For those who follow the fashion cycle, there's a thrill that comes with wearing an outfit that no one else has tried yet. But it only takes one piece to make an outfit feel ahead of the curve: a new handbag from an emerging designer. Without having to do a whole lot of lift, you can invest in a single piece — one you'll get much more use out of than you would a dress, or even a pair of shoes.
While you can't deny the lasting power of a classic Chanel Boy bag or Hérmes Birkin, there’s an entire new generation of emerging bag designers that hold their own sort of sartorial power. Flick through any street style gallery (or your Instagram feed) and you’ll see it: carrying a bag from one of these cool new brands makes a statement. What makes this next generation of bag designers particularly interesting is their penchant for bold shapes and unconventional designs. Medea's revision of the traditional shopping bag is an easy example: it takes the familiar, and makes it feel new. Know now that in 2020, a classic bag is second to one you haven't seen before.
We only include products that have been independently selected by The Zoe Report's editorial team. However, we may receive a portion of sales if you purchase a product through a link in this article.
2020's Emerging Handbag Designers To Know: Atelier Mimii
Based in Paris by way of Spain, Atelier Mimii is a maximalist designer creating up-cycled designs in bold colors. Her signature bag is a quilted tote, made out of scraps of fabric from her main collection (the designer also creates surreal, oversized dresses and tops). Her bags have become instantly recognizable for their puffy, quilted look and bright colors and prices range from around $260-$500.
“The story of the quilted bag came from the simple idea that we had so much leftover fabric from our quilted dresses,” designer Marta Rios tells TZR. “We don’t like to throw away fabric, so we kept on stuffing them into boxes. All the scraps were taken out one day and the bags came into mind when we wanted to create full looks. A dress and the matching bag. We found a way to make a very lightweight bag, very comfortable to wear and easy to carry everywhere.” As a result, each bag is one-of-a-kind, as each one is handmade.
2020's Emerging Handbag Designers To Know: Marge Sherwood
If you’re more of an understated minimalist, look no further than South Korean label Marge Sherwood. The brand, which was founded in 2015, creates structural bags that are compact, with elegant details such as metal frame handles. Co-founder Sungeun Um tells TZR that the brand's Pump Handle is the most popular style. “The design is inspired by a piece of equipment putting air in the bicycle tire," adds the other co-founder Soonyoung Kim. "The bag has a very creative design with the 24k gold-plated handle that we developed on our own.”
The designers look to vintage silhouettes like the structured, box-shaped bags you might see in your grandma’s closet, but reinvent them for the current age. The duo named the line after the heroine of the movie "The Talented Mr. Ripley," a further nod to their vintage inspo. For now, look to this brand for the best in class when it comes to stylish, architectural bags in leather that don’t break the bank.
2020's Emerging Handbag Designers To Know: Wandler
Over the last year, Wandler's bags have reached cult status among fashion's top models, influencers, and editors. But beyond the Dutch label’s status in the fashion world, Gigi Hadid, Lady Gaga, Celine Dion, Bella Hadid, Priyanka Chopra, and Margot Robbie have all donned the emerging brand’s bags and shoes, which start at $350 up to just over $1000. “I felt there weren't a lot of brands out there that offered the aesthetic that I loved in the colors that I was searching for,” Wandler tells TZR. “So I created my own. Investment pieces with a distinctive aesthetic and high quality alongside function and convenience. I think our newest style for this season is a great example of that, the Ava Tote. It has a sculptural silhouette with soft proportions which can hold my laptop and other office necessities.”
Wandler’s most iconic shape is likely the Hortensia bag, a sturdy half-moon shape in colors that range from everyday brown and black to seasonal hues like neon yellows and lavender. But, with each season, the brand has launched a silhouette that quickly attracts attention.
2020's Emerging Handbag Designers To Know: Little Liffner
Based in Stockholm, Paulina Liffner launched her line Little Liffner in 2012. Since then, Little Liffner has become well-known for its organic shapes and unusual details. The large Open Tulip Tote, for example, is asymmetric in its form, or the signature Mademoiselle bags which all have a strap that loops around from the front to the back of the purse.
“We think the term ‘playful minimalism’ sums up our aesthetic well,” Liffner tells TZR. “Our best designs have a very simple but strong idea at their core and with an unexpected touch or detail that gives it a unique personality. Art and travel are the two main inspirations that tend to set off my creative process. There is something about being exposed to different perspectives and different ways of life that never fails to spark my imagination.”
2020's Emerging Handbag Designers To Know: Medea
Paloma Elsesser, Kaia Gerber, and Tessa Thompson are already fans of cool-girl label Medea. The brand takes simplicity seriously and focuses primarily on a silhouette that resemble shopping bags, complete with double leather handles. But, instead of the practical brown paper, you can shop for these little bags in bold colors such as Kelly green and bright red. The keychain size is $140 while larger iterations are around $1000.
Twin sisters Giulia and Camilla Venturini were inspired by their love of shopping when they launched in 2018. The idea was to recreate the everyday bags you use when shopping. Given that the cool twin sisters are also models and artists on top of being the founders of a covetable bag line, it’s no surprise that artist collaborations are also key elements of the brand’s DNA. Medea has staged collaborations with the photographer Nan Goldin, artist Judith Bernstein, and British-Bulgarian fashion designer Kiko Kostadinov.
2020's Emerging Handbag Designers To Know: ASHYA
ASHYA is unique first and foremost in that all of its production is based in New York City. Founded in 2017 by co-founders Ashley Cimone and Moya Annece, all of ASHYA’s bags are completely unisex inspired by the art of travel. Take, for example the utilitarian belt bag, which has four pockets, and can be worn as a replacement to your typical crossbody bag, or just as a really cool belt with extra storage.
“The cultural research around each collection is a very prominent signature of ours,” Annece tells TZR. “Our collection are a celebration of underrepresented communities. Also, the juxtaposition of geometric shapes paired with organic lines is a signature aesthetic within our bag designs.”