There are certain search terms in fashion that virtually everybody on the internet is familiar with – “Bottega Veneta,” “Kardashian,” and “designer dupes” constitute a few prominent examples. The “tote” would possibly rank a close fourth, and for an excellent reason – virtually everybody on earth has one! Got a Longchamp? That’s a tote. A Whole Foods paper bag? Also, a tote. Fancy a Birkin? According to Wikipedia, that’s a tote too!
In fact, any bag that may be used to carry many things in it risks being deemed a tote.
Now the obvious issue with this expansive definition of a tote is that it makes it difficult to classify them, and then, of course, on what basis do you even classify them? Whether by closures – zips, flaps or open, orientations – north-south or east-west, or by sizes – mini, maxi, or somewhere in between; totes come in all shapes and sizes. But while they generally have trapezoidal configurations (like the ubiquitous Neverfull), there’s been a noticeable (at least, to me) shift recently towards rather structured, square(-ish) totes from brands, both luxury and contemporary. It’s not a new phenomenon, of course, but it seems to become more popular every season, so much that I daresay it’s attained trend status at this point.
I know what you must be thinking: a tote, really? Haven’t we had enough of those already, and aren’t they a basic necessity rather than a style statement at this point? Yes, I do realize that the rather plasticky feel of the Goyard St. Louis or the floppy Neverfulls you see on every other person’s shoulder isn’t the very embodiment of put-togetherness. However, due to the broad categories of totes, it’s an oversimplification to judge totes by rigid style standards.
And that is where square shoppers, though a tote for all intents and purposes, strive to appeal to the fashionista in you. The square tote breaks gender boundaries (previously, this style was almost exclusively found under the “men’s totes” section), features a large canvas to showcase colorful house motifs, logos, and patterns, and is uber-functional all at the same time. There isn’t a more apt time to find ourselves in the middle of a square shopper trend than right now. So what are the structured carryalls currently dominating the market? Well, I thought you’d never ask; scroll to find out!
While it isn’t my favorite silhouette ever from Dior, it cannot be ignored that the Book Tote is hot, and I mean HOT! Honestly, it’s difficult for it not to be popular right now, having the stamp of approval from the likes of Rihanna and Miranda Kerr. Reimagined by Maria Grazia Chiuri season after season, in materials ranging from embroidered canvas and leather to velvet and more, the Book Tote was arguably the very first square tote to pop up on the influencer radar way back in 2017. It hasn’t shown any signs of decline since. That being said, the Constellation version is actually quite cool.
Although this actually was introduced in 2014, the Telfar Tote didn’t become mainstream until 2020. In fact, I’m inclined to say that this was the bag that really jump-started the square totes trend. Dubbed the “Bushwick Birkin,” this black-owned brand has drawn significant attention as an influencer-endorsed stylish carry at an affordable price point and criticism for being sold at inflated prices by “unscrupulous” resellers. Add to the fact that the bag’s functionality is improved tenfold by adding the shoulder straps, plus the brand’s recent Bag Security Program, and you have the perfect square shopper to intrigue buyers into a purchase.
I know I’ve previously said that I’m not the biggest Fendi fan, but it turns out I’m a big fat liar because of the Fendi Sunshine Shopper. In the FF canvas, not the logo one, it is suddenly my new favorite bag! Even though it’s a square tote just like all the others on this list, this is the one I’m leaning towards the most (although not for purchase anytime soon) because the juxtaposition of the tortoiseshell handles, the versatile logo canvas, and the detachable shoulder straps all have me swooning!
Released in 2019, this was also arguably one of the forefathers (or mothers?) of the square shopper trend, given that it was a massive push from the storied house itself, a favorite of Instagrammers and a staple in every collaboration and seasonal collection the house has launched since it’s release. Recent speculations, however, have been pointing towards the possible discontinuation of the Onthego MM – conspiracy theory or actual fact, what do you think?
Gucci has many different square totes, from the GG Supreme Small Canvas Tote and the plaid Reverse Logo Tote to the all-year-round GG Multicolor Large Tote. The Diana, however, has been the brand’s latest hot release to garner fanfare. Its unique features? The bamboo handles, accompanied by the neon bands and plain, structured leather body, which easily make it the most luxe option on the list. Plus, it’s also the only option that’s got feet, and it’s just that sort of thing that makes you feel slightly relieved about setting your purse down in places.
The Valentino VLTN Rockstud Vertical Tote
I have a confession to make – I’m not a giant fan of the Rockstud. And the VLTN with an unmistakably large printed logo and studded edges seems to combine two of my least favorite elements in a bag. But somehow, the end result – the VLTN square (or as the brand calls it, Vertical) Tote, manages to look pretty good. The bold printed lettering is made to look like a designer purse without directly broadcasting that it’s Valentino, so only those in the know will, well, know. It looks pretty luxe, though, so I guess you might opt for it if you’re a big Valentino-head.
There are others too – the Saint Laurent Rive Gauche (I’m still undecided if the Sac de Jour Large should be considered a shopper), the Céline Vertical Cabas and the Balenciaga Bazaar (which is actually fully zipped!) – all with their unique takes on the square shopper silhouette. Is it a trend, or has it existed long enough in the market to be considered timeless? Or is it simply too commonplace to deserve such recognition at all?
At the end of the day, though, square shoppers seemed to be highly inspired by, to the point that they’re almost replicating, traditional shopping bags, arguably the most functional (and possibly the very first) kind of totes there were. And with the growing number of tributes to this straightforward silhouette from designer brands, it’s likely been a wardrobe staple all this time. We’ve just been too dazzled by the shiny mini purses to actually take notice.