The Stats Don't Lie—These Are the 10 Most Classic Designer Handbag Brands of Our Generation

We're of the opinion that everything we buy should be viewed as an investment. Whether it is an affordable dress, a pair of high-end shoes, vintage finds or a hot-ticket camel coat, every item in our wardrobes is loved just the same. But there's no denying that we have a special place in our hearts for classic designer handbags.

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(Image credit: @emilisindlev)

A designer bag should truly last a lifetime—which is why it pays to seek out and save up for styles from the industry's most trusted fashion brands. From well-established pieces from Chanel and Dior to comparatively new styles from brands such as Loewe, there are so many different options to choose from it can make the process all the more daunting.

To help you decide which bag is the right investment for you, we've done the hard work and pooled the world's classic designer handbag brands together in one place, illustrated by the specific styles that helped cement their respective timeless statuses. But don't just take our word for it—we sought insight from the industry's most esteemed experts to bolster our selection.

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(Image credit: @symphonyofsilk)

"As a self-confessed handbag enthusiast, asking me to choose a favourite or single out the most classic bag is like asking a parent to pick their favourite child," muses Ceanne Fernandes-Wong, handbag expert and CEO & co-founder of Cocoon, the UK's first membership subscription service for luxury bags. "However, as someone who has worked in the luxury fashion sector for over 15 years, I have tried and tested countless brands, styles, colours, and materials and know what to look for when it comes to selecting a classic designer handbag. Something that has the versatile ability to provide a boost of confidence for an important business meeting, protect your valuables, transcend seasons, and at the end of the day bring you joy."

Also bestowing their designer handbag knowledge to our list is Nicola Ghin, Senior Authentication Manager and aficionado of all things high-end for The Luxury Closet. Nicola's job involves working amidst a sea of designer products, from shoes to valuable leather accessories, and he loves it! But designer handbags? That's his specialist subject.

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(Image credit: @cocobeautea)

Keep scrolling for our definitive list of the best classic designer handbag brands to invest in, and start putting those pennies away, pronto.

1. Chanel

We can't discuss designer bags without giving Chanel the attention it deserves. Not only do these bags hold their value—they appreciate in value. As prices for brand-new styles continue to rise, as do prices for any vintage or second-hand pieces. "You can't go wrong with a classic Chanel bag," says Fernandes-Wong. "It really is one of those brands that never dates and will always elevate a look to the next level. Unsurprisingly, Chanel is also one of our most requested and wishlisted brands at Cocoon." Although any Chanel handbag investment is sure to serve you well, if there's one style to consider, it's the Flap.

"No introduction is needed when it comes to the Chanel Flap bag," confirms Ghin. "Wherever you are, whoever you are, a Chanel Flap timeless bag is everyone's classic. This bag reached a new level of fame after its first restyle in 1983 by Karl Lagerfeld. Caviar or lambskin? Double flap or single flap? The versatility of this iconic bag has no limits: You can spot it in a club on a Friday night, out brunching on Sunday or in the office on a Monday morning."

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2. Hermès

Perhaps the most exclusive classic designer handbag brand on our list, Hermès is everlasting in its appeal thanks to its timeless design and its rarity. The sale of any new bag lies wholly with the sales teams' discretion—there's no guarantee you'll be offered the colour, size or even design you request, or if you'll even be served that day. Don't be disheartened if you aren't—I know people who have been denied one day, only to return it and leave with a Hermès in hand. Like Chanels, they also hold their value on the resale market.

You'd be forgiven for assuming the Birkin would have made our prestigious list, but we think Kelly is Hermès' unsung hero—as does Ghin. "The Hermès leather goods collection is exquisite in design and quality, but of all the styles, I would always go for a Kelly," says Ghin. "Conceived in the 1930s, this handbag became an icon more than 20 years after its creation when Grace Kelly tactfully used it to conceal her first pregnancy. Available in two versions, the Sellier, which is structured and elegant or Retourné, which is softer, sporty, and less formal, a Kelly bag is a true icon that will suit everyone."

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3. Louis Vuitton

Louis Vuitton is one of the most iconic classic handbag brands and continues to hold appeal for seasoned collectors, as well as new fans via TikTok, alike. Born in 1854 in Paris, the brand quickly became known for its iconic, logo-adorned trunks before its handbags started to appear on the arms of those in the know.

"Everybody knows the iconic models from Maison Louis Vuitton: Speedy, Neverfull, Alma… They've all been omnipresent in the fashion world in their own right, but one of my favourite designs in recent collections is the Mètis Pochette," says Ghin. "First introduced in 2012, this bag was happily adopted by thousands of clients all over the world for its versatility, comfort, and functionality. Iconic with the classic monogram print, understated in Empreinte and flashy in its seasonal versions, this compact bag features a stylish top handle and a removable shoulder strap."

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4. Gucci

Let's face it—the last few years have been dominated by Gucci. Its kooky catwalk creations filtered down to mid-market hero pieces with its iconic GG belt and leather loafers, which became fashion's most sought-after items almost overnight. As for arm candy? Although the brand creates hit bag after hit bag, there's one that remains beloved by fashion.

"Gucci is the first brand that came to mind. Gucci was originally established in 1921 as a leather goods and luggage store, and in my opinion, the brand's exquisite craftspersonship and expertise in leather handbags still rings true today," says Fernandes-Wong. "Since launching Cocoon in 2019, Gucci is regularly one of our most requested and wishlisted brands. My go-to everyday style is the Gucci 1995 Horsebit shoulder bag. The 1955 Horsebit was first introduced more than 60 years ago and continues to be sought-after today—that proves its classic bag status. The perfect size, not too big, not too small, with three inner pockets to organise your essentials, and really hard-wearing, which is a must for my lifestyle."

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5. Saint Laurent

Since its founding in 1961, French fashion house Saint Laurent has been synonymous with chic, classic and cool designs. This, of course, applies to its bags, too. A favourite amongst influencers, editors, and celebrities alike, Saint Laurent's monogrammed bags are the chicest take on logo-emblazonment we've seen. They're one of the brand's only pieces featuring the "Y" for Yves, which may be the root of its continued success. We are, however, extremely partial to some of the brand's more discreet handbags, including the Manhattan and Le Maillon.

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6. Prada

Prada may have been founded in 1913, but the brand’s iconic bags remain some of the most coveted year after year. Many of its designs peaked in the ’90s—a look new generations are revisiting now as the Y2K aesthetic continues to sweep the fashion world, securing a fresh legion of Prada fans in its wake. Along with offerings like the Cleo and the re-edition of its nylon shoulder bags, there is also a slew of heritage designs to choose from.

Technically called the Galleria by Prada, but you may also know it as Saffiano. Saffiano refers to the hardwearing, heat-treated leather it's made of—a signature for Prada. All Prada bags, however, are made for the person constantly on the go; they’re bags to be seen with and used regularly.

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7. Fendi

Before social media, street style dictated the trends, and no bag brand is perhaps more synonymous with the street style movement of the ‘90s and aughts than Fendi—specifically its Baguette.

Fendi’s Baguette served as a cheeky bit on the sartorial side when it came to be in 1997. The brash clasp and short shoulder strap were the archetype of '90s style and offered respite from the more formal designer handbags of the time.

"A thousand versions but still the same. In one word? Baguette!," muses Ghin. "This iconic Fendi bag became part of history as the very first IT bag. Popularised on Sex and the City, this bag ended up in the collective consciousness of every girl for its practical and effortless coolness. The recipe is simple: A small, streamlined bag, carried on a short strap (now also available as a long crossbody on newer designs). This bag is meant to meet your needs and most of all your personality: Sequins, beads, and velvet... These are only a few of the 1000+ versions of the Baguette. Pick yours!"

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8. Celine

Chic, practical and effortlessly stylish, it's little wonder Celine's bags have amassed such a loyal fan base. Whether you typically tend toward timeless, minimal bags or are seeking a new designer silhouette to add to your existing collection, you can’t go wrong with a bag by Celine. Although the brand’s beautiful Triomphe emblem is experiencing a surge in popularity, cropping up on bags, belts, and other leather accessories, the brand’s more inconspicuous handbags, such as the Trio or the Trapeze, still hold a firm place in our hearts.

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9. Dior

The Dior Saddle bag is perhaps one of the most in-demand handbags right now, having become a hot-ticket item in influencer circles, there is another Dior style that cements the brand as one of the classic handbag purveyors, and that’s The Lady Dior. Created in 1994, it's clear it was destined to become a classic (with a little help from Princess Diana, who carried it religiously). In fact, it was originally named the Chouchou, which is French for "favourite." It was renamed in 1996 as a tribute to the Princess, who was known as Lady Diana Spencer before she married Prince Charles.

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10. Loewe

Joining the esteemed ranks of Chanel and Hermès is Loewe, a brand whose designs are already standing the test of time, even though many are still under a decade old. Where there's Loewe, its Puzzle bag can't be far behind. After its debut at the brand's S/S 15 menswear show, it's been on the wish lists of those in the know ever since. It gets its name from the fact it's made from 41 different pieces of leather—a phenomenal amount of work, and that's before we even consider all of the finishing details. As one of the most complex bag patterns around, we reckon it's worth every single penny. Since, its basket bags and canvas totes gone from cult buys to slow-burning classics, too, selling out year after year; maintaining their demand in the process.

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This story was originally published at an earlier date and has since been updated.

Promo image: @symphonyofsilk

Maxine Eggenberger
Deputy Editor

Maxine Eggenberger is Who What Wear UK’s deputy editor and has over thirteen years of experience in fashion journalism. She been creating engaging and elevated style content specifically for Who What Wear UK since 2018, covering runway reports, emerging trends, long-form features, self-styled shopping stories and columns, including her edit of the best new-in buys. She ensures the highest editorial standards are met across the site, leads the editorial team in their SEO strategy and keyword planning, works closely with the beauty team on content initiatives, represents the brand at industry events, and regularly contributes to social media, including her own Who What Wear UK TikTok franchise, French Style Fridays. Previously, Maxine appeared on ITV's This Morning in her own fashion segment and has interviewed countless celebrities—everyone from Victoria Beckham to Oscar winner Lupita Nyong’o.

Prior to Who What Wear UK, Maxine’s career began when, after completing her first-ever internship at Look magazine, she was offered a position on the brand's fashion desk. She accepted, leaving university a year early in the process. Her passion and natural talent for writing and styling meant she swiftly rose through the ranks to become the title's fashion news and commercial content editor, with a stint as InStyle.co.uk’s fashion and beauty writer along the way. She later served as Look’s acting Editor in Chief, overseeing both print and digital, before embarking on a successful freelance career, working with Grazia, The Pool, and Marie Claire amongst others.

Maxine is based remotely from her countryside home near Edinburgh where she spends her downtime renovating her house, walking her dogs, hosting friends and trying to master the art of making Old Fashioned cocktails.