-expensive eponymous line, and it’s been a success, to say the least. Young customers have responded positively to the metallic finishes, vertiginous heels and comfy flats alike, and now Atwood’s taken the next logical step with his baby brand: B Brian Atwood Handbags, which just launched exclusively at Bloomingdale’s. (more…)

While I’m fully aware that Rebecca Minkoff makes a full line of handbags that ranges from clutches to weekenders, when I think of the brand, I think of crossbody bags. Perhaps its because my single RM bag is a MAC, or maybe it’s because Minkoff’s crossbodies are ubiquitous among the 20-something denizens of New York City, or maybe it’s just because Minkoff herself understands better than many contemporary designers that these are the types of bags that young women really want to buy. For whatever reason, when I look to judge an RM collection, it’s almost always by its crossbody bags, and that means that the brand appears to be in good shape for Fall 2013.

RM’s fall crossbodies, at least those that have shown up online in the past few days, are a little bit meatier than their previous counterparts, boasting flap tops, front pockets and, in the cast of the Hudson Moto bag, a substantial size increase and a luxurious quilted finish. These three bags all look pretty refined for their price points, and they’ll look at home alongside the richer textures and colors of fall. My favorite, of course, is the all-black Hudson Moto.

Rebecca Minkoff Hudson Moto Mini Bag
$265 via Bloomingdale’s

Rebecca Minkoff Hudson Moto Mini Bag

Rebecca Minkoff Hudson Moto Crossbody Bag
$385 via Neiman Marcus

Rebecca Minkoff Hudson Moto Crossbody Bag

Rebecca Minkoff Perry Moto Bag
$345 via ShopBop

Rebecca Minkoff Perry Moto Bag

Change is rough. Most people resist it, but when it comes to seasonal shifts, there’s not really any dodging the fact that you’re going to have to make some wardrobe changes in the next six weeks or so. It’ll be August by the end of the week, and then you’re just a hop, skip and a jump from September, which is when most parts of the country really start to feel like they might be shifting away from the summer sun. Dressing for changing weather can be tricky, but we’re here to take the guesswork out of choosing a transitional handbag. (more…)

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