If the recent Fall/Winter 2021 collections had to be summarized in one simple sentence, it would be this: art imitates life (or in this case, imitates what it wants life to be like). The last year of the pandemic, travel came to a halt as did social gatherings and any semblance of festivity. By now, everyone has had a trip canceled or a birthday spent Zooming in lieu of celebrating, and frankly — it shows. The Fall/Winter 2021 runway bag trends from New York City, London, Milan, and Paris felt like an ode to the good old pre-COVID days when getting ready for a trip involved packing your items into a sleek suitcase (not stocking up on N95 masks) or a dinner out with friends called for ditching the work tote for a glitzy cross-body bag (not a bottle of hand sanitizer). Olivier Rousteing shot his travel-themed Balmain looks in a hangar at Charles de Gaulle Airport. Chanel's artistic director Virginie Viard pivoted the runway from Paris's Grand Palais (currently closed for renovations) to a beloved Left Bank nightclub called Chez Castel. The proof is in the pudding, designers are ready for adventure and to have a little fun.
Naturally, there were other silhouettes and styles designers had in mind when crafting their ideas. Being collections for autumn, there were seasonally-appropriate trends like furry bags, animal prints, and shiny metallics that will fit in well at holiday parties come November (fingers crossed we'll have those later this year). Beyond all that, the Fall/Winter 2021 collections proved that despite the hardship, creativity perseveres. Continue ahead for 12 runway bag trends you'll want to carry now and most certainly in a post-pandemic world.
Runway Bag Trend: It’s the Journey
To no one's surprise, designers had travel on the mind when creating their Fall/Winter 2021 looks. As mentioned before, Balmain's show was staged in a hangar in Charles de Gaulle Airport. Anna Sui's cosmic collection showcased an actual suitcase (clad in a groovy print, naturally). Other designers opted for a less splashy approach but still nodded toward utility and the journey as reigning themes. The Row, Courreges, and Balenciaga all included weekender-sized bags in their assortments for the season.
Runway Bag Trend: The Emoji Effect
There was a distinct playfulness surrounding several collections, including handbags featuring emoji-reminiscent motifs. At Carolina Herrera, it was all about the heart (on top of bags, as well as on everything from buttons and buckles to prints and embroideries). Coach did a twist on their classic logo print and included bright red ladybugs on the canvas. And you can't forget Staud — the accessibly-priced brand that has arguably led handbag trends for the last several years — designer Sarah Staudinger introduced bags bedecked in X's and O's, a theme you'll no doubt see strewn about on your Instagram feed in a few month's time.
Runway Bag Trend: Asymmetry
When you think of the more catchy bag trends in recent years, unexpected silhouettes and proportions have dominated the scene, which is why it's no surprise that some designers experimented with asymmetry this season. The effect feels artful and out-of-the-box, while still being incredibly timeless and sleek.
Runway Bag Trend: Fluffed-Up
At this point in the pandemic, perfecting your cozy has become an art form. For Fall/Winter 2021, designers point to fluffed-up, furry handbags as a snug trend worth holding onto. It was spotted on the slopes (AKA Miu Miu's incredibly cinematic runway) all the way to Prada, Fendi, and Chanel. Texture is the name of the game and it comes in iterations ranging from teddy bear fur to more feathery tactile options.
Runway Bag Trend: Backpack
Another nod to travel, models on runways like Balenciaga and Chloé walked down the virtual catwalk (or, in some cases, were photographed for the digital presentation) carrying backpacks. There were sleek takes on the utilitarians’ staple — quilted leather, for example — as well as expressive riffs like prints and embellishments.
Runway Bag Trend: Camera Strap
Perhaps an homage to a longing for tourism? Camera-strap handbags made a comeback on several key runways like Simone Rocha, Versace, and Etro. Regardless of the intention, the silhouette feels sturdy and stylish to wear on whatever adventure you might be embarking upon in the months and years to come.
Runway Bag Trend: Larger Than Life
Super-sized bags have been a trend on the runways for the last few seasons and the latest set of collections proves this large look is here to stay. While several designers opted for bohemian-style shoulder bags to achieve the silhouette, others, like Marni and Khaite went for less-subtle takes including XXL leather totes.
Runway Bag Trend: Metallic Moment
Yet another indication designers are ready to party, metallics in shades ranging from classic silver and gold to a punched-up purple all made appearances in the Fall/Winter 2021 collections. The best thing about metallics is that they're always in style yet manage to also feel timely.
Runway Bag Trend: Part-ay
If the world is able to safely relax its social distancing measures this fall, you'll be needing a party bag or two — Chanel, among others, can help with that. Designers like Jil Sander and Tom Ford joined the bandwagon de fête with a range of options including glitter, sequins, and glistening embellishments.
Runway Bag Trend: Jungle Out There
Zebra prints occupied the animal-pattern trend zone for the past few seasons, but the recent collections indicate a return to classic python and cheetah prints. Once fall rolls around, there's nothing better than incorporating a jungle-inspired print into your repertoire to make a splash and with options from Lanvin, Christian Dior, and Fendi you'll have plenty to choose from.
Runway Bag Trend: Graphic
You can always count on Prada for a strong graphic print, but other brands including Loewe and editor-founded Colville also leaned in with colorful options that reminded why accessories are, indeed, quite the art form. Simply put, if you live for a vibrant handbag, you won't be short on choices this autumn.
Runway Bag Trend: Coordinated
Matching clothes to handbags? Crazier things have been done in the name of fashion. Versace sent Gigi Hadid down the runway in a coordinated glove and handbag while over at Chloé, a sunset-hued striped dress was spotted with a matching fringed bag slung over the shoulder. If you're the type who sought out matching face coverings and tops over the last year, this trend is for you.
Runway Bag Trend: Embroidery
There's always an appetite for artisanal, hand-crafted touches when it comes to bags, which explains why there was no shortage of embroidery in the F/W 2021 collections. Gabriela Hearst went the floral direction, which gave a sense of estate sale nostalgia while Ulla Johnson's offerings felt more worldly and wanderlust-induced.