Luxury brands and their slew of classic, cult-favorite, and trend-driven bags have possessed a hold over fashion fanatics for decades. With iconic styles from legendary labels garnering hefty price tags and even heftier fanbases, expensive handbags from the most established and exclusive designers have long been heralded as the pinnacle of luxury fashion.

But now more than ever, bags from mid-range brands offer new and exciting (and affordable) options for handbag aficionados.

Against a backdrop of relentless price increases from luxury labels and the growing influence of accessibility-favoring Gen Z consumers on luxury, a multitude of mid-range brands are shaking up the designer handbag marketplace.

And this prompts the question – Is mid-range the new luxury?

What Is Mid-Range?

Before we can ponder whether mid-range is the new luxury when it comes to designer bags, we first need to clarify exactly what mid-range means. Expertly summed up as “pricier than Zara, cheaper than Prada,” mid-range labels offer premium products at lower and more accessible prices than luxury designers while remaining distinct from the mass market flooded with fast fashion brands.

Ranging between roughly $200 and $800, handbags from mid-range designers are sufficiently lower-priced than their luxury counterparts. Plus, these bags increasingly offer the premium quality and desirable materials that luxury shoppers are used to. And this is proving enticing amid concerns over a drop in the quality and craftsmanship of heritage luxury labels.

Best Bags of MFW Men s Spring 2023 14
LFW Street Style Bags Day 2 18.jpg

Changing Price Points

It’s no secret that fashion is getting more expensive. Many mid-range labels’ prices have increased over the past decade. But this rise is incomparable to the surge in the cost of bags from top-tier luxury brands, with some luxury bag models increasing by 300% in the past decade.

Bags from mid-range labels offer luxury shoppers an escape from chasing the seemingly ever-rising prices of popular styles from top luxury designers.

Continuous price increases from the likes of Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Hermès, Dior, Balenciaga, Valentino, and many more brands have made the cost of luxury handbags practically unrecognizable when compared to a decade ago. Consumers could once snap up popular bags from these labels for under $1,000, a price point that now seems fanciful.

And so, enter the cohort of mid-range designs offering an affordable alternative. Take Diesel’s 1DR bag. It debuted on the label’s Spring/Summer 2022 runway, and since then, the logo plaque-embossed design has become a celebrity favorite. Priced between $295 and $495, the structured, flap style has played a pivotal role in re-establishing Diesel as a sought-after, mid-tier brand with cult appeal.

Joining the mid-range rank’s treasure trove of covetable and reasonably-priced accessories is Cult Gaia’s crystal-adorned Hera design for $428, Polène’s minimalist Umi style priced at $390, and JW Anderson’s Bumper bag for $850. And there are many more handbags from mid-range brands, leaving luxury shoppers everywhere rethinking just how much their next dream carry-all should cost them.

STAUD Beaded Zebra Bag
STAUD Tommy Beaded Bag
via Moda Operandi

Shaking Up The Status Quo

But it’s not just more affordable prices and great quality that mid-range brands offer bag fanatics. Increasingly, bags from these labels are a fun and unique alternative to the luxury brands’ roster of classic designs and style codes.

Mid-tier brands have developed a reputation for shaking up the handbag status quo, conceptualizing innovative avant-garde designs, or putting their stamp on classic silhouettes.

Cult Gaia’s ornate top handle creations centering structured bodies shaped to resemble giant pearls have become classics for the emerging label. In contrast, the brand’s famed Ark bamboo bag has helped redefine modern Bohemian chic.

Over at JW Anderson, knitted iterations of slouchy handbag silhouettes champion the joys of pared-back style and have become synonymous with the British designer’s playful approach.

And mid-tier labels have also proved themselves when it comes to reworking staple handbag styles in their own image. Take JW Anderson’s Bumper style, the designer’s answer to the oblong shoulder bag, which has long been a mainstay within the classic handbag collections of luxury labels. Or, Self-Portrait’s coveted Bow bag that’s been dubbed a modern classic thanks to its adoption of the timeless structured top-handle style.

NYFW Street Style Bag Day 21

The JW Anderson Twister Bag was all over during Fashion Week

Mid-range brands like Polène have succeeded in developing innovative designs that are becoming as linked to their brand as the Classic Flap, or Birkin is to Chanel or Hermès, respectively. Polène’s Number One bag adopts a simple approach, utilizing smooth curves, a simple flap opening, and a functional cross-body strap to create a signature style that is instantly associated with the growing label.

So, what’s the takeaway? Fashion, and more specifically, luxury fashion, is changing. A buzz in the luxury sphere seems to signal an opening for a cohort of coveted mid-range labels and their bag designs to enjoy the prestige and cult appeal once reserved for only the most expensive and exclusive famed luxury fashion houses.

And while it seems unlikely that any of these bags are set to dethrone the likes of the Hermès Birkin or Chanel Classic Flap any time soon, the landscape of luxury is changing. With it comes an army of new, exciting, and affordable handbag designs that threaten the notion of luxury being defined by price, prestige, and exclusivity.

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Amrit
Amrit
11 days ago

I am all about coach and their impeccable quality now.

Lala
Lala
11 days ago
Reply to  Amrit

Same! Coach is really catching my eye right now.

Heather Tweedy
Heather Tweedy
10 days ago

I live in a very status-conscious city in the US and, because of that, when I see someone with A.P.C., Polene, Demellier, Staud, etc., I feel like they actually are more in tune with fashion and often have a more interesting sense of style. (Specifically for my city, not saying that this is representative of anywhere else! I know that there a plenty of Classic Flap lovers with amazing personal style.). 🙂

I tend to use mid-price brands to help assess whether I really want to designer style as well. If I’m not intrigued by the style when it’s $500, then I know that lusting after the $5,000 version is probably about status and not genuinely loving the bag.

Guest
Guest
9 days ago
Reply to  Heather Tweedy

Agree with this. When I see someone wearing a birkin with matching jeans and an ugly jersey tshirt, It is either she was trying hard to appear low key or screaming loudly that she can afford an overpriced leather.

Sam
Sam
8 days ago
Reply to  Guest

Or, like me she simply likes to dress casually and wear nice handbags. No hidden or sublime agenda here.

Heather Tweedy
Heather Tweedy
8 days ago
Reply to  Sam

Sam – I hope it came across in my original post that I am not saying a casual look and a fancy bag can’t work together! I am 100% not a gatekeeper of fashion and I bet you rock your personal style.

Definitely not trying to put out the same energy as “Guest,” which is intensely judgy TBH…

Guest
Guest
8 days ago
Reply to  Sam

Riigght, she just happened to choose a Birkin which is not even the nicest bag out there. Try again

Laura W
Laura W
5 days ago
Reply to  Guest

Thankfully your opinion isn’t shared by everyone.

Nikki
Nikki
9 days ago

I don’t know if they’re the new luxury, but I really appreciated this article. I simply am unwilling to spend multiple thousands of dollars on a handbag, but I still like bags! Because of googling the brands mentioned here, I’m now being shown all kinds of interesting unique designs I had never seen. And at prices I’d be willing to spend. Usually this blog has almost nothing for someone like me, so this was great!

Tiffany
Tiffany
11 days ago

I’ve also veered away from four-figure luxury bags in favor of well-designed bags in the mid range. I’ve been very happy with my purchases from Polene, Staud, Mansur Gavriel and Longchamp. These are the bags occupying the bulk of my purse collection at the moment, and I’m no less happy than I was with a small collection of bags from higher-end designers (along with their higher-end price tags).

Simbadog8
Simbadog8
11 days ago

i actually dropped $10,000 a month ago on my dream Chanel bag from N-M. But I also mostly live in LeSportsac bags. I must have 10 of them—the classic one. But I also love having the Chanel—finally. I am careful where i wear it though—I don’t want to get mugged and I probably would living here in Chicago.

Linds
Linds
6 days ago
Reply to  Simbadog8

Great point – agreed !! I caved and bought a pricey designer bag that I thought looked amazing, but when I received it, was completely underwhelmed.
I too love the Lesportsac, Ganni and Baggu bags for their practicality (especially with kids !). Plus, there are sooo many great local designers out there and midrange bags that are awesome and age better than lots of high-end bags. Here in Vancouver, we have a designer named Erin Templeton who makes some really cool bags (some of which are made from upcycled leather). But vintage Coach, Building Block and even Madewell has some really great (and chic) options. I’m glad to see fashion having a sustainability and cost reality check, and it’s certainly easier on the wallet – which is necessary in times of growing social stratification.
Vancouver, Canada is notorious for its drug and housing problem, and I honestly feel like it’s a bit tone-deaf to be carrying a 5000$ bag when there are people that don’t have a place to sleep or clean water, etc.

Gayle
Gayle
10 days ago
Reply to  Simbadog8

Lesportsac is very sturdy and durable. I have the tokidoki collab from 15 yrs ago from my college days that i still love. Still kept them happy memories. I love chanel too but will not buy anymore except for the rainbow boy and iridescent woc still on my wishlist.

Simbadog8
Simbadog8
11 days ago
Reply to  Simbadog8

I own two Chanel bags and would never buy another. I have what I want.

Aspen
Aspen
8 days ago

Vintage Coach honestly impressed me just as much as my Kelly does. I have so many bags from all designers. BV, Fendi Selleria, Givenchy, Hermes, Prada, LV, Gucci etc and Vintage Coach with the unlined interior is just as amazing. Polene is amazing quality. Mansur Gavriel is too. Their leathers are so soft. The cloud and soft lady are just as soft as a bag from a $2k plus price point.

SandraO
SandraO
9 days ago

I prefer my luxury bags over mid-range options though I no longer feel the need to buy bags given my nice collection. I’m pretty satisfied.

chloehandbags
chloehandbags
11 days ago

I think the luxury houses need to increase their quality and lower their prices; not do the reverse, as they have been doing lately.

The idea of raising them is, presumably, to try to ensure they (and/or their retailers) still get the real retail price, after deductions during sales and so on, but still.

As for me, I’ve decamped to the mid-priced brand Giorgio Brato, whose bags are of the same quality and place of manufacture as Chloe bags once were, for about the same price as Chloe bags were back in the early ’00s.

Jerri R
Jerri R
10 days ago

Do some people find it unappealing to buy non-premium designer bags once you started collecting premium ones?

Last edited 10 days ago by Jerri R
Lori
Lori
8 days ago
Reply to  Jerri R

I agree with your post. But I do find it easier to buy bags that are mid-range if they are classic brands for their country, like Aspinal of London, for example. It’s a great brand with a ton of British tradition. Also the resale market for the less popular luxury brands is still a steal which I have been buying recently too.

Janine
Janine
8 days ago
Reply to  Jerri R

100%. I just can’t do it.

Steffi
Steffi
11 days ago

I just ordered an A.P.C bag in the Black Friday sale and can not wait to receive it! They have great bags and the quality and prices (you can almost always get them on sale) are amazing!

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