Luxe-looking handbags without the designer price tag: Why mid-range bags are having a moment

Handbags do not have to cost a bomb, here are a range of labels offering stylish alternatives to big names

Are you in the market for a new luxe-looking handbag without the designer price tag? Leaning into quiet luxury with elegant designs and opulent colourways, there’s a slew of contemporary handbags worthy of a spot on your arm. Well known labels and stalwart fashion houses lorded over the handbag sector for decades, crafting IT bags that would garner wait lists. The small leather goods sector is big business; according to a report by Global Market Insights, the luxury handbag market was valued at $22.8 billion in 2022.

But now, with a shifting consumer focus, less reliance on style status symbols, and the influence of social media, there’s a new generation of accessibly priced handbags, distracting customers from the big names.

Fashion writer Sarah Macken says social media has dramatically influenced the ascent of mid-priced bags. “The predominant appeal is internet cachet – seeing ultra covetable totes from brands such as Ganni, Elleme or DeMellier on fashion influencers with huge followings goes a long way towards swinging the pendulum in the direction of mid-range labels.” Coined midi-luxe, thanks to their sumptuous style, craftsmanship, and intermediary price point, brands like Polene, Little Liffner, and Hereu are redefining the term IT bag.

A sense of discovery, of being in the know, or of setting yourself apart from the crowd with an under-the-radar label has also contributed to the appeal. The versatility and functional elegance of mid-tier handbags are enticing customers, too. “Mid-price bags are more subtle in branding and design, and to me, they are always more timeless than their luxury counterparts as they are less about trend and more about how they can be used for your everyday life,” says stylist Lorna Weightman. Often rendered in neutral shades, with classic silhouettes, minimalist designs and subtle sculptural details, they are far from one-season wonders, possessing heaps of wearability.

READ MORE

Pricing for the covetable arm candy tends to hit under the €1,000 mark, with some under €500, depending on the brand, style and size. But just because the price is lower, it doesn’t mean you’re sacrificing quality or style. “They’re no longer seen as a consolation prize,” says Macken. “These bags have kudos of their own. Consider it a welcome nudge towards democratisation – an affordable slice of quiet luxury without the heavy price tag of The Row, Gucci or YSL.”

Content creator Ciara O’Doherty recently shared a video on TikTok rounding up her favourite mid-range luxury bags under €600, with the video amassing over one million views on the social media platform. She believes the interest in luxe-looking, affordable handbags comes from a combination of logo fatigue and considered consumption. “I’ve seen the multiple price increases from the high-end luxury brands over the past few years; while I may have happily bought YSL and Gucci bags in my carefree twenties, being a homeowner now and with saving for a wedding, it’s just not feasible, and I can see this in my audience’s spending habits too.”

Helping you accessorise stylishly for less isn’t the only benefit of investing in a mid-price bag. Often, they come with hefty, solid sustainability credits, too. “Mid-luxe lean into sustainability by eschewing leather for alternatives such as Piñatex, made from the pineapple plant’s waste leaves,” says Macken. Brands including Marici Mashu and Themoirè utilise plant-based sustainable fabrics and fruit leathers for their designs.

Brands like DeMellier, Aesther Ekme, and Maestoso prioritise responsible manufacturing. Amsterdam-based Ree Projects incorporates sustainability and inclusivity via her designs, with a 0km production policy, zero impact types of leather and a substantial female workforce. Naturae Sacra makes their bags locally, and their sculptural handles are hand moulded, giving a unique feel to each bag. “It’s a bonus that many of these brands are smaller, female-led companies that champion sustainability; I love knowing that I’m putting my money behind something like that,” says O’Doherty.

Read More

Recommended