The Only Designer Bags You'll Need to Know in 2021

Hannah Almassi
·9-min read

Distinctly at odds with our voracious buying of tracksuits, puffer coats, pyjamas, track-soled boots and house dresses, the past year has also seen a sharp increase in the volume of über-luxurious designer and heritage handbags being invested in by style-conscious consumers. It was an unexpected result considering handbags have been of little-to-no use for so many people of late, but the message from high-fashion stores is that shoppers have used this time to finally take the plunge and pick up their "forever" bags.

Where contemporary handbag brands had previously been flourishing thanks to their cool trend-led designs at equally cool mid-ranging price-points, 2020 has led many to really think about purchasing even more sensibly in order to secure items that will stand the test of time—maybe the pieces they're going for already have. We've witnessed a return to the classics just within our own wardrobes, but the concept is most definitely backed up by retailers like Net-A-Porter, who have reported a resurgence in longstanding favourites such as Gucci's Soho Disco bag or Loewe's Puzzle. Interest has also been at an all-time high for the very sophisticated likes of Bottega Veneta and Saint Laurent, and MatchesFashion has seen a YoY increase in tote-bag searches (perhaps the most practical shape of all) of 26%. Even the newer, hipper kids on the block—like Telfar or Savette—all have a decidedly more pared-back aesthetic to match the mood.

So, what does that mean for the key designer handbags of 2021? We delved into the collections of the most important names in the luxury world to find out. Below you'll discover the handbags that will not only rule spring/summer but will also be wise investments and heirloom pieces well into the future. From Prada's Cleo (which has already been snowballing into super-stardom this week) through to what's happening over at Saint Laurent, keep scrolling to find your forever bag.

Oh, Jackie, how we love thee. This iconic Gucci handbag was first created in the 1950s and made popular by its namesake, Jackie Kennedy. It has been revived by the house on multiple occasions since its peak in the '70s and it now remains an important focus for the heritage brand going into 2021. Creative director Alessandro Michele has crafted versions in different sizes and with many different finishes varying from monogram canvas to python print to buttery-soft pastel leathers, and now it has been toted by yet more agenda-setting celebrities, including Harry Styles. Not only has a resurgence in vintage Jackies been playing out online, but it has surely sparked a general trend for the hobo shape, and we predict other labels will follow suit with this silhouette in the New Year.

Gucci Jackie 1961 Small Hobo Bag (£1590)

Gucci Jackie 1961 Mini Hobo Bag (£1190)

Gucci Jackie 1961 Small Hobo Bag (£1590)

Net-A-Porter has told us of a sharp increase in sales of Loewe's most beloved bags during the pandemic—with the Puzzle and Flamenco being top of the list. Why? Well, they are beautifully crafted with enough design detail to feel exciting, but they are both incredibly practical too. The next development for creative director, Jonathan Anderson? The Flamenco Clutch—a soft-as-a-pillow, drawstring-fastened, extra-roomy clutch that we'd all be thrilled to cuddle up to. Whimsical pastel shades abound for spring 2021 and we expect a soon-to-be-available sage-green Flamenco Ondas style to be the first to sell out.

Loewe Flamenco Mini Leather Clutch (£1200)

Loewe Flamenco Ondas Pleated Leather Clutch (£2500)

Loewe Flamenco Drawstring Leather Cross-Body Bag (£1200)

Saint Laurent's girls may be rock 'n' roll through-and-through but they still need a handbag to carry at least a few essentials in. Cue the Ava—an anarchically prim '90s-style shoulder bag that has already been hugely popular in the Triomphe Canvas monogram finish. For spring 2021 it will be arriving in leather and different colourways to keep its fans (like Kaia Gerber) happy. We'll keep you posted as to when they land.

Celine Ava Bag in Triomphe Canvas (£950)

The past week has confirmed that the Prada Cleo is by far the leading designer handbag going into 2021. This shiny, brushed-leather shoulder bag has been toted by every possible influencer we could dream of in the past few days, becoming an Instagram phenomenon in mere hours—although, we must say we had eyes for it back in September when it graced the spring/summer 2021 runway as part of the very first collection by both Miuccia Prada and Raf Simons as co-creative directors.

We can see that some colourways have already sold out, with black proving to be particularly hard to come by. Do not expect this style to wait for you.

Prada Cleo Brushed Leather Shoulder Bag (£1440)

Prada Cleo Brushed Leather Shoulder Bag (£1440)

Prada Cleo Flap-Front Brushed Leather Shoulder Bag (£1440)

In November 2020 Mulberry made the very sensible decision to relaunch one of their most iconic bags, the now 10-year-old Alexa. The reaction at which this announcement was met was fervent to say the very least. During these strange times it's perhaps no great surprise that a classic, practical, well-made handbag that you can cram plenty into without it looking overladen is still a winner. We've seen shoppers snapping them up in the various different colourways that have been introduced (there's everything from loden green to tan to mustard yellow) and different sizes, but this mini cream version really says "spring 2021" to us.

Mulberry Mini Alexa (£895)

Mulberry Oversized Alexa (£1295)

Mulberry Alexa (£1095)

Bottega Veneta is known for its intricate woven leathers but also, in more recent seasons thanks to creative director Daniel Lee, its tough hardware detailing. You'll instantly recognise the chunky gold chains of squidgy Bottega bags all over the internet, but there's a new, more subtle option in town for Resort 2021—The Clip. The brand's Pouch, Tote and Casette styles all remain de rigeur, but this elegant cross-body flap bag looks almost timeless and seasonless, making it a smart "forever" purchase.

Bottega Veneta The Clip Medium Leather Shoulder Bag (£2270)

Bottega Veneta The Clip (£2270)

Bottega Veneta The Clip (£2270)

Chloé's bags often feature equestrian detailing and hark back to a more bohemian time, and this cute 1970s-inspired saddle bag certainly stays true to the French brand's DNA. This family of bags first arrived for spring 2020 and look set to be just as important next year—with this small x-body saddle style being especially favoured among the fashion set.

Chloé Darryl Small Textured-Leather Shoulder Bag (£930)

Chloé Darryl Small Textured-Leather Shoulder Bag (£930)

Chloé Darryl Small Textured-Leather Shoulder Bag (£930)

Chanel has many wonderful bags on the roster for spring 2021, but there's just no denying the allure of the French fashion house's signature Flap bags. They come in many colours and finishes, and you'll find that one from next year's collections can look just as current as one bought decades ago—now that's the kind of investment worth making.

Chanel Chanel 19 Flap Bag (£3900)

Chanel Flap Bag (£3580)

Chanel Small Flap Bag (£3390)

As you can see from this bumper gallery, heritage brands are leaning into their archives and no more so than when it comes to monogram prints. Saint Laurent's Monogram collection comes in many different sizes and styles, ranging from jumbo all-but-the-kitchen-sink cabas totes through to smaller camera bags and bucket styles. My favourite? This very retro satchel.

Saint Laurent Monogram Small Satchel in Canvas and Smooth Leather (£1225)

Saint Laurent Monogram Bucket Bag in Canvas (£1415)

Saint Laurent Monogram Tote in Canvas and Smooth Leather (£1285)

Burberry's Pocket Bag is the best of both worlds—a super-versatile creation from Riccardo Tisci that can be carried by the top handle during your more officious days and then slung across your body once you fasten the longer strap onto it for casual moments. Combining archival and equestrian influencers, somehow it manages to still be totally modern and street style-ready too. The Pocket also comes in canvas with leather trims, which is a trend that we're increasingly noticing ahead of summer 2021.

Burberry Mini Leather-Trimmed Printed Canvas Tote (£890)

Burberry Mini Two-Tone Canvas and Leather Pocket Bag (£890)

Burberry Mini Topstitched Leather Pocket Bag (£1050)

Liane Wiggins, head of womenswear buying at MatchesFashion has told us that in terms of cult items for spring 2021, Givenchy's new Antigona Lock bag is definitely going to be up there. You may recognise the main body of this style, but new creative director, Matthew Williams has developed the idea into a different form with longer shoulder-ready handles and a chunky silver fastening. It comes in a few sizes but we have a feeling that this mini one will become the leader of the new Antigona pack.

Givenchy Mini Antigona Lock Bag (£1450)

Givenchy Medium Antigona Lock Bag (£1890)

Studs are now synonymous to the Valentino aesthetic, but it's phenomenal how creative director Pierpaoli Piccioli can continue to reinvent them. Take this hot-pink Roman Stud bag from the Resort 2021 collection, for example. Pink bags are clearly going to enjoy an extended time in the spotlight next year, but the addition of chunky gold hardware stops this cuddly cross-body style from being too twee. The hot-pink isn't yet available, but we'll let you know when it is.

Valentino Garavani Roman Stud Bag (£2290)

Valentino Garavani Roman Stud Bag (£2290)

There is a plethora of new bag styles to get excited by from the Louis Vuitton Spring 2021 runway, but we have a favourite in this three-pocket, chunky chain-handled style called the Chroma Key. High-shine finishes were featured across many of Nicolas Ghesquière's latest handbag designs, which look really fresh against very earthy, netural, natural clothing fabrics. The Chroma Key isn't yet available, but we'll be sure to add shopping options once it is.

Next up, the full rundown of what's important for spring 2021.

This article originally appeared on Who What Wear

Read More from Who What Wear