I'm a Handbag Buyer, and These Popular Designer Bags Are Worth It

Shopping for a designer bag is equal parts exciting and stressful. It's an accessory that can be worn again and again (hello, cost per wear!), but there's no denying it can be a punch in the gut when the credit card charge hits your account. If you wish you had a handbag fairy godmother to help decide what styles are worth it, you're in luck. We enlisted Victoria Slane, designer and luxury handbag buyer at Nordstrom to share some insight. Who's better to help guide you than someone who literally buys bags for a living? 

"When I'm selecting an assortment, I like to ask myself, Who is the customer for this? Where are they wearing it? Will they want to pull it out every day or season after season?" Slane tells Who What Wear. (Yeah, a lot of decisions go into merchandising that gorgeous handbag section.) But she says one thing is nonnegotiable: "Spending money on any item should be about what it means to you," says Slane. "Whether it's a tried-and-true bag that's been around for years or a brand-new designer bag on the arm of every influencer, if it makes you happy and you will wear it and enjoy it, it's a good investment."

If you're still unsure where to start, Slane is sharing 20 styles that have a special place in her heart, from current It bags to all-time classics. "Bags that balance iconic elements such as silhouette, hardware, or branding details with emotional elements such as a bold color or interesting fabrication are the perfect balance to me," she says. Keep scrolling for some of her under-$300 picks, too. "As what constitutes 'investment' varies from one person to the next, the most important factors are that the bag functions for your life and that it makes you happy when you carry it," she explains. "This is more important than if a bag is popular or not."

Bottega Veneta clutch


The Style Stalker / Szymon Brzóska

Valentino Garavani Medium Roman Stud Leather Shoulder Bag

When asked whether she could only buy one bag in 2021, Slane couldn't quite narrow it down. "Asking a handbag buyer to pick one bag is like asking a mother to pick a favorite child!" says Slane. "If we're speaking to more classic items, I have my eye on the Valentino Roman Stud bag in a gorgeous flamingo pink. This is the kind of bag you pull out for running errands, and it also works for special occasions or a night out."

Nicky Hilton Valentino bag


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Nicky Hilton carrying the Valentino Garavani Medium Roman Stud Leather Shoulder Bag.

Benedetta Bruzziches Casper Crystal Mesh Clutch

This is her pick for special occasions. "I love Benedetta Bruzziches and have to have one of those sparkly, crystal-covered confections in my closet for New Year's Eve!" says the buyer.

Alexander McQueen Skull Croc-Embossed Shoulder Bag

The skull detail is quintessential McQueen, but it's surprisingly understated.

Chloé Mini Marcie Crossbody Bag

You can't go wrong with this scaled-down version of one of Chloé's most popular designs.

Chloe bag


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Christian Louboutin Mini Cabata Tote

The red lining is classic Louboutin, and the tie-dye and abstract logo prints are playful (and oh so 2021).

Givenchy Small 4G Leather Crossbody

Cotton-candy pink is an unexpected and fun choice for this streamlined design.

Loewe Mini Puzzle Leather Bag

It may be called the "mini," but you can fit all the essentials in this perfectly sized, sculptural bag.

Loewe puzzle bag


The Style Stalker / Szymon Brzóska

Saint Laurent Lou Camera Bag

Simply put, it's one of those bags you'll have, wear, and love forever.

YSL camera bag


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Amina Muaddi Gilda Top Handle Bag

This itty-bitty crystal-encrusted bag is pretty much why the term "statement bag" was invented.

Balenciaga Neo Classic Crossbody

Balenciaga's iconic motorcycle bag, now in wristlet form. Need we say more?

Bottega Veneta Mini Pouch

This is pretty much the perfect clutch, and it's available in every color of the rainbow.

Bottega Veneta clutch


The Style Stalker / Szymon Brzóska

Coperni Micro Snake Embossed Leather Top Handle Bag

With a '90s-inspired shape and very 2021 construction, this snakeskin crossbody has something for everyone. 

Coperna bag


The Style Stalker / Szymon Brzóska

Valentino Rockstud Shoulder Bag

A classic envelope silhouette gets the Rockstud treatment.

Versace Mini Virtus Studded Crossbody

The chain strap is detachable, so you can wear this punchy pink style as a clutch, too.

Gu_de Small Lisa Shoulder Bag

Slane calls this versatile hobo "retro and chic."

Ganni Tech Fabric Saddle Shoulder Bag

Made of recycled polyester, this bag is "sustainable and practical with a side of fun," says Slane.

 Fjällräven Art Backpack

The buyer is a fan of this durable backpack year-round "because summer vacation is here, and back to school isn't that far off."

Fjallraven bag


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Isabel Marant Yenky Logo Tote

This tote is "great for errands while still being beautiful," says Slane.

Streamline Luggage Editor Mini Crossbody

This structured trunk-inspired bag has a three-dial combination lock to keep your valuables stylishly secure.

Staud Shirley Calfskin Leather Handbag

Slane calls this practical yet pretty tote "perfect for the imminent return to the office."