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

Marc Jacobs himself has acknowledged that his little-sister Marc by Marc Jacobs line has fallen off a bit over the past few years. To remedy the situation, he appointed some well-known new design brass to the label – Luella Bartley and Katie Hillier – back in May, and although we won’t see any results from the new leadership until the brand’s Spring 2014 collection debuts next week, the Marc by Marc Jacobs Get A Grip Large Satchel is a pretty good indicator of where Jacobs would like to see the brand headed.

When I first saw this bag in the New Arrivals lineup at alongside bags from Rochas and The Row, it didn’t look at all out of place. Black leather, simple shape, inventive use of sleek, subtle hardware – it’s all here, and for a price that isn’t nearly so astronomical as the look will run you at any number of other brands. It’s a strong basic, a bag that you can take to the office without fear of looking unprofessional but that you might also like enough to carry off-duty. (If models can be “off-duty,” I suspect that we’re all allowed to use that distinction for our down time.)

At $598, the bag is on the more expensive end of the spectrum for a Marc by Marc bag, but it also lacks many of the slightly juvenile details that made earlier bags from the brand a prime choice for coeds and interns. Jacobs’ little sister appears to be ready to grow up a little bit, and not a moment too soon. Buy through Neiman Marcus for $598.

It’s hard for contemporary designers to step outside of a contemporary price point without arousing ire from its customers. It stands to reason that a huge portion of the fans of a brand like Tory Burch appreciate the designer’s work because they feel like it provides a good value for their dollar or inhabits a price range with which they’re reasonably comfortable. When those brands attempt to push upward, not only do those fans sometimes not follow, but they often become vocally angry – how dare a brand get too big for its price-britches!

As you might have guessed from the title of this post, the Tory Burch Attersee Chevron Satchel, above, costs $995. The bag is rendered in suede and wool, replete with numerous tiny beads and a few larger stones to cap off the bag’s closure. It’s detailed, lush and on trend in a lot of ways for fall. It’s jewelry, a sweater and a handbag all rolled into one, and considered all the disparate elements, it pulls off the look fairly well. (I’m not so sure about the stones at the top, but other than that, it’s a beautifully intricate bag.) Fine materials don’t necessarily impress fans of contemporary brands, though, if the price is similarly fine. That’s not what they signed up for, after all, and snakeskin and fur ventures by brands like Coach prove that pretty well, at least in consumer reaction. One needs only peek inside our PurseForum to pick up on that vibe.

Despite the fact that I know this bag isn’t any more overpriced for what it is than any other bag on the market from a similar brand, I still couldn’t put my money down for it, even if I loved it. In my head, the perceived value of a Tory Burch bag tops out at about $600, and it would probably take a slow, steady climb for the brand to exceed that figure for me. What about you? Can you envision a Tory Burch bag that would make you part with a grand? Is this one it?

If so, pick up this bag for $995 via Saks.

We first introduced you to the just-launched Mansur Gavriel Handbags in July, but the bad news back then was that there was barely an available purse to be found – the company’s first run had been snapped up already, more or less in its entirety. We had a light at the end of the tunnel, though, because we knew the brand had been picked up by Net-a-Porter for fall. Now, those bags have started to arrive!

It’s not difficult to see why the first run of Mansur Gavriel bags disappeared so quickly. The designs are sleek, modern and functional, and they all retail for less than $500. The exterior neutrals disguise interiors splashed in contrasting brights or pastels, and without a heavy lining, the bags are light, practical choices for women who want a design that straddles the divide between trendy minimalism and a classic look that won’t look dated any time soon.

Net-a-Porter doesn’t indicate where these bags were made, but since Mansur Gavriel was planning to move its production from China to Italy for fall, it’s likely these bags are from that new run of bags made in Europe. For some of you, I’m sure that’ll be welcome news. You can shop a limited selection of Mansur Gavriel bags via Net-a-Porter now.

Mansur Gavriel Small Tote
$425 via Net-a-Porter

Mansur Gavriel Small Tote

Mansur Gavriel Large Tote
$485 via Net-a-Porter

Mansur Gavriel Large Tote

Mansur Gavriel Bucket Bag
$495 via Net-a-Porter

Mansur Gavriel Leather Bucket Bag

Please believe me when I tell you that I am head-over-heels for this bright pink calf hair version of the Loeffler Randall Rider Bag. I’ve been a fan of this shape since Loeffler’s handbag line debuted a few seasons ago and even added a mini version to my collection this spring, and now it’s this big, slightly furry, very bright iteration that’s the object of my affections. It will be mine. Oh yes, it will be mine.

Heavily textured bags are once again a full-on trend for fall, and if you’re uncomfortable with fur (either for ethical or financial reasons), calf hair is a great way to go. You get a bag that’s similarly lush and tactile, and although the material almost always costs more than a regular leather version of the same bag, it’s always less than traditional fur. It’s also shorter and neater, in case you’re concerned about carrying a bag that looks like a disemboweled muppet. (Are muppets fundamentally disemboweled? Discuss.)

The regular leather version of the Rider comes in at a very reasonable $495, and while this calf hair version is more expensive, it comes in at a not-exactly-whopping $650 for a bag that is almost entirely calf hair-covered. That’s a much better value for the materials than you’ll find with most brands, and this bag is big enough to be an option for everyday carry. Would you wear something this bright on the daily, though? I know I would. Without a second thought. I am in love. Buy for $650 via Nordstrom or Loeffler Randall.

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.

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