It can make, break, or totally transform a look. Yet, this season in particular, bags made of beads, quilted silk, bamboo, and straw have been seen on the arms of tastemakers the world over. Street style stars and 'It' girls alike are opting for fun accessories in lieu of conventional designer handbags. Some of the chicest retailers like Moda Operandi, always a supporter of emerging designers, Barneys, and even Saks Fifth Avenue are now selling more novelty bags too. Here, in honor of these trendsetting designers, meet the next generation of cool handbags defying the classic luxury "It" bag.
Based in Bangkok, Jesse Dorsey and Wannasiri Kongman launched Boyy in 2006. But the label has recently gained popularity during the last few years due to the frequency with which the bags have been seen on street style stars and tastemakers such as Lou Doillon and Chloë Sevigny. Characterized by their premium leathers in beautifully off-kilter colors, chunky square shapes, and oversized buckles, the brand reinvents itself with new silhouettes and colors each season, but is usually marked by its big buckle. The brand is sold in nearly 100 stores around the world, including Moda Operandi and Saks Fifth Avenue.
Based in New York City, Poolside has emerged as the defining bag everyone wants to have when jetting off to the world’s best beaches. The straw accessories are instant conversation starters—bags are embroidered by hand with cheeky slogans like, “I got 99 problems but a beach ain’t one” or “woke up like this”. Designer Ashleigh Hults launched the line in 2016 after a trip to St. Barths and the bags have since been seen on the arms of Gigi Hadid, Emma Roberts, Reese Witherspoon, and Gwyneth Paltrow, just to name a few. “The most exciting aspect of creating the brand has been connecting with women around the world,” explained Hults. “Although I didn't initially intend to work with an entirely female team, the business has now taken on a new purpose for me. Since launching, Poolside has created jobs and financial independence for over 30 women in Morocco and India. Most everything we make is hand woven, hand embroidered or entirely handmade. When you purchase one of our bags, I like to think that there is an energetic connection to the maker who created the item for you.”
Marta Rios splits her time between Spain and France while developing her quirky, colorful line of clothing and accessories, Atelier Mimii. Last season, she looked to some of her favorite painters, David Hockney, Henri Matisse and Otto Dix, to craft her unique quilted dresses and sweet embroidered pieces. At the heart of the brand are her quilted and embellished Spine bags, made from leftover fabric scraps from her main collection. “After producing many quilted dresses by hand, we began to see ourselves surrounded by leftovers that we just couldn't throw away,” explained Rios. “We wanted to use these scraps of quilt somehow, and came up with the idea of the bags. This way, each dress had its own matching identical bag.” The young designer had her first ever presentation during Paris Fashion Week in March. What makes the bags feel even more special is the fact that each one is named after a character—legends of the past, or people Rios personally admires. The bags are also all crafted entirely by hand from start to finish.
Olivia Cheng launched Dauphinette, her New York City line of outerwear in August 2018, but her handbags are quickly becoming just as covetable. Taking cues from the same aesthetic details as her coats (candy-colored feathers, lush embroidery, and handpainted leather), her bags are also made from a mix of recycled vintage fabrics and components. As such, each piece is entirely unique. Her latest creation is the Rambutan bag, a gorgeous rainbow of fluffy feathers hand stitched to vintage bags. “The first Rambutan bag was created when I was searching for a way to use the off-cut feathers from my coats,” said Cheng. “For me, these bags bring together many fundamental values of Dauphinette—reusing any leftovers, repurposing vintage materials for the base of the bag, and the vibrant regality of fluttering feathers, which are pieced together to be reminiscent of a watercolor painting.”
Based in London but made in Spain, Yuzefi’s bags are sculptural and come in unconventional shapes with chunky chains. The brand is sold at Neiman Marcus, Net-a-Porter, and Moda Operandi. Founder Naza Yousefi launched the brand in 2016 with no previous handbag design experience, though she did work under Hedi Slimane, Patti Wilson, and Steven Klein in the fashion industry. This season’s luxe collection is inspired by the paintings of Salvador Dali.
If you follow a certain fashion crowd on Instagram, you’ve undoubtedly seen one of Susan Alexandra’s beaded handbags. Handmade in New York City, her bags sparkle from a distance and come in different iterations ranging from bags beaded into the shape and color of fruits or the more straight-forward options in different colored stripes or leopard spots. Since starting her line just a few years ago, the bags have been picked up by major retailers including Saks Fifth Avenue, Moda Operandi, and Shopbop, and model Gigi Hadid is also a fan. This season, the designer hosted her first ever New York Fashion Week presentation over mini milkshakes, bagels, and a live performance. The glittery beads, playful colors and humorous patterns induce a bit of nostalgia, likely the main reason why Alexandra’s bags have become so popular.