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Cover story

Objects of Desire


Nora Attal

Start 2020 in style with a new-year emphasis on accessories – and the chance to explore updated essentials and innovative shapes that are designed for life. GILLIAN BRETT delves into this season’s wish-list-worthy pieces, as showcased by model-of-the-moment NORA ATTAL

Photography Ben WellerStyling Maya Zepinic
Cover Stories

It came as no surprise when Daniel Lee scooped Accessories Designer of the Year at the 2019 Fashion Awards, held in London’s Royal Albert Hall last month. As one of the four awards that the British wunderkind received on the night, it’s impossible to overstate his impact on the industry, as fashion insiders and celebrities alike continue to fall head over square-toed heels for the chic mules and cloud-like leather clutch bags he’s masterminded since taking the helm at Bottega Veneta in 2018.

Somehow, last month feels like a lifetime ago when we consider we are three days into a new decade, but this renewed focus on killer accessories has been bubbling for a while now and is undoubtedly set to dominate the 2020s. The return of next-level non-apparel can be traced back to the appointment of revered accessory designers at agenda-setting labels – such as Gucci’s Alessandro Michele and Valentino’s Pierpaolo Piccioli – whose cult sneakers, stilettos and handbags have become ubiquitous signifiers of style. Not to mention the rise of contemporary labels with desirable, quirky and ultra-modern accessory offerings such as A.W.A.K.E. MODE and Staud.

Of course, there has also been a global shift in mindset as we become increasingly conscious of how we shop and what we buy; investing in high-quality, functional items that can live in our closets for seasons to come feels fulfilling on many levels. Plus, a new shoe or bag can bestow an entirely new vigor on our time-honored staples. Not only are they potent styling tools, accessories are the distillation of a brand’s DNA, and therefore declarations of taste: do you love the balance of Italian bravado with rich heritage at Gucci? The irreverent, perma-vacay mood at Jacquemus? Or the offbeat Scandi cool of Acne Studios? Unlike the ‘it’ bags of the late ’90s and early 2000s, discerning dressers nowadays demand choice. So, as we step into a new year and a new decade, here are some of the key accessories set to shape the sartorial landscape of 2020 and beyond.

“Daniel Lee SHOWED that a day CLUTCH is the new everyday ESSENTIAL”

The naked sandal
This image: dress, Lanvin; jeans, King & Tuckfield; sandals, A.W.A.K.E. MODE; bag, Bottega Veneta. Opening image (the luxe mules): cardigan, Saint Laurent; shirt, Vince; top, Bassike; shorts, Veronica Beard; mules, Bottega Veneta
The classic carry-all
Sweater, Totême; top (just seen), Alex Mill; coat (tied at waist), Stand Studio; skirt, Stella McCartney; bag, Acne Studios

The luxe mules

The easiest way to update your look for the new season is to invest in a pair of square-toed shoes. From boots to pumps, these sharp-edged shapes lend structure and polish to everyday denim and classic tailoring. With their extravagant intrecciato leather design, it’s easy to see why Bottega Veneta’s cult mules are the most coveted of the season. Show them off with leather Bermuda shorts – another new-season must-have.

The naked sandal

The sartorial equivalent of a ballerina slipper, the naked sandal is delicate, pretty and ultra-feminine. With its roots in the ’90s, it has a subtly sexy edge, too. Balance its barely-there minimalism by pairing it with oversized denim and loose layers, and temper its provocative undertones by seeking out styles with a mid-heel and that all-important, directional square-toed finish.

The classic carry-all

According to NET-A-PORTER’s Fashion Director, Kay Barron, “Sometimes, the simpler the better,” and that can certainly be said for Acne Studios’ no-brainer tote bag. Cast in a light camel with a chunky shoulder strap, it will discreetly store everything from your laptop to your gym kit, or, as Barron says, “Minimal on the outside, bursting to the maximum on the inside.” Just be careful not to overfill it and distort its sleek, clean-lined silhouette.

“Captivating, COOL and practical, COMBAT boots are brilliantly CONTRADICTORY with mini and midi dresses”

The combat boot
Dress (worn as outerwear) with belt, The Row; striped dress, Loewe; top (just seen), Bassike; boots, Both; hat, Lauren Manoogian

The combat boot

Boots that mean business are a perennial style staple, so we should all be marching into 2020 in combat styles that lend a confident kick to our everyday looks. As well as lacing them up over straight-leg jeans and cargo pants, Barron suggest putting a subversive spin on day dresses, too: “Captivating, cool and practical, these boots – whether laced, buckled or zipped – are brilliantly contradictory with mini and midi dresses. While I personally believe the bigger the better – like those offered by Miu Miu and Both – there are slightly more delicate options from The Row and Gabriela Hearst that still pack a powerful punch.”

The elevated everyday bag

“An everyday bag should also know how to function as an every-evening bag,” advises Barron, and Staud’s zebra-print top-handle bag makes a bold statement by day and after dark. “It also doesn’t need to be a serious bag – there is nothing more joyful than injecting a bit of print, color or embellishment to your practical (or not-so-practical) tote.” Elevate pared-back daywear or offset monochrome eveningwear with its punchy graphic print.

The elevated everyday bag
Coat, Tibi; sweater, Bottega Veneta; shirt (tied at waist), Frame; skirt, Loewe; boots, Dr. Martens; bag, Staud; hat, Eugenia Kim

The essentials-only micro bag

As we were saying, sometimes simple is better, but there are days when you just want to indulge in a little sartorial frivolity. French designer Jacquemus debuted his impossibly small Le Chiquito for FW19, and he’s backing the miniscule bag for SS20 too. At best, you can squeeze in a credit card and a lipstick, so why not give yourself a much-deserved digital detox after the selfie-mania of the holiday season.

The sleek saddle bag

If you’re looking for a new work bag that is smart-looking but not too prim, consider the saddle bag 2.0. “Gucci, Saint Laurent, Loewe, Valentino and Hunting Season all offered streamlined saddle bags that offer a refreshing approach from the bohemian associations we are used to,” says NET-A-PORTER’s Global Buying Director, Elizabeth von der Goltz. With its elegant curvilinear shape and chic horsebit hardware, which nods to the house’s equine heritage, this Gucci piece is like the grown-up version of the boho festival-bound saddle bags of yesteryear.

The grab-and-go pouch

“The throw-everything-in bag is undoubtedly part of the Daniel Lee effect after the designer showed that a day clutch is the new everyday essential,” says von der Goltz. For SS20, Lee has introduced a chic shoulder-bag version of his wait-list-generating pouches. These slouchy-looking, buttery-soft day-to-night bags are deceptively capacious – perfect for stowing away all of life’s essentials (and non-essentials) while still looking impeccably put together. Highlighting the designer’s idiosyncratic use of color, this new iteration comes in an earthy rust and bright orange, as well as classic black and white. “His use of leather and his sense of color are just so unexpected and beautiful,” agrees von der Goltz. “And as modern as his pieces are, there is also a very classic timelessness to them.”

The essentials-only micro bag
Coat, Jil Sander; top, Bassike; sweater (tied at waist), Alex Mill; skirt, Prada; bag, Jacquemus

“STREAMLINED saddle bags offer a REFRESHING approach from the BOHEMIAN associations we are used to”

The sleek saddle bag
Coat, Loewe; shirt, Tibi; sweater (just seen), Petar Petrov; jeans, King & Tuckfield; boots, R13; bag, Gucci; socks, Falke
The grab-and-go pouch
Coat, Pushbutton; shirt, Tibi; top, Bassike; bag, Bottega Veneta; hat, Lauren Manoogian

The sporty sandal

Easy-going flatforms, such as always-in Tevas or Birkenstocks, are the definition of normcore style. But never underestimate their sartorial prowess. “Bringing a bit of a masculine edge to any outfit, sporty sandals can ground even the most romantic of looks,” explains Barron. Meaning they look as good with trackpants as they do with floaty dresses. “Sensible and stylish, these are as appropriate for the city as they are for the beach. Socks are optional, but certainly never frowned upon.”

The sporty sandal
Jacket, Joseph; shirt, Givenchy; top (just seen), Bassike; sandals, Alexander McQueen; socks, Balenciaga; hat, Eugenia Kim

The people featured in this story are not associated with NET-A-PORTER and do not endorse it or the products shown