12 best designer handbags | The Independent

12 best designer handbags | The Independent

A handbag is an essential item for any woman, and there are so many factors to consider when choosing one. While the style and look is important, it’s far from the only decision to make: material, functionality and wearability are also important aspects. 

We’ve found the very best designer handbags at affordable prices, and tested each of them to made sure they didn’t just look good, but were easy and functional, too.

We included a range of products, including vegan designs, handmade bags and those from both well-known and up-and-coming designers. There are bags for a wide range of prices, so whether you’re looking to nab a great designer discount or want to splash out on something special, you’ll find it here. 

We also made sure to include a variety of on-trend styles, so no matter whether you’re looking for a new bucket bag, a bumbag, a faux fur pouch or a travel-friendly companion, we’ve got you covered.

Fioriblu Mimosa Furry Leather Handbag: £245, Fioriblu 

One of our favourite bags to test, the Mimosa handbag is truly eye-catching and fantastic quality. Made in Italy, the bag is designed in the style of a bowling bag, with the calf-skin exterior and the pebbled leather handles and base giving it a super-expensive air.

Big enough to hold everything you need in it, including a laptop, it’s incredibly useful and has a range of nifty pockets inside.

With both a long crossbody strap and the two main handles, it can be worn in a number of ways.

We loved the unusual calf skin print, roomy interior and high-quality leather, and the bowling bag style will certainly make you stand out from the crowd.

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Carloe London Edie Box: £250, Carloe London

If you like a structured handbag, you’ll love the Edie box from small boutique brand Carloe London. Handmade by a team of four at a workshop in east London, each bag is made with Italian leather, and the quality is tangible from the moment you first open the box.

It’s not just the gorgeously thick leather you’ll love, though, but the interchangeable straps, with either a crossbody brass chain or a navy and red canvas strap to change up the look as you go from day to night. We loved the chic details, from the red internal pocket to the hand-cut finish, and you can even monogram your initials for free.

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Prettysac Charcoal Faux Fur and Wool Bag: £145, Prettysac

We’ve long been fans of London-based brand Prettysac’s handy drawstring pouches, which are wonderfully wearable for both day and night. The brand might be best-known for its signature African prints, but has a varied collection of all colours and materials to pick from, including a fringed collection, bridal bags and velvet pouches perfect for winter.

Our top pick would be the faux fur and wool bag, which feels incredibly soft and comes in an array of wintery colours, such as charcoal, olive and navy. You can wear it around your wrist as a clutch for a smart evening look, or use the detachable black crossbody chain for low-maintenance daywear.

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Coach Black Crossgrain Leather Crosby Carryall Bag: £195, BrandAlley

We love discount designer website BrandAlley for nabbing expensive bags for wallet-friendly prices, just like this black carryall bag from Coach, which is a great price at 57% off.

The perfect size to take travelling, the smart leather bag has plenty of secret inner pockets, and is big enough to stuff your Kindle, tablet and much more into while on the go. There’s a magnetic snap to keep your things safe and a detachable strap if you want to wear it as a crossbody bag.

We loved the smart crossgrain leather and well-designed size, perfect for carrying everything you need without being too bulky or weighing you down.

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KeriKit Thea Black Leather Travel Bag: £295, KeriKit

Always on the move? Then you’ll need a bag that’s a help, not a hindrance. Stylish yet functional brand KeriKit produces bags that don’t just look good, but really do what you need them to.

The Thea black leather travel bag is no exception: made from high-quality leather, the bag is full of nifty surprises, from secret internal and external pockets and padded laptop sleeves to key holders and waterproof, washable internal bags for dirty gym kits or shoes. 

However, our favourite part had to be the genius double sleeve pocket, which meant that when we took the Thea bag on an overnight trip, we could just slide it on to our trolley bag for seriously easy transportation. For serious multifunctional power that looks and feels designer, this handy bag gets top marks. 

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Michael Kors Mini Whitney Leather Messenger Bag: £179.99, Jules B

You can always trust American designer Michael Kors to make a beautiful but functional handbag, and this mini Whitney messenger bag is no exception. 

The teeny bag is the perfect choice when you want to make a statement with your bag, but also just want to carry the bare essentials: it’s big enough to store your wallet, keys and phone, but not to give you the dreaded shoulder-ache from lugging all your possessions around all day.

As well as the size, we loved the soft leather, long crossbody handle and fun velvet inserts in a variety of pink and purple tones, perfect for a chic wintery look.

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Stee Aimee Belted Bag: £496, Stee

Bumbags may have been something to hide in the back of your cupboard once upon a time, but not any more. The oft-mocked style is the coolest bag of the moment, worn by a stream of celebrities, and if you’re going to try it out, this belted bag from designer brand Stee is a good place to start.

Made of high-quality calf leather and suede, the bag is just big enough to carry the bare essentials such as a phone and keys without weighing you down, and even with the small size, there’s a card holder and front pocket to keep your items separate and handy.

We loved all the ways you can wear it: as a bumbag-style belted bag, over the shoulder or across the body with the long strap, or held like a handbag with its top handle. 

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Katherena Hollycroft Trunk Clutch: £85, Katherena

British handbag brand Katherena makes all its products using no animal materials at all, so one of its bags would be a great option for a vegan-friendly gift.

Its cute Hollycroft Trunk Clutch is available in brown, black, white or mustard, and was inspired by the founder’s father’s storage trunk company. The mini trunk-style clutch is a fun alternative to a traditional handbag, with the crocodile-effect material and structured style making for an eye-catching statement accessory, but with enough space to store all your essentials, such as phones, wallets and keys.

We particularly liked the attention to detail: there was even a little key included to lock the vintage-style trunk up and keep your things safe.

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Story 81 Milan Mini Purse: £105, Story 81

Another great vegan option, Story 81 is all about creating stylish, guilt-free bags for customers made with PETA-approved, eco-friendly materials.

The brand’s Milan shoulder bag is made of vegan PU that feels just like real leather, and there are plenty of fashion-forward details to admire, from the shiny top handle to the secret pockets. 

We liked the adjustable strap, which makes it versatile to wear across the body or on the shoulder, and the leather and suede-look materials, which feel luxurious while still being animal-friendly. 

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Zatchels Green Leather Satchel: £55, Zatchels 

There’s nothing like a satchel to evoke vintage vibes, and this bright green leather satchel from Zatchels brings a modern twist to a classic style.

Each bag is handmade in England and comes with a lifetime guarantee, making the £55 price tag, reduced from £110, excellent value.

There are four sizes to choose from depending on what you need to cart around, but we found even the smaller sizes roomy enough to fit plenty of essentials including a tablet or Kindle.

We especially liked the extra-long handle, making it a comfortable crossbody or over-the-shoulder companion, and the smart cable stitching. 

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Manu Atelier Bold Micro Leather and Suede Shoulder Bag: £420, Net a Porter

For a bag that looks just as good in the evening as it does in the day, and that is functional as well as gorgeous, look to Turkish brand Manu Atelier, whose stylish creations are handmade in a small workshop in Istanbul.

We loved the unusual, boxy style of this rectangular shoulder bag, and its beautiful, high-quality suede and leather composition, while the rich blue colour adds even more visual interest to the architectural shape.

It’s got enough space to carry all your essentials, a super-handy magnetic flap closure to keep your things safe, and a long crossbody strap and top handle so you can wear it however you want to. 

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Radley Sanderson Large Drawstring Bucket Bag: £239, Radley

Bucket bags are all the rage at the moment, and if you’re thinking of investing in one, we’d recommend this drawstring bucket bag from Radley. In celebration of its 20th anniversary, the British brand have teamed up with soft furnishing brand Sanderson to create a leather collection, and this bucket bag was one of our favourite pieces.

Visual interest is added in the embossed floral print on the brown leather, while the unusual drawstring top and multitude of inner pockets is practical as well as stylish.

The thick leather strap is perfect for throwing over your shoulder and wearing as a low-maintenance, comfortable but chic everyday companion. 

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The Verdict: Best designer handbags

The top spot has to go to Fioriblu’s Mimosa handbag, which ticked all our designer handbag boxes: it’s beautiful, functional and seriously eye-catching. 

If you want something boutique and handmade, we loved Carloe London’s stylish Edie box, while if you’d prefer a vegan design, our top pick is Story 81 and its Milan shoulder bag.

If you’re after something that’s as cuddly as it is stylish, Prettysac’s faux fur and wool bag is deliciously soft and bang on trend. 

IndyBest product reviews are unbiased, independent advice you can trust. On some occasions, we earn revenue if you click the links and buy the products, but we never allow this to bias our coverage. The reviews are compiled through a mix of expert opinion and real-world testing.

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