The Gen Z Report: 5 Handbag Trends Dominating on the Algorithm and IRL

collage of Staud, Coach, Sandy Liang, Baggu, and Miu Miu bags
(Image credit: Courtesy of Staud; Coach; Sandy Liang; Baggu; Acne Studios; Miu Miu)

Gen Z Says is a bimonthly column chronicling the latest trends in the fashion and beauty space through the lens of Who What Wear's own Gen Z editors. Expect a download on the upcoming class of tastemakers, emerging designers, and shopping and style choices straight from the generation setting the trends.

In a world where the current conversations surrounding handbags are being led by the heirloom contender that is The Row’s Margaux, my thoughts as a Gen Z editor were shifted elsewhere. Instead of a $4200 bag, I was focused on where my generation is putting their purchasing power among the handbags currently on the market. What bags are we actually buying? What brands were actually getting Gen Z marketing right? What is our dream luxury bag? Do people my age even care about The Row? After all, with the speed of the internet, my generation isn’t easy to put into a box when it comes to shopping behaviors.

It wasn’t until I noticed that three of my fellow 20-something editors had also set notifications for the latest Staud drop, or had brought the Longchamp Le Pliage back from the 2010s as our pick of an office bag, that it had struck me of the themes of my generation. As a digital editor, it’s easy to see themes on-screen as we’ve curated our algorithms to show us exactly what we want—but it’s even more telling when I see them carry out IRL. And with a simple walk through SoHo or Nolita, two of the most overtly trending neighborhoods, the proof is on the streets. You can tell a lot about someone’s personality through their purse of choice. And if you’re tapped into the right algorithm, you might also even be able to tell their age. 

With the help of TikTok and Who What Wear’s very own Gen Z editors, I’ve rounded up five handbag themes that are reigning popular online and offline. From the coquette bow bags that can’t stop selling out to the vintage revivals, we’ve hijacked from the past and made anew—see the trends below. 

collage with kitschy bags

(Image credit: Launchmetrics; Courtesy of Staud; Coach)

This generation isn't afraid to wear their hearts on their sleeves—and in this case, their bags—with conversation-starters like a Staud shoulder bag with beaded sardines or this Puppets and Puppets pick with a 3D cookie. The kitschier, the better! Coach launched its version of this trend with Coachtopia, a sub-brand focused on circular fashion that features bags with bows, cherries, and puffy materials.

collage with practical bags

(Image credit: Courtesy of Baggu; Uniqlo; Longchamp)

On the opposite end of the design spectrum, Gen Z also loves a simple and practical bag. Lyst Index named Uniqlo's round mini shoulder bag one of the hottest items of 2023, marking it the cheapest item to make the cut, a rare affordable outlier among many luxury contenders. With its simple design and lack of embellishments, it left many wondering, "Why has this gone viral?" The thousands of videos showing just how much could fit it one was was just proof that Gen Z wanted capacity and ease with their everyday bag choice.

This reason alone is also why Baggu is so popular, and why the next-gen is also bringing back Longchamp's Le Pliage back from the 2010s.

bow bags collage

(Image credit: Courtesy of Sandy Liang; Acne Studios)

The year 2023 was coined as the "year of the girl," but thanks to the brands above, the bows will not be leaving our bags in 2024. When I sat front row at the most recent Sandy Liang show and even more bow-adorned bags came down the runway, I was enamored by just how quickly everyone picked up their iPhones to get a shot.

collage of vintage bags

(Image credit: @babiekale; Courtesy of Coach; Fashionphile)

Despite the cycle of fashion always moving in a constant circle, Gen Z gets a bit of slack for wanting the trends of the past. But can you blame us? More and more luxury brands are bringing back iconic styles from the past—it's nothing new and revolutionary. Of course, as most of Gen Z may have been too young (or even non-existent) when the style was first introduced, they're falling in love with the revivals. According to Fashionphile, searches by Gen Z are up 20% for revival silhouettes like the East-West or crescent-shaped bags.

collage of bag charms

(Image credit: @pigmamii; Courtesy of Coach)

Even when I do spot a Gen Z-er with the funds for a Birkin bag in their wardrobe, it's usually adorned with a string of beads or personalized charms. We're hyper-aware of our quirks and want you to know them too upon sight. Sorry!

Shop More Bags Our Gen Z Editors Love

Associate Fashion Editor
Yusra Siddiqui is an editor who resides in New Jersey but bounces between the suburbs and NYC. (She's a Jersey girl at heart.) After interning at Who What Wear in 2019, she found her way to the team after graduating from LIM College in 2022 with a fashion media degree. She's also spent time writing and working for publications such as Fashionista, Coveteur, and Nylon, but she always knew that Who What Wear was where she was meant to be. When she's on the job, she's perusing runway shows, analyzing the latest thing fellow Gen Zers are up to on the internet, and sharing what she can about the modest-fashion market. You can also catch her dabbling in entertainment, talking about the costume choices of the latest Netflix series or diving deeper into how the plotline affects the viewers in a myriad of ways. Lastly, she likes to create content for Who What Wear's TikTok. Her personal time is spent doing similar but also different things—deep diving into almost every new TV show (Bridgerton, Gilmore Girls, and Stranger Things are favorites), planning her next local getaway (whenever that may be), and reading the latest Emily Henry or Sally Rooney novel in one sitting.