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The best designer handbags of 2016 so far

While the last few years may have favoured subtlety when it came to handbag design, 2016 is very much a year for extravagance, and the biggest designers are offering bold, eye-catching bags. From Louis Vuitton’s monogrammed creations to Chloé’s tasselled, feminine offerings, we take a look at the latest wave of ‘It’ bags

Dominique Fenn
Dominique Fenn,

From certain shapes and styles to limited-edition prints, every so often a handbag comes along that transcends all trends and individual tastes to become the ‘It’ bag of the season. Here are some of the contenders for this spring/summer.

Chloé embraces the 1970s
The Faye bag from Chloé achieved cult status over the past year and heralded a new generation of ‘It’ bags. Feminine and unfussy, the bag features a bold ring and pendant chain, evoking the era of 1970s glam rock. A signature feature of the Chloé brand, the ring becomes more functional for spring/summer, linking the handles on some styles and forming the handle on one model in particular. Rainbow-coloured tassels continue the 70s trend.

Louis Vuitton goes futuristic
Louis Vuitton has long been regarded as an artisan of the luxury luggage world, originally establishing its reputation with travelling cases. Used by the world’s elite, its exquisite custom-made trunks and hatboxes were the height of luxury and practicality. Louis Vuitton introduced new bag shapes throughout the 1900s, with its monogrammed handbag reaching peak popularity in the late 1990s under the direction of then creative director Marc Jacobs. Exciting collaborations followed, including partnerships with designer and graffiti enthusiast Stephen Sprouse and Japanese artist Takashi Murakami, which gave the monogram a new lease of life and kept the fashion house at the top of every list of must-have accessories.

For this spring/summer, the heritage brand is on a punky cyber trip, inspired by sources such as cult science-fiction film Tron and the Japanese animé character Evangelion. With a collection featuring silver chains on black and pink leather, and a new monogram logo pattern, creative director Nicolas Ghesquière is taking the brand on an exciting journey into the future.

Valentino presents romance with an edge
Valentino is another brand with distinctive signature detailing. The rock studs adorning a range of leather goods, from shoes to purses, add a toughness to the otherwise romantic collections from design duo Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaolo Piccioli. This season, Valentino’s instantly recognisable bags are embellished with turquoise stones in between every stud, updating the classic style for the new season. Highlights of the pre-spring collection are heavily embellished handbags, which feature butterflies in flight on a backdrop of blue denim.

Kenzo goes hands-free
The real beauty of an ‘It’ bag is in the detail, and recent collections have shown that the way a handbag is worn can have quite an impact on an overall look. Over the shoulder, under the arm or hands-free entirely – each holding style changes our perception of a piece, and each lends itself to a different style crowd. According to Kenzo’s designers, Humberto Leon and Carol Lim, their inspiration this season was a woman who was ‘travelling the world, picking up souvenirs wherever she went’. Kenzo’s leather utility belts, featuring multiple pouches in a variety of shapes and shades, will ensure you can carry all your essentials while keeping your hands free.

Mansur Gavriel gives us simple elegance
For women who prefer an understated look, the surprise hit of the season comes from Mansur Gavriel, whose chic sack-style bag is both elegant and utilitarian in its design. The Bucket Bag, with a drawstring top and strap to wear across the shoulder, comes with a detachable zipped bag inside and a discreet logo at its base. Also available in a mini size, the bag is crafted from Italian leather and comes in a variety of hues, from elegant black to soft blush. This is an instant classic.

In recent history, fashion houses have developed signature-shape bags – think Fendi’s Baguette or the Mulberry Bayswater. Brands have taken handbag personalisation to new heights, as seen in Prada’s Lettering project, and encouraged women to adapt the way they carry their bags – the Céline way is tucked under your arm and pulled close to your body. While stealth-wealth style had taken over for a few years, the catwalks this season featured plenty of eye-catching arm candy – minimalism is truly over. With a diverse mix of shapes, styles and colours, Parisian labels offer a bag for every taste and occasion. The ‘It’ bag is back with a vengeance. Which one will win you over?



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