Every item we feature is objectively selected by our editorial team. If you purchase an item through our links, we may earn commission. Departures and American Express do not provide, endorse, or guarantee any of the items, and the sale of such items is governed by the third-party seller’s policies, terms, and conditions.

A Tote for All Seasons

The classic bag gets an upgrade, making it the perfect accessory for any European shopping adventure.

A photograph of Rachel Comey’s Ro Tote Shop at Rachel Comey

PERFECTLY POISED AT the intersection of practical and chic, the tote is the ideal summer day bag for carrying beach reads and other about-town necessities. Slung over the shoulder, it has an aura of vacation or something you might bring to a cafe on a stolen summer afternoon. The tote was originally intended to carry ice and made from durable, if frumpy, canvas, but today, it has transcended these humble origins to become an everyday luxury, championed by world-renowned fashion houses. Contemporary designers are testing the boundaries of this classic style with innovative shapes, textures, and materials, raising ontological questions, like what even is a tote? Is there some reliable governing parameter of tote-ness? As with other ineffable phenomena, the simplest definition is best: You know it when you see it. Here are a few remarkable totes to consider for your collection.

Shop at Rachel Comey

Rachel Comey’s Ro Tote

Rachel Comey’s Ro Tote, with its hole-punch design and zigzag edging, gives the considered classic a modern twist. It’s svelte and 100% leather, and its size and shape practically demand that it be paired with a laptop, making it an ideal office tote — but summer is for pleasure, so throw a book in there instead. SHOP NOW

Shop at Loro Piana

Loro Piana Blossom Shopper Bag

The Loro Piana Blossom Shopper Bag takes ornamentation even further with its handwoven body, crocheted edges, and leather handles — all in a sun-washed palette that recalls its Mediterranean roots. There is a sense of artisanship, the touch of human hands. Each bag requires 14 hours of work, the last two of which are spent on refining the jute-cord edges. Accessories are never really about the items themselves, but instead, the imagined lives they conjure. With this bag, I see cobblestone streets, feel an ocean breeze, and hear neighborhood cafe chatter.

Shop at Khaite

Khaite Lotus Tote

Similarly carefree, the Khaite Lotus Tote in natural, sustainably harvested raffia with black leather handles was aptly inspired by the fluidity of a foulard scarf. Its flat bottom gives form to the looser, sculptural shape of its body. This bag is made in Italy, and I’d suggest bringing it there. SHOP NOW

Shop at Bottega Veneta

Bottega Veneta Cabat

The spacious Bottega Veneta Cabat recalls traditional straw shopping bags but has elegant leather straps and an intricate handwoven design that takes a full two days to complete, meaning that no two bags are the same. Its weave is a staple of the Italian label, which was founded in the ’60s and is synonymous with superior craftsmanship. If you’re worried about small items getting lost in its generous interior, fear not: It comes with a matching, removable zippered pouch.

Shop at Prada

Prada's Crochet Tote

Last but not least, Prada’s Crochet Tote constructed from raffia-effect yarn, gives the iconic design a lighthearted, deconstructed feel, complete with a fresh riff on the brand’s equally emblematic triangle. The loose stitching creates a barely-there look, suggesting to curious onlookers that you have nothing to hide. SHOP NOW

Our Contributors

Laura Smith Writer

Laura Smith is the deputy editor of Departures. Previously, she was the executive editor of California magazine and has written for the New York Times, the Guardian, the Atlantic, and many more. Her nonfiction book, The Art of Vanishing, was published by Viking in 2018.

Departures and American Express do not provide, endorse, or guarantee any of the items, and the sale of such items is governed by the third-party seller’s policies, terms, and conditions.

Let’s Keep in Touch

Subscribe to our newsletter

You’re no longer on our newsletter list, but you can resubscribe anytime.