Totes

I don’t care how hip or insider-y or snobby the Nina Ricci brand has become since handing of the design help to Olivier Theyskens in 2006, I’m not paying $2,700 for the Nina Ricci Calf Tote.

Every fashionista has a line of price ridiculousness which they cannot force themselves to cross, and Theyskens has found mine. Everyone needs a functional black leather tote in their lives, that much I’ll agree with – it’s a wardrobe standard that most people can appreciate, even if fashion (and bags in general) are not a huge part of their lives. (more…)

Is the Jimmy Choo Diego Straw Tote new, as it’s “pre-order” status on Saks.com would seemingly indicate? I’ve certainly yet to encounter it, and I check online retailers for new bags every day. And if it is brand new, then why is it just showing up now? August, really? People are surely still taking vacations to the beach now, but hasn’t the time for buying straw bags sort of passed?

Jimmy Choo Diego Straw Tote

Particularly for buying a straw bag that will cost, after tax, over $1000. That seems like a beginning-of-the-summer purchase, if you’re inclined to spend so much money on a straw bag at all, and most people contemplating big bag purchases seem to be looking forward to the next season and thinking about black leather, studs, and industrial details, not cutesy straw. The timing of this bag seems incredibly ill-advised, and since the design isn’t particularly strong, I’d bet that it’s destined for a long life on the sale rack. Buy through Saks for $975.

It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a Lanvin bag that I wanted to carry everyday. Same for a brown bag – that color just doesn’t jibe well with my mostly black wardrobe, and as a result, I’m not commonly attracted to bags of that color since I know I won’t get much wear out of them. For some reason, though, those two things combine in the Lanvin Amalia Quilted Cabas Tote to make a bag that I’d love to wear.

Lanvin Amalia Quilted Cabas Tote

A huge portion of the bag’s appeal is the milk chocolate leather. The bag is made entirely of lambskin, which looks so soft and tactile that I can’t help but want to reach through my screen and grope the bag. The surface is largely unobstructed by other design elements, and the result is a smooth expanse of leather that looks like it might actually taste like a Hershey bar if you licked it. Not that I’m advocating that you lick your bags, of course. But wouldn’t it be cool if it did? Even in it’s current state, I’d take this bag in a heartbeat. Buy through Luisa Via Roma for $1561.

Despite the beauty of the last Nancy Gonzalez bag that we reviewed, the combination of exotics and non-exotics didn’t exactly inspire all of our commenters. Using multiple materials is difficult to pull off, for sure, but what about using two exotics? Is the whole more than the sum of its parts? I think it is for the Nancy Gonzalez Python/Crocodile Tote. And just look at the end result…

Nancy Gonzalez Python Crocodile Satchel

This may be one of my favorite Nancy Gonzalez bags of all time, which says a lot, given my penchant for exotics. This particular shade of blue-undertoned grey is fantastic for highlighting scale and texture differences on exotic skins and bringing out their natural patterns and variations, which is exactly what a well-designed exotic bag should do. Python is the main event here, making up the front and back of the bag, while the sturdier crocodile skin forms the bag’s gussets. I’d be interested to see what the bag would look like if the material usage was flipped, but either way, it’s still beyond gorgeous. The neat rows of studs that run on either side of the bag’s front panel are the perfect finishing touch and something slightly out of character for the designer – I hope we see more of it in the future. Buy through Saks for $3100.

I both love and hate the Nancy Gonzalez Crocodile Striped Tote. I love it because it is, without a doubt, pretty much gorgeous. The color is listed as tan, which would normally be boring, but the subtle olive green undertones that run through it are enough to make the color something that you don’t see everyday while still maintaining its neutrality. The pale, unobtrusive color does wonders to highlight what’s really important about this bag – the structure. This is the second bag we’ve seen today that has juxtaposed exotic leathers and suede, and the effect here is simultaneously just as successful and totally different. The crocodile mixed with the softer, tactile suede gives the sewn-together strips a depth of visual interest and texture that is absolutely brilliant; I really can’t say enough about it.

Nancy Gonzalez Crocodile Striped Tote

What bothers me, though, is that the beauty of the crocodile skin is somewhat lost in the strips of leather and suede. My feeling, as I have explained before, is always that a bag made out of an exotic leather should use that leather’s natural texture to its greatest advantage. In tiny strips, it’s basically impossibly to do that. Stamped croc would have probably been a more cost-effective and appropriate material to use here, even though I’m not generally a proponent of stamping anything on high-end handbags. The price is somewhat reasonable for a bag that does use a great deal of exotic leather, though, so when that’s combined with the bag’s sleek beauty, I can’t hate it too much. Buy through Saks for $2750.

The Roger Vivier RV Shopping Tote is the perfect example of two handbag design principles that I believe to be true. First, that you don’t need to over-design in order to have an interesting bag. The lines of this tote are incredibly sleek, but the precision shows a great deal of care and thought were placed in to them. The leather-covered semi buckles that form the handle attachments are the perfect finishing touch, and the mirror the buckles that Vivier is so famous for in their shoes. It’s not overpowering, but it’s there, and it’s successful as a design element.

Roger Vivier RV Shopping Tote

The second principle that this bag demonstrates is that when you have great leather to work with, you don’t need much else. Deciding to cover the hardware with the bag’s material instead of leaving it as metal was a great decision – it gives the bag a continuity that metallic hardware would somewhat diminish. The material used on this bag is amazing – it’s simultaneously matte and a bit shiny, it has a natural texture to it that hasn’t been erased in the tanning process, and the color is somewhere in a middle ground between brown and olive green. With so many basic thing’s working in the its favor, there was no need for the designer to employ any kind of gimmick to make this bag stand out. Buy through Luisa Via Roma for $2118

Alexander McQueen Faithful Leather ToteA couple of weeks ago, I wrote a rather critical review of the Derek Lam Elsa Python Clutch with which not everyone agreed. And that’s fine; opinions are like…well, nevermind what they’re like! But there’s no bag upon which everyone will agree, and that’s just the nature of the beast.

But I thought it would be an interesting exercise in criticism to find a bag that does right what that clutch does so wrong: asymmetry. And I didn’t have to look for long, because the Alexander McQueen Faithful Leather Tote is full of non-symmetrical goodness that I can definitely appreciate. This tote works better because it appears as though all the details – flaps, zippers, snaps – could serve some sort of functional purpose as well as working as a design element. The trick is to make a bag whose design springs out of the essential elements of a usable bag, and McQueen does a fantastic job of that with this tote. Everything has a purpose, and there’s no random stuff stuck on just to be cute. I’m not an enormous fan of the bag’s squarish shape, but the other elements are done very well, so I can overlook it. Can you? Buy through Net-a-Porter for $2295.

I’m so split on Prada‘s Fall 2009 collection. I’ve seen some bags from it that look great – a bit boring, but made of nice materials and stylish enough to appeal to a lot of people. And then I’ve seen some bags that are apparently slightly more ‘conceptual,’ and most of those don’t work as well. A new entry on that list is the Prada Velluto Jacquard Tote.

Prada Velluto Jaquard Tote

It looks like what Prada was going for here was a modern-day carpet bag, this time made of nylon and velvet instead of more old-fashioned materials. I guess they partially succeeded, since it’s possible to see their goal in the finished product, but it’s hard to look at pictures of the bag and go, “Yes, exactly, this is exactly what a modern carpet bag should be.” The pattern looks vaguely like a cult logo, and I’m not paying $1500 for mustard-colored nylon that labels me as part of the Dharma Initiative. Sorry, Prada. Try harder next time. Buy through Saks for $1450.

As they say, the devil is in the details. Well, in the world of high-end handbags, sometimes that’s where you can find the design as well. And it’s the details that bring me back to the Gucci Crest Boule Fabric Tote over and over again. We’ve all seen plenty of ho-hum (and some slightly more than ho-hum) canvas totes from this brand over the years; besides their signature horsebit details, it’s probably one of the things for which they’re best known. But none has been so precise and sleek as this beauty right here.

Gucci Crest Boule Fabric Tote

It’s possible that the exclusion of the Gucci signature from this tote is what makes it look so clean and sophisticated, but I think it’s more than that. The thick leather trim and handles give the bag a heft and structure that few canvas totes have, and it makes it look a lot more purposeful and expensive-looking than other bags of this variety. The one thing I can’t get behind, though, is the price – even one of the nicest canvases totes I’ve ever seen still isn’t worth almost two grand. For that kind of dosh, I’m going to need leather. Buy through Neiman Marcus for $1990.

Not to be completely cliche, but lookie here – lightening has struck twice! It appears as thought something as afoot at Bally. Known for unobtrusive, somewhat bland bags for people that like beige, they seem to be barking up an entirely new tree lately. First, we covered the Bally Multi Zip Hobo, and now we’ve got the Bally Studded Top Handle. I loved the last one, and I may like this one even better. Which is odd, considering I can’t recall even noticing a Bally bag before last week.

Bally Studded Top Handle

The best decision that they made with this bag was making the rounded studs black instead of silver. That way, they look more like a texture instead of a decoration from a distance, but you still get the full effect when you’re close up. Another great move was making the studs steadily larger as they extend down the body of the bag – it adds to the idea that it’s a texture instead of just a bunch of stuck-on crap. The matte black leather accents in the side straps and handle attachments provide just enough juxtaposition to the rows of studs to tone down the look a bit and make it wearable every day. Quite possibly my favorite fall bag thus far; too bad it’s so expensive. Buy through Luisa Via Roma for $2430.

The first time that I scrolled past the Prada Tessuto & Ricamo Tote, I was entirely sure that it was Valentino. Partly that’s because of the difficulty of photographing the details of a bag like this, but partly (or maybe mostly), it’s because it really LOOKS like some of the Valentino bags we’ve seen recently. Incredibly intricate, shiny, flower-themed…that’s kind of their thing. And it’s really not Prada‘s thing – their aesthetic is much more streamlined and modern, particularly in the bag department.

Prada Tessuto & Ricamo Tote

And the more I look at it, the clearer it becomes that Miuccia should have left this to her Italian compatriots. The sequins-and-nylon setup they’ve got going on here just isn’t working, not even a little. Valentino does a great job with this gimmick because there is order in the bags’ chaos; the Prada version just looks like someone dumped a bag of black sequins on it. Considering the price tag, I’d look elsewhere if you’re interested in a similar style. Buy through Saks for $3695.

Miu Miu Black Lambskin ToteI’m on the fence in the battle between gold and silver hardware on black bags. On the one hand, I really like industrial-inspired style (as I’ve said about 6,904 times in the past month) and silver hardware (and lots of it) is basically the only way to go to achieve that look. Also, I only wear silver jewelry. On the other hand, gold hardware gives a bag a glam sensibility and a bit of a retro edge that is perfect for some looks. Either way, sometimes something as simple as hardware color is enough to make or break a look.

Particularly in a bag with as much hardware as the Miu Miu Black Lambskin Tote. I love the style of it all – the laced-together eyelets remind me of corsetry, and that seems like such a cool reference to make since both corsets and bags use some of the same parts to do their jobs. The rivets and straps are big enough to not get lost in the bag’s details, but something is slightly off for me. I really, really want this bag to have silver hardware. Somehow, it just seems more appropriate for both the reference and for this season’s trends. Other than that, it’s basically perfect. Buy through Net-a-Porter for $1350.