19 Black-Owned Handbag Brands You'll Want to Buy (Before Beyoncé Does)
Photo:@reeprojects; @edas; @vavvoune; @brandonblackwoodnyc ; @brothervellies; @mowalola;
Long before everyone adopts a handbag trend, an It bag, or a rising handbag brand, it usually falls into one of two categories: Either it’s from a Black-owned business or the Black community champions it. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen my community and even queen Beyoncé herself sporting an indie brand or micro-trend only for it to blow up shortly after. Just look at examples like Telfar’s Shopper Tote and Brandon Blackwood’s End Systemic Racism Tote. It's safe to say that the fashion set is filled with so many incredibly influential people across all backgrounds who will always pull up and support BIPOC-owned brands.
As a Black woman, I derive so much joy from seeing how, time and again, we carry the trends. But it's not just the bag collectors like me who are swinging these bags over their shoulders. There are so many incredible Black designers who are leading the culture and doing it for the culture right now. In that vein, I’ve rounded up 19 Black-owned handbag brands to shop year-round. Whether they’ve reached cult status or are still growing, you’ll want to get your hands on these before it’s too late.
1. Brandon Blackwood
For most Black-owned handbag brands, it takes a few years to build notoriety in the industry, and such is the case for Brandon Blackwood. In 2015, the designer founded his namesake accessory label. While you may have first been introduced to Blackwood’s work when Kim Kardashian posted about his viral EST Tote, his work is worth keeping an eye on, as he's become beloved for his vibrant-hued shoulder bags, animal trunks, and chic sunglasses and has a ready-to-wear collection in the works that have the fashion set waiting with bated breath.
2. Homage Year
Let the record state that I said this first: The next It bag is coming from the Black-owned brand Homage Year. Unlike most creatives who dream of owning their own namesake label, for Jamaican American designer Antoine Manning, the idea of creating a brand didn’t come to fruition until the tragic passing of a loved one. Each drop is an homage to his late father and the Black diaspora. This makes each bag a true piece of art.
Brooklyn’s fashion set is always ahead of the curve, so it’s only a matter of time before the accessory brand Edas takes over. Founded by Sade Mims in 2013, the brand has managed to garner a following among the creative set and celebrities such as Tessa Thompson, for a good reason, of course. With a collection of eclectic jewelry, colorful handbags with nostalgic shapes, and handmade homewares, it’s easy to see why falling in love with Edas, at first sight, is so easy.
Call me biased, but I love my Midwest girls, and designer Tiarra Smallwood is no exception. While the Ohio-born creative may now reside in Brooklyn, her roots are present in her newly launched leather-accessory brand Max+Min. Just look at her minimalist shapes with maximal details like cow-print calf hair and gold hardware. It’s this balance that has landed her deals with Saks Fifth Avenue and Bloomingdale’s only a few months after founding the brand. The case has been made: Midwest girls do it better.
5. Petit Kouraj
If you’ve made it this far, it’s evidently clear that I love handbags. But one brand holds a special place in my heart: Petit Kouraj. Founded by former fashion stylist Nasrin Jean-Baptiste in 2018, the handbag brand checks every box. It’s sustainable, ethically produced, and so damn stylish. Not only do these stunning knitted fringe bags make your heart skip a beat, but knowing that the brand partners with DOT Haiti to support local artisans is also heartwarming in its own right.
Across the globe, the Black community has a vast collection of nationalities, cultures, and perspectives. It’s a feat to be able to nod to the wealth, beauty, and experiences across the diaspora, yet Aaks finds a way to weave it all together, one handbag at a time. Founded by Akosua Afriyie-Kumi in 2014, the brand centers around traditional Ghanian artisans and artisan practices to create handmade woven handbags. The result is bags that capture the beauty of being Black and are begging to be taken on your next trip.
Speaking of travel, do you ever just dream of looking impossibly chic at the airport? Unless you’re Rihanna, pulling off a practical yet polished look while out and about in the world isn’t always easy. Luckily, the handbag brand Ashya exists. Founded in New York City in 2017 by Ashley Cimone and Moya Annece, the unisex label is creating travel accessories that are an “ode to exploration.” From curved belt bags that pay homage to the Blue Mountains to shoulder bags that document one of India’s oldest indigenous groups, it’s so clear that these designers are able to draw inspiration from around the world and channel it into crisp utilitarian designs that can stand the test of time.
8. Ree Projects
When it comes to dismantling ideas around what a Black luxury label is, you need to look no further than the Amsterdam-based handbag brand Ree Projects. After working in a number of luxury houses (like Karl Lagerfeld and Balmain) designer Desiree Kleinen decided to channel her experience into her own namesake label, which she launched in 2016. The result? A collection of stunning architectural yet functional handbags at accessible entry prices that are all handcrafted in Italy.
Have you ever stumbled upon a cool sustainable brand and wondered what makes it actually eco-friendly? Black designers and twin brothers Bruce and Glen Proctor have aimed to illuminate how the industry uses greenwashing with their handbag and RTW label BruceGlen. Advocating for the use of made-to-order production models, liveable wages, and biodegradable fabrics, they envision a more sustainable future for fashion and are having fun doing it. Its brightly hued bags and one-of-a-kind pieces are a reminder that caring can be cute.
10. Anima Iris
Okay, Beyoncé is quick to pull up and show up in a Black-owned brand to any function. She’s pretty much been spotted in it all, including Anima Iris’s brand. But just because you didn’t beat Queen B to the punch, it doesn’t mean Anima Iris isn’t worth shopping for. In fact, the Cameroonian-born designer, Wilglory Tanjong, is redefining the luxury-handbag industry globally by centering and championing traditional African artisanry. From incredibly twisted leather handles to hexagon shapes, each handmade piece shows not only a level of meticulous attention to craftsmanship but also respect for the history and diversity of the African community.
For many creatives who identify themselves as Black, breaking into the industry can be challenging. Sometimes, you just have to throw yourself into the thick of it and begin building. Such was the case for Vavvoune designer and founder Valerie Blaise. With no background in the fashion industry, she taught herself how to sew using YouTube and launched her label back in 2015. Despite being an “outsider” to the fashion industry, her work has quickly become a fan favorite among the fashion set because she reworks classic shapes into something entirely new. Her work is proof that sometimes you need a fresh perspective to reenvision something for the future.
12. Brother Vellies
When you think about leaders cultivating inclusivity in the fashion industry, who comes to mind? For me, it’s Aurora James, the founder behind Brother Vellies and the Fifteen Percent Pledge. What makes James’s work so trailblazing is that she’s all about lifting up fellow Black artisans and entrepreneurs—whether it’s through calling for more major retailers to buy and sell Black designers’ work or how she partners with African artisans to create her stunning shoes and handbags. No matter what James does, it’s very clear that she’s changing the industry for the better.
13. Yvonne Koné
Copenhagen has some of the coolest talent coming out of it. Think Ganni, Baum und Pferdgarten, Saks Potts, Cecilie Bahnsen, and Yvonne Koné. Much like her fellow creatives in the Copenhagen fashion scene, Yvonne Koné has been able to channel the minimalist Danish approach to design into her work in a fashion-forward way. While her luxury handbag line is produced in Italy, it’s her continuous attention to detail that pays homage to her roots. The collection’s classic shapes paired with the occasional bright hue make them stand out and stand on their own in anyone’s wardrobe for seasons to come.
As an editor, it’s one of my greatest joys in life to stumble upon a brand I have yet to know about, so when I found Ciriaco mid-scroll, I was delighted. Founded by Ashley Ciriaco in 2020, the NYC-based sustainable brand has already made waves in the industry—not only because she’s been featured on Beyoncé’s site but also because of her abstract take on classic handbags. With duffles that look like a loaf of bread and actual shoulder baguettes with curved shapes, once you see a Ciriaco bag, you’ll get why the pieces sell out so quickly.
Like so many Black-owned businesses, Cise didn’t get the full love it deserved until the summer of 2020. While the Los Angeles–based accessory and apparel brand was founded by Blake Van Putten in 2010, it has more recently gained attention from the fashion set and beyond for its viral PBP tote bags. But what’s great about this brand is that it’s not just using a trendy statement to sell totes. Whether you’re buying a cute bag or a pair of sweats, a portion of all the brand’s proceeds is donated back into the community. So you know you’re carrying your values on your shoulder for real.
16. Kendall Miles
When I envision myself in the South of France living my best life, I’m most likely wearing Jacquemus with a pair of Kendall Miles heels. But while this fantasy centers around this Black-owned label’s footwear, It should be noted that its handbags are equally as dreamy. Founded as a namesake label in 2015, the family-owned luxury label has made a name for itself in the industry for its handcrafted, exuberant pieces that give a whole new meaning to the “rich auntie” aesthetic.
You know how they say some designers are the future of fashion? Well, it’s not hyperbolic to say it when speaking about Mowalola Ogunlesi. Unless you’re constantly scrolling through social media, you may not know about Ogunlesi, but I’m telling you that you need to know her. And it’s not just because she was recently appointed as creative director for Yeezy’s Gap collaboration. Her namesake label, Mowalola, features futuristic takes on early aughts staples like trucker hats and oversize statement bags, and her work is visionary in its own right, making this British Nigerian designer prime for taking over.
It’s not an homage to the Black-owned brands that have changed the culture without an honorable mention to Virgil Abloh’s brand Off-White. Anyone who has followed the career of the prolific designer was absolutely gutted at his passing. And while the label is now run by Farfetch, his legacy is still felt throughout the industry, and how he inspired the Black community and shifted the conversation around streetwear still lives on. So it makes buying one of these iconic bags all the more special.
Is it even possible to round up some of the best handbag brands doing it for the people without mentioning Telfar? While this unisex label is far past its blow-up moment and its “spotted on Beyoncé” second, it’s safe to say that this brand is proof of the power of Black-owned businesses. Telfar Clemens has managed to build a line of handbags that sell out before you can even add them to your cart (trust me—I’ve tried many times), and he has revolutionized how we think about nonbinary clothing, artisan collaborations, and even fashion television programming. If you can get your hands on a Telfar tote, then you, my dear friend, can have a piece of Black history—and what’s more stylish than that?
This post was published at an earlier date and has since been updated.
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