In fashion, no purchase feels quite as magical or poignant as a designer handbag. When you find The One, it's as if the stars have aligned, and when you hold it in your hands for the first time, you can practically feel the ground shift below your feet. Call me romantic, but that's how I felt when I unboxed my first-ever designer bag. After months of saving every penny that didn't need to be spent on essentials (the mere thought of how much I've loaded onto my Oyster card over the years provokes a physical reaction), the pride I felt carrying my designer bag for the first time is something I'm yet to experience again. Even wearing my wedding dress didn't give me the same gratification, but let's keep that between us.
I'm by no means a designer-handbag collector—not out of choice but out of financial circumstance. Still, having spent years analysing and considering the latest It bags as they ebb and flow in popularity has given me a discerning eye for investment handbags. I can spot a flash-in-the-pan trend a mile off, and while they can be fun and bring you joy in the moment, I stand firm on the fact that any designer handbag purchase needs to be made with an internal promise that you'll cherish it for a very long time.
Personally, I'll always gravitate towards handbag styles that are eternal in their appeal. Part of this is because my budget means I can only think of shopping sensibly and with the utmost consideration—if I'm going to spend upwards of four figures on something, it's going to stay in my wardrobe or accessory rotation for life. However, with many designers taking to their archives and celebrating significant milestones, there's also a nostalgia woven in with 2023's designer handbag offering; something that's sure to appease anyone who currently subscribes to the Y2K aesthetic. Classic handbags from years gone by are being reimagined anew and winning over a legion of fashion-hungry fans in the process. This only reinforces my point—a designer handbag can and should transcend a lifetime.
Then there are the jovial bags of which I speak. Just because it would be nonsensical if I, someone who exclusively wears neutrals, were to treat myself to a hot-pink handbag, that doesn't mean that's the case for you. If bright colours and bold patterns are integral to your style signature, a bag to match is undoubtedly the correct choice. And there are plenty of this ilk to choose from for 2023, too; don't you worry. From the latest creations at Bottega Veneta and Celine to the brands making their luxury-arm-candy debut and the new classics to covet, keep scrolling to find your forever bag from 2023's designer-handbag line-up.
1. Panthère de Cartier
Photo:Courtesy of Cartier
Style Notes: When it comes to the word luxury, no brand is quite as synonymous with it as Cartier. Of course, the brand is adept at creating jewellery to define generations—the Love bracelet has been on my wish list for decades—but Cartier has cast its covetable spell over handbags, too. Its latest addition, the Panthère de Cartier bag, has classic written all over it. From the gold chain strap and exquisite clasp to the array of colours—choose from black, blue, white, grey, or red—this is a designer bag that shares my appreciation for timelessness.
2. Bottega Veneta Sardine
Photo:Courtesy of Bottega Veneta
Style Notes: The Sardine bag was unveiled at Bottega Veneta’s A/W 22 show and is set to become a standout style for the brand in 2023. Bottega’s bags have become recognisable arm candy and have been sported by celebrities and fashion followers alike, and the Sardine is no exception, having already been toted by Kendall Jenner. Taking key points from the iconic Jodie, the Sardine adds a jewel detail with the brass handle motif that doubles as the bag's handle. The Intrecciato leather method has become synonymous with Bottega Veneta, and the Sardine embraces this signature weave. It's roomy enough for daytime use but special enough for evenings, which, as I hold versatility in high esteem, are major selling points.
3. Saint Laurent Icare
Photo:Courtesy of Saint Laurent
Style Notes: After the long reign of small and micro bags, the Saint Lauren Icare reintroduced the maxi as a covetable size. The quilted shopping tote has been seen on almost every famous shoulder, from Laura Harrier's to Zoë Kravitz's to Hailey Bieber's. The functional oversized size makes this a timeless piece that can be filled with all your daily necessities—and much, much more. When it isn’t full, the chain toggle inside connects both sides to create a new hexagonal shape, which effectively gives you two silhouettes for the price of one. Notably, the Icare is decorated with carré quilted overstitching that adds to the luxurious look.
4. Mulberry Bayswater
Photo:Courtesy of Mulberry
Style Notes: Want to hear something that will make you feel old? At least, it made me feel old. The Mulberry Bayswater turns 20 in 2023. What is even more impressive is how relevant it still feels today, and I can think of countless luxury handbags that have drawn inspiration from its clean lines, minimal detailing and focus on structure ever since. Now, the bag is having something of a renaissance amongst Gen Z, who are working their way through everything good from the '90s and '00s like wildfire. Me? I love it, regardless of whether its trending on TikTok.
5. Dior Saddle
Photo:Getty Images; Courtesy of Dior
Style Notes: When a bag is reissued decades later, you know it’s a real gem. The Dior Saddle Bag was first introduced in 1999 and quickly became one of the accessories that every It girl wanted to own. With the revival of the noughties trend in 2018, the Saddle Bag was reintroduced and is celebrating a continued reign of success. Since its comeback, Dior has reimagined the designs, prints and colourways offered in the Saddle Bag form, with the upcoming cruise collection promising new studded versions, embellishments and motifs. Whether you opt for a classic colourway, the iconic logo print or a fresh intricate style, this bag has proven it can stand the test of time.
6. Celine Matelasse
Style Notes: Celine is no stranger to creating highly covetable luxury handbags, but I have a feeling that the Matelasse will surpass its predecessors. Having been worn by Blackpink's Lisa and Kaia Gerber alike, its clean but by no means subtle logo flap, quilted finish and crossbody silhouette read like a 2023 It bag play-by-play. Although brand-new, it already feels classic, like it was born before its time. So much so, I can see this being a hot-ticket resale item in years to come.
7. Balenciaga Crush
Photo:The Style Stalker
Style Notes: The truly iconic bags rely on recognisable shapes to distinguish them from the rest. Balenciaga finessed this when it released the Hourglass bag back in 2019 that had a curved base with dramatic pointed edges and the brands B motif. The exaggerated silhouette and pointed edges of this shape have become instantly recognisable as the brand’s own and reflects Demna Gvasalia’s vision for the brand. For the new season, the Hourglass bag is now joined by the Crush bag, a softer rendition that still has the iconic shape but is less structured to add an ease to the silhouette.
8. Toteme T-Lock
Photo:Courtesy of Toteme
Style Notes: For any brand, taking a leap of faith and diversifying into a new retail market is a risk, no matter its track record. Having said that, I don't think Toteme has anything to worry about. Mark my words: Its freshly unveiled T-Lock handbags are going to be everywhere in no time. Leaning into the brand's honed minimalist aesthetic, the bag features a curved top flap that is sculpted to complement the shape of the hand and arm and an understated T-shaped clasp. Somehow, amongst all the noise in the designer bag world, Toteme has carved itself a quiet corner in which I have no doubt it'll thrive.
9. JW Anderson Bumper
Style Notes: "I've been thinking about the JW Anderson Bumper bag for a while now," my esteemed colleague Remy Farrell told me recently. And she's not alone. I've already pledged my allegiance to classic handbags, but even I feel the need to inject my wares with some fun (of the refined sort, of course) from time to time. The Bumper? It delivers. Its tubular edging and ultra-plush leather tap create a softer silhouette than the other designer handbags for 2023, which makes it unique. Choose between bright, clashing colourways or monochromatic palettes. Me? I've been rather uncharacteristically considering the pink and aqua.
10. Versace Greca Goddess
Photo:Courtesy of Versace
Style Notes: The Greek heritage and mythology are synonymous with Versace and formed Gianni Versace’s greatest inspirations. The late designer even went as far as to adopt the mythical figure of Medusa as the central image for the Versace logo. For 2023, the brand pays homage to the folklore of its own heritage with the new Greca Goddess handbag. With clutches and crossbodies, the ornate Greca chain hardware and detachable chain strap carry across the collection, elevating the supple, structured leather.
Opening Image: @rosiehw
This post was originally published at an earlier time and has since been updated.