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The Fashion Memo

The Ultimate Guide To FW21’s 7 Key Bag Trends

A truly great handbag will elevate any look it’s paired with, season after season. Discover the best designer bags of 2021 to invest in now – from the back-to-business tote to the party pouch. By GRACE COOK

From top: Loewe, Gucci, Saint Laurent

A handbag is arguably the most considered accessory we opt for each morning. This one vessel indicates exactly our agenda for the day – roomy totes filled with laptops and gym kits denote a day filled with multi-tasking, while a tinier party bag allows for a night of freedom and on-the-move spontaneity. Packing a bag requires a level of attentiveness that results in a deep-rooted affinity for this accessory, within which we entrust our life’s essentials – all made much easier when the bag in question is easy on the eye, of course. Thankfully, no matter where you’re headed, there’s a bag to suit every itinerary this season – but which style to choose?

The monogrammed bag

Logos have become a way to tout your taste to passers-by on the street, but for the more discreet accessory aficionado, the monogrammed bag telegraphs your discernment in a slightly more subtle way. This season, there’s an array of retro-style bags to boot, from Gucci’s horsebit-adorned handbag with its ladylike charm, to Saint Laurent’s ’70s-style satchel, which would prove perfect teamed with jeans and blazers. Speaking of retro, this season heralds the return of Loewe’s boxy ‘Amazona’ bag, which debuted 40 years ago – and is made anew in a monogrammed jacquard that feels distinctly urban.

The chain-strap bag

As chunky chain jewels turned into summer’s must-wear embellishment, bag designers took note: this season’s party styles are festooned with all manner of hardware that turns this after-dark staple into a jewelry-box trinket – indeed, it’s a statement-maker like no other. Gilt up your shoulders with Chloé’s elongated chain-strap bag, whose elegantly wide links feel distinctly bohemian. Meanwhile, Stella McCartney’s ‘Frayme’ bag clashes its metals for those who like to subvert the rules. For something more robust, Bottega Veneta’s ‘Mount’ bag reinvents the idea of a knuckleduster when it’s carried as a clutch – you can leave your jewelry at home with this two-in-one treasure.

The color-pop bag

The fall/winter period is often sartorially identified with more muted, earthy palettes that reflect the darker days. But, this season, designers bucked the trend and injected some fluoro hues into their accessories to brighten up even the gloomiest mornings. Daring iterations come from Tom Ford and Jacquemus, whose hot-pink and acid-yellow colorways are sure to make a statement. Pair them with denims or crisp whites for after-dark occasions. Meanwhile, Bottega Veneta’s royal-blue pouch in its classic woven leather will prove a tactile choice for knitwear days, while Balenciaga’s structured iteration in candied green is ideal paired with crisp, charcoal tailoring.

From top: Jacquemus, Balenciaga, Bottega Veneta

The business tote

As offices reopen and life begins to pick up pace, having one bag that will prove your daily savior is essential – after all, the last thing you want while getting used to busy commutes is to be laden with multiple bags. A Mary Poppins-style tote big enough to pack your boardroom and barre-class staples into is a must-buy: think polished leather iterations from Balenciaga or statement-making logo bags from Fendi and Chloé. Robust, elegant and roomy, what’s not to love?

From top: Bottega Veneta, Chloé, Saint Laurent

The new classics

Say hello to ‘Jodie’, ‘Loulou’ and ‘Edith’ – your new fashion friends. Designers often love to name their handbags after their muses, and these new silhouettes by Bottega Veneta, Saint Laurent and Chloé respectively will prove worthy wardrobe allies for years to come. These miniature bags may be small but they have mighty appeal. Daniel Lee’s ‘Jodie’ features delicate intreccio weave and a knotted grab handle, while the ‘Edith’ A-line structure is both bohemian and bookish, and ‘Loulou’ has a supple silhouette that is ideal for wearing close to your body for days on the go.

The shearling bag

On cold-weather days, nothing feels cozier than snuggling up to natural textures, so consider your handbag something of an emotional-support buddy this season. Rendered in fuzzy shearlings and comforting faux-furs, these bags are tactile and tantalizing in their essence of effortless slumber – a sartorial feat we’re forever trying to mimic. Look to Stand Studio, Saint Laurent and Fendi, whose fuzzy bucket bag, replete with logo, is perfect for cuddling up to on the commute home.

The ’90s bag

Nostalgia is back with a bang for FW21, with an air of minimalist polish reminiscent of New York in the Calvin Klein heyday. For accessories, understated pieces that are refined but retro are reigning supreme – and the 1990s curved shoulder bag is currently king (make that queen). This season, it’s been made anew, with sculptural, sleek silhouettes reminiscent of the Guggenheim crafted from smooth leathers. Oroton and Mansur Gavriel’s structured iterations are ideal paired with tailoring, while The Row and Bottega Veneta offer a supple take that will transition seamlessly into weekend wardrobes.