At a push I prefer bags slightly to shoes, because they appeal to the utilitarian side of my character too – as well as being beautiful, they are useful (in a way those fuchsia suede stilettos probably... aren’t.)
Let me get all fashion dictator for a moment and state categorically: there is never any excuse for pleather. Trust me, I have learned this bitter lesson. Pleather shoes rub and sweat and degrade in a way that leather never would – looking back, I wish I’d saved myself the £14.99 or whatever on those cheap faux-leather shoes and just worn an old pair to that wedding, or party or fashion week or whichever special occasion I was panic-buying for.
The same goes for handbags – if you buy pleather, in a year’s time there’ll be little scratches all over it and the handles will be wearing through to the white plasticy material beneath. A leather bag gets battered too, but the frequent contact from the natural oils in your hands softens the leather down, wearing it in and giving it a beautiful patina.
*I don't really mean evil, obvs... I guess the only reason you wouldn’t buy leather would be if you were vegan, but in that case I would still advice against pleather and point you in the direction of latex, PVC or fabrics like canvas neoprene or sturdy canvas (think Vivienne Westwood’s legendary tartan bowling bags).
The great British high street (which as most of their etail sites ship globally, can be enjoyed by all) has such a huge range of quality leather handbags at reasonable prices, there’s no excuse to go down the murky pleather alley. I mean, you can’t argue with a butter-soft leather envelope clutch from Gap for 25 quid, can you? This season I’ve noticed three strong shapes emerging – the drawstring backpack, the oversized tote and the ladylike box bag.
Much as I loathe American Apparel’s naff/sleazy advertising, I have to grudgingly admit their bags are amazing. I’m going to a wedding this weekend and I’m getting their Medium Leather Carry-All Pouch in fuchsia to contrast with my navy dress and hold my flat sandals for when the high ones become unbearable. This style comes in a small and large version too, PVC and suede finishes and a rainbow of colours. I can see myself amassing a little collection.
I’ve also been hankering after a leather drawstring backpack-type bag for a while and this is a strong contender – it comes in putty as well as rich, rust-brown leather. I like AA leather bags because they are so clean and simple in their design, they look vintage – so many bags these days are tiresomely over-decorated with fussy little details – unnecessary studs and buckles that don’t fasten anything.
Their leather envelope case is another fine example of a modern classic in the making – you would never regret buying this bag with its unassuming, almost masculine design – it looks like a fusty academic’s briefcase. I can imagine it working for everyone from a student lugging library books around, to a worker with a laptop and spare shoes, or anyone needing to stash nappies and other baby paraphernalia.
Zara always has a mix of leather and pleather bags on offer. I love the rich burgundy shade of this structured shopper - the extra front pocket with the flap is a nice detail too.
And haven't they gone all Celine-y with this beautiful minimalist white number? Fancy!
I’m not going to lie, J.Crew bags definitely come at the pricey end of the high street spectrum, but they’re beautiful and well made so if you are looking to invest in something that will last you for years (without actually going into ‘designer It bag’ territory), they are extremely worthwhile purchases. I am counting the days until they open their Regent Street store this autumn...
APC has a hideous website – you can’t see the prices in pounds (as far as I can tell) and they leave sold out sale stock up there for ages which is just cruel as it gets my hopes up. Ugh. Despite this, they are one of my all-time favourite brands and if I had a sudden windfall like a tax rebate (hollow laugh) I would definitely be buying one of these beauties.
Just like COS, & Other Stories excels at subtle, understated luxurious leather bags which don’t scream for attention, but rather quietly command it. Just look at this one...
There's something about Whistles' Hobo bag that's just so cool - I would instantly feel like a 'grown-up' with this swinging from my shoulder, and I'd probably be wearing a really important cashmere-blend coat too (in my dreams.)
I found it really hard to single out one bag from Hobbs’ amazing new season selection, but eventually settled on the Romina because something about its burgundy shininess made me feel really back-to-school-y and nothing can beat that exciting anticipation – let autumn commence!
And let’s throw a few designers into the mix because, well, why not?
Much as the pretentious renaming of Yves Saint Laurent by Hedi Slemane to ‘Saint Laurent Paris’ grates on me, I must admit, I do love this bag.