I'm a "Quiet Luxury" Shopper—These 9 New It Bags Have My Heart

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Many of us associate the early noughties with the rise of the It bag, but in reality, the concept of the designer handbag as one of the more conspicuous status symbols was introduced many decades before. The iconic Hermès Birkin dates back to the 1980s, Chanel's 2.55 to 1955 and Gucci's Jackie to 1961. Tried and true, these classics remain untouchable today. But the difference was that in the Y2K era, these "must-have" bags—which, back then, were all bells and whistles—changed with the turn of each season. Although many an editor still shares a fondness for Mulberry's original Alexa or Chloé's instantly recognisable Paddington, even the wealthiest of the fashion elite began to tire of such an expensive, exhausting and wasteful cycle. What followed was an extended period of Phoebe Philo–led quiet luxury and the kind of understated leather goods that only those in the know would notice. Logos, hardware and fussy design features were out, and subtle, practical styles came in.

"Understated, relaxed items crafted with exceptional quality will always be important to the luxury client," says Sabrina Cannon, chief sales officer at Threads Styling. "Clients are definitely more considered in the way they shop. The spending power is still there, and investment in luxury is still big, but it's exactly that, an investment." And so, in 2023, we find ourselves in a zone where the best of both worlds can co-exist to great effect. Sure, you can seek out the most trend-driven handbags if you want, but there are plenty of timeless, easy styles to carry that still come with all of the pizzazz and wow of something fresh. 

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(Image credit: Phill Taylor)

From Saint Laurent to Celine, Cartier to Bottega Veneta, the new wave of key designer bags for spring 2023 is, in fact, full of styles that could last a lifetime and feel suitable for everyday wear. There is an ease that brands are aware they need to weave into the very DNA of these designs, and the bags are meant to work hard for the money. You should be able to use them without complication, with multiple outfits and for varying occasions. Most of all, these bags need to fit into your existing looks rather than compete against them. "Luxury consumers are increasingly opting to search for items that work with what they already own over buying something new or on-trend," explains Erica Wright, founder and CEO at Sourcewhere, the fashion-sourcing app used by countless industry people and A-listers.

Following a deep dive into the handbags that our audience has engaged most with across the luxury space, there are some clear themes at play. First, neutral hues are king, which perhaps comes as no surprise when we know that tan, black, brown and grey styles provide plenty of flexibility for combining with different looks. "Our customers have also been gravitating towards a more muted colour palette than in recent seasons favouring suede materials and soft, earthy tones such as browns, beiges and touches of khaki—a shift which was prevalent in A/W 23 pre-collections too," confirms Romilly Proctor, senior buyer at MATCHESFASHION.

Second, the chosen styles for readers to invest in are often anti-trend and made up of bona fide classics, like smart shoulder bags, simple leather totes or easy crossbody bags you can throw on every day—all are easy to carry in multiple ways with different-length straps and are roomy enough to fit in the essentials. Logos, clasps and details are at a minimum, with the occasional monogram creeping in in its subtlest form, such as a beige Gucci GG-woven canvas. 

Keep scrolling to discover 2023's key bag styles in more detail. And remember: An It bag isn't just for one season but a lifetime!

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(Image credit: Phill Taylor)

Gucci has no shortage of key styles: Marmont, Disco, Horsebit, Ophidia… I could be here all day. But one particular silhouette is perhaps the most important and coveted of them all: Jackie 1961. Originally created in, you guessed it, 1961 and inspired by Jackie Onassis, the Jackie was reintroduced back in 2020 when Alessandro Michele was first at the helm of Gucci's creative direction. The designer has now left the business, and the debut line from new appointment Sabato De Sarno will arrive in September. Whatever changes occur at the top, there's no denying that the Jackie will remain current and on the arms of fashion's leading lights. 

Jackie returns yet again in a subtly tweaked form for spring 2023: The bag still features the signature lock and curved-yet-structured cut, but you'll find different sizes and a variety of colours and finishes as well as adjustable straps so you can carry it as a neat shoulder bag or with a longer strap for a crossbody option. It's the small iteration in a hardy grain leather that appealed to our fashion team the most thanks to the fact it is deceptively capacious yet looks really smart, which makes it the perfect option for a diary packed full of different events. You can go one step smaller with a mini and also size up with a large, depending on your bag needs.

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(Image credit: Phill Taylor)

Loewe's Paseo—in both its jumbo and scaled-down forms—is a sure bet for the many fashion purists out there who favour minimalism above all else. Loewe and Creative Director Jonathan Anderson's schtick for cool handbags that stand the test of time is second to none. The Puzzle, first introduced in 2014, still makes hearts beat faster, as does the Flamenco, the Hammock and the Cushion… The list goes on. All feature design details that are complex, considered and incredibly complicated to reproduce (hence the very few "homages" you'll find to Loewe bags on the high street), and the Paseo is no exception. 

When translated from Spanish, paseo essentially means a leisurely stroll, something that one could do easily with this bag because it has been expertly crafted to be ultra lightweight despite its spacious dimensions. Made from super-supple nappa leather, the runway-featured bag comes in many a tempting hue, from burgundy and camel to pistachio and acid yellow, as well as versions that feature a detailed chain handle instead of the leather piped strap. My favourite? It's a tie between the Warm Desert pictured here and the Burgundy. I predict we'll see a lot of this delightful style over the coming fashion month period, but don't let that hype moment fool you: It will remain on the arms of fashion people for years to come.

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(Image credit: Phill Taylor)

Anthony Vaccarello's Saint Laurent continues its dominance over the industry as we get into the swing of 2023, influencing everything from the resurgence of maxi hemlines to the sudden desire many of us now have for an enormous quilted shopping tote—you can blame the celebrity-adored Icare, which is permanently sold out all over the globe, making it Lyst's hottest product of Q4 last year.

The Icare will undeniably continue to be popular this year, but I'd like to draw your attentions to another handbag style family at the fashion house that has the potential to provide you with a key style you'll wear on repeat for many seasons to come: Saint Laurent's Solferino range centres on sophisticated satchel styles in a variety of colours and finishes, including a range of quilted finishes that I think will be highly sought-after. Black-and-white versions play into the archive and offer something neutral without being too plain. The YSL lock features a little catch that requires you to rotate the letters away from the bottom corner of the L—it's a quirky detail to consider instead of a simple magnet fastening underneath the flap. 

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(Image credit: Phill Taylor)

Does Prada's Moon bag look familiar to you? Well, the eagled-eyed Miuccia superfans out there might recognise this style from 2002, when it was first created at the Italian fashion house. Following the success of Prada's other Re-edition pieces, such as the nylon bags that have been wildly popular over the last few years, there is yet more from the archive that feels right for today. But really, this has always been the magic of a Prada purchase—totally trend-less (despite the fact the brand basically sets the trends). You'll find that items from across the decades manage to feel relevant and work together.

The Moon is a bijou grab bag with a top handle, a slightly padded leather exterior, a chunky buckle and, of course, the signature ton-sur-ton triangle logo. It is smaller scale than many of the other designer styles featured here, but not everyone is into all-but-the-kitchen-sink totes. If you're the kind of person who likes to go about your day with only the bare necessities in tow, the Moon is a very enjoyable solution.

Although you will find shades such as black and tan, it's the offbeat hues that feel the most Prada, in my opinion, and they're worth exploring even if they feel out of your wheelhouse. For all the basic outfit formulas one can rely upon, a joyful bag in an unexpected colour will always add a layer of interest. We couldn't help but fall for this chartreuse—technically speaking, Citreon Green—leather iteration, and you'd be surprised by just how many other colours it works with. Expect to see this style all over fashion month and beyond.

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(Image credit: Phill Taylor)

Celine's Conti not only signals the return of the supersized tote but also the styling notion of carrying them in the crook of one's arm. For the S/S 23 collection, Creative, Artistic and Image Director Hedi Slimane flourished many of the models with a slick Conti toted in a way that was reminiscent of the noughties It-girl era. Walking to a Libertines track from 2004 and wearing the sort of relaxed bohemian outfits Kate Moss and Co. would've chosen at the time, the Conti was the perfect foil to a pared-back version of this era's wardrobe. 

But the Conti isn't all flashback and nostalgia. It also works for today. Considering just how useful they are in a handbag collection, there are few grown-up totes along these lines that have been given the attention and love they perhaps deserve from design houses. First up, the range of hues ticks all the bases: tan, black, chocolate suede and more. The interior contains multiple additional pockets so that the contents of your bag won't wildly rattle around. The belt fastening is functional rather than solely decorative, and it makes this roomy shopper a secure option for city folks. Although the leather is of the finest quality—it has been meticulously selected, don't you know—you shouldn't be afraid of the fact that eventually battering it in (as is de rigueur according to data from The RealReal via Coveteur) could make it an even more charming heirloom piece. 

This particular style is currently unavailable online but you can shop at Celine’s London flagship (40 New Bond Street).

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(Image credit: Phill Taylor)

Bottega Veneta's Cassette bag was first introduced in 2019 as a modern, exaggerated take on the brand's signature Intrecciato weave and became a street style hit almost overnight. The rectangular crossbody satchel joined the brand's new-guard line-up as a permanent fixture alongside other key bag styles such as the Pouch, Mini Jodie and the Loop. All share some commonalities: sumptuous leathers, exciting hues and quirky details that set them apart from more affordable brands that simply cannot execute to this standard. 

What's new for the Cassette this season is its finish. The Cassette Foulard—aka the French word fashion people use for a silk scarf—indicates the interesting technique that has been applied to this bag's woven leather finish. The textural, pinch effect adds a further layer of ASMR pleasure to paper-craft leather, making this handbag not only a practical piece of equipment but a really satisfying one too. What works so beautifully here is that the silhouette of the design is entirely classic, but the rendering is completely new and unusual. The Foulard, which has already been chosen by both Dua Lipa and Margot Robbie, comes in a range of more daring colours that you'd associate with the new era of the Italian fashion house, such as pool turquoise, avocado, a punchy sunburst orange and gold metallic. 

The Cassette Foulard is available in medium and small sizes, as well as a similar version that features a '90s-style top handle (rather than a crossbody strap) called the Brick Cassette.

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(Image credit: Phill Taylor)

Introducing Chloé's Edith for 2023, a re-edited, ultra-luxe version of the brand's popular equestrian-inspired handbag range. Under the creative lead of Gabriela Hearst, the new iteration is minimalistic in design, featuring a rectangular silhouette that is more structured than its previous, freer form. What does remain is the brand's signature top-stitching to add texture and interest to a clean handbag that could work seamlessly into many a professional's wardrobe.

Pictured here is the medium Mocha Brown tote version, which also features leather-wrapped handles (great for extra grip), a top buckle fastening for extra security and a detachable crossbody strap. It is big and roomy, ideal for someone who wants a smart style that can hold a work tablet, notepad or other daily must-haves, for example. Chloé's Edith range extends to this style but scaled down into a medium-sized zip-top version, a shoulder bag featuring a utilitarian pocket on the front, a cross-body pouch and even a collaboration with Barbour using the brand's signature wax-cotton fabric to create a laid-back kind of tote.

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(Image credit: Phill TaylorPictured: Cartier Double C de Cartier Bag in Two-Tone Coral (£2170) available March 2023)

Cartier's edit of luxury leather goods is purposefully concise, comprising only a handful of precisely crafted, ultra-classic designs that will undoubtedly remain in the maison's collection for the foreseeable, therefore becoming iconic, collectable and well worth holding on to for the next generation. In that family, alongside the Panthère and the Guirlande, is the Double C de Cartier—an elegant selection of handbags, jewellery and more that puts the brand's serif-style monogram front and centre.

This particular pale-pink style is the Mini Model Shoulder—an elegant flap-front satchel that features an adjustable single strap, which can be doubled up to be worn as a shoulder bag. The enamel double-C clasp can be pinched at the two bottom corners to open up the middle parting and fastened back into place with a satisfying click. Unlike some other box bags on the bijou end of the spectrum, the interior has been carefully designed to feature three separate compartments, one flat pocket, one signature pocket and a removable mirror. What makes this exact version even more interesting is the use of two ever-so-slightly different shades of calf leather, lending the already graphic bag a 3D effect from different angles. The delightful coral, pictured here, will be available in March, but there are other similar options, such as the pink, that you can shop below.

And don't forget there is the option to add embossing to your chosen style either with or without foil—chic!

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(Image credit: Phill Taylor)

Creative Director Matthew M. Williams's latest Givenchy line riffs on the biker-chic style favoured by Parisians, so it's not a surprise to find a useful everyday bag at the core of his message. We actually first spied the Voyou for A/W 22, but it was when Bella Hadid took to the runway wearing S/S 23's debut look—a denim bralette, maxi skirt and matchy-matchy denim Voyou—that things really stepped up a gear.

Adorning the Voyou is a smattering of hardware details that hark back to moto references, but what I really liked about this metalwork was that it is inclusive of both gold and silver in the same bag—meaning you can easily match this to your jewellery and/or watch without experiencing that clash that can so often come with accessories. As far as ease goes, thanks to its slouchy V-form; long, chuck-it-over-your-body straps; and the overlapping opening, this is perhaps the most casual of all the styles in this article. 

There is certainly a hint of the Y2K era with the Voyou (as there is across much of the It-bag landscape this year), but I think we can all agree this is a much chicer and more restrained take, especially when you opt in for simple hues such as black. Saying that, if you want something punchier, the Voyou also comes in hot pink, crackled silver, lime green and many more vibrant shades. 

Hannah Almassi
Editor in Chief

Hannah Almassi is the Editor in Chief of Who What Wear UK. Hannah has been part of the the Who What Wear brand since 2015, when she was headhunted to launch the UK sister site and social channels, implement a localised content strategy and build out the editorial team. She joined following a seven-year tenure at Grazia magazine, where she led front-of-book news, fashion features and shopping specials as fashion news and features editor. With experience in both print and digital across fashion and beauty, Hannah has over 16 years in the field as a journalist, editor, content strategist and brand consultant. Hannah has interviewed industry heavyweights such as designers including Marc Jacobs and Jonathan Anderson through to arbiters of taste including Katie Grand and Anna Dello Russo. A skilled moderator and lecturer specialising in the shift to digital media and e-commerce, Hannah’s opinion and work has been sought by the likes of CNBC, BBC, The Sunday Times Style, The Times, The Telegraph and MatchesFashion.com, among many others. Hannah is often called upon for her take on trends, becoming known as a person with their finger of the pulse of what’s happening in the fashion space for stylish Brits.

Hannah currently resides in Eastbourne with her photographer husband, incredibly busy son and highly Instagrammable cat.