The Year of the Handbag

During the dark days of grunge, the handbag almost became extinct. Bulky backpacks, hip satchels or messenger bags replaced the classic handbag for years. The good news is that handbags are back in a big way. Television shows that glorify the ladylike styles of the early 1960s and a resurgence of sleek Mod fashion lead the vanguard of the return to elegance. Modern bags are clean-lined and functional, yet never fussy. They pay homage to vintage shapes without copying them.

The best trends in the handbag revolution incorporate contemporary materials and colors with timeless style.


You simply cannot go wrong with a leather handbag. Leather can weather any scuffs or nicks it sustains. While it may become softer and slouchier with age, a well-made leather handbag lasts for years. What makes leather fresh and new this season is an attention to texture and colour that elevates a leather bag from a mere carry-all to a fashion statement. Texturised cowhide leather takes on the look of more exotic skins without the price or the impact on the environment.

The color story of modern leather handbags is one of exuberant good cheer. While earthy ochres, siennas and umbers are still popular neutrals, new techniques in leather manufacturing add colors never found in nature to the palette. Brilliant pinks, fresh-squeezed citrus hues and cool, clear blues provide a pop of color for any outfit. The old rules about matching your handbag to your shoes are gone; the current fashion is contrast, not coordination. This trend frees you to pair your neutral or metallic shoes with bright clutches or cross-body bags that showcase your color sense.

Modern Materials

Leather is an ancient material, but other popular handbag options are considerably younger. A new century has inspired designers to embrace new materials. Rubber and rubberised fabric has a lustre like that of leather, but its texture is distinctly different. Far from being a novelty product, rubber has practical applications that make it a smart choice for anyone who needs a rugged handbag. Think of how well car tyres weather their harsh environment and you can see how rubber makes sense for a handbag as well.

Metal details add style to a bag in any material, and newly affordable options here update classic handbag styles. Titanium fittings reduce your bag’s overall weight while holding up brilliantly to normal wear and tear. The lightweight metal is sturdy enough to make a skin for spacecraft, so it’s certainly strong enough to buckle your handbag strap stylishly.


There is no one style of handbag right now, leaving your favourite bag shape up to you. Boxy framed silhouettes give a nod to vintage handbag styles without directly copying them, while unstructured hobo bags and fringed satchels give an outfit casual charm. Clutches are lovely for a night out, but if you’ve planned a more active evening than dinner and a film, you might prefer a bag that lets you forget you have it. Longer straps transform smaller bags into cross-body styles that suit a night of dancing or a lengthy walk in the park.

With so many colours, shapes and materials available, the greatest challenge may be narrowing down your handbag choices to just a few. On the other hand, why deny yourself? Splurge a bit and pick up a few colours at once to go with everything you wear. The handbag is big style again, so make the most of it.


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