Walking down the streets of New York, you would be hard-pressed to find a woman who doesn't have a current It-bag on her arm. Perhaps Staud's iconic Bissett bucket or Dior's iconic Saddle Bag. But, for some women, investing in a sleek handbag isn't so much about the current trend cycle. Instead, it's about seeking out classic, minimalist handbag brands that will polish up an outfit now and five years down the line. Thankfully, there are a slew of pared-back bag brands emerging that you should keep your eye on if you're searching for something timeless to give your status bag a break.
The rise of Mansur Gavriel's now iconic bucket bag helped establish the fact that there was a need for fresh contemporary brands offering simple, structured options. Whether or not you're a current owner of any of Mansur Gavriel's designs, there are a slough of smaller or emerging lines that should similarly be on your radar. In part, because they're in the running to become the next cult classics, but also because they'll simply make any outfit feel instantly more chic. To help narrow your focus of the coolest minimalistic brands to keep your finger on, below you'll find nine up-and-coming labels that fashion girls everywhere will be shopping for come fall.
Ashya was founded in 2017 by Ashley Cimone and Moya Annece, and is rooted in travel and the idea of marrying style and utility. “We approach each collection as an ode to exploration. A motto that speaks to the process of understanding a diverse array of cultural narratives. We aim to help the modern day explorer move more fluidly and thoughtfully throughout the world,” says Annece.
Ashya's pieces are minimalist, but are also designed to be entirely practical. Belt bags and simple cross-bodies alike are designed with geometric elements that blend into everyday streetwear. “The leather accessories we design encourage the act of minimalism, making sure everyday items such as passports, keys, phones, lipstick, and credit cards can easily and safely be held, but are not so large to encourage overpacking,” says Cimone. “As a label that was motivated by the idea of travel and commuting with ease, we see great value in empowering our customers by giving them a sense of freedom through multi-functional designs built on utilitarian principles.”
Italian-made TL-180 embodies the minimalist yet sophisticated European aesthetic with its uniquely shaped bags. Ranging from woven bucket bags to tiny paper bag styles embossed in snakeskin, the seven-year-old brand features laid back pieces that speak to modern trends. What sets the label apart is its close attention to detail, luxe leather, and clear artisanal craftsmanship. Carefully-cinched tops, delicate leather straps, and subtle pockets all make TL-180 a timeless brand.
Ratio Et Motus
Launched in 2018 by Angela Wang and Daniel Li, Ratio Et Motus's name translates to “sense and emotion” in Latin, which represents the brand’s philosophy of finding an equilibrium between the two. The New York-based label offers a ladylike twist on classic handbag shapes, all the while practicing sustainability — sourcing by-product leather, limiting water use, and utilizing a vegan leather lining. Their latest collection features structured bags in neutral colors like saddle brown and navy, but with interesting hardware and unique front flap shapes that feel distinctive.
Inspired by the golden ratio, OneSixOne interprets the mathematical equilibrium of the 1.61 ratio to create what they deem “perfect” handbags. Designed by Adrian Salvador, the bags mix fashion and art by combining geometric silhouettes and hardware by jeweler Helena Ronher. While the brand's designs skew minimalistic, it features both neutral colors like gray and black and bold hues like lavender and neon yellow, so you can go for a style as bold as you desire.
Aesther Ekme was founded by Alexander Wang's former accessories designer Stephane Park in 2016. “The idea behind Aesther Ekme was to combine function and aesthetics in order to allow mobility in between occasions, seasons, and events, as well as to create bags that don't label women, but allow them to take ownership of the brand and incorporate it in their everyday style," Park explains.
The sculptural pieces carry the concept of functional beauty throughout, honing in on a minimalist aesthetic. “It strips down design to its essential parts, reinforcing its shape and details in a more transparent design,” Park notes. From five-sided bucket bags to rectangle top-handle clutches and slouchy satchels, Aesther Ekme’s collection features a range of structured shapes in fresh colors like rust and light yellow and classic neutral hues.
While Manu Atelier isn’t a newcomer as it was founded in 2014, its modern designs are sure ones to keep your eye on for fall. The line was founded by two sisters whose designs pull inspiration from their father’s work as a legacy leather goods manufacturer in Istanbul, Turkey. Think of the brand’s handbags as minimalist with a trendy twist. Modern details like metal chains and boxy tops with contrasting color combinations set the line apart. Keep an eye out in particular for its newer silhouettes like baguette bags and structured top-handle purses.
Complét is designed in Tel Aviv and made in Italy and was founded by Sivan Moshkovitz, Leonora Fuhrer-Agmon, and Emily Whyte Meridor in 2013. The trio set out to create a modern, geometric brand that could be worn at any time by any age woman. “We want to give women the option to have fun and not take themselves so seriously with Complét bags,” says Moshkovitz. “Details and quality were a must, which is why it was so important for me to work with an Italian factory that cherishes craftsmanship and their workers."
Complét purses are minimal enough to be worn with everyday ensembles, but the bright, pretty colors make it a statement as well. "I think my designs are a combination of both minimalist graphic shapes and a play on textures,” Moshkovitz notes. “I love pops of colors, which add a playful contrast to these elements. I think these signature combinations make our bags recognizable and therefore stand out in the market."
Cafuné is a line of minimalist bags that have a whimsical-yet-polished essence. Founded by two lifelong friends in 2015, the brand aims to reconsider the notion of luxury with a focus on design with emotion. Its minimal silhouettes are unexpected, with idiosyncratic details like cinched tops, translucent beaded handles, and croc-embossed leather. With a mix of delicate leather and lightweight linen fabrics, Cafuné purses offer a stylish, yet refined design that will carry you from late summer into early fall. Plus, each style’s beautiful custom hardware is reason enough to snatch up one of Cafuné’s bags.
Launched in 2015, Unitude creates handcrafted leather bags that play off of structural elements and neutral color combinations. While the brand displays a minimalistic aesthetic, the distinctive details and shapes of each design put a fresh spin on staple pieces. Unitude pays great attention to the quality and detailing in each satchel, featuring metal handles, ribbon tops, and knot elements. Even if bold statement bags aren’t your thing, Unitude’s combination of splashy hues and neutral colors in the same bag make color feel more refined. Whether you’re looking for a statement evening bag or polished everyday tote, keep Unitude on your watch list.