All The Rising Handbag Brands Fashion Editors Love, From Manu Atelier To Reformation

All The Rising Handbag Brands Fashion Editors Love, From Manu Atelier To Reformation

It pays to be clued up on the best handbag brands. Not least because they are more affordable, but because its more fun shopping from rising labels. And, let's face it, as pretty as they are, the OG designer accessories feel both totally of reach and reality for us mere mortals (the price of Chanel bags has tripled since the pandemic, according to the Handbag Clinic). So in 2023, during a cost of living crisis, these kind of investment purchases are just that - big investments.

The fashion industry has shifted in the past decade. Old school luxury houses have become even less accessible, while the high street has democratised to the point of becoming completely unsustainable in its quest for faster, cheaper fashion. This chasm has left room for a growing new sector: bridge brands. And with the rise of these under-the-radar labels has come a fresh perspective – we’re talking directional designs, eco-conscious fabrics and a new smart/casual take on investment purchases.

Enter, the bag bridge brands. The likes of Manu Atelier, Cult Gaia, Wandler and Oroton, who's prices start around the £300 mark. So it’s a saving up kind of situation, yes, but you can still treat yourself with a bit of hard work. These new-gen brands are striving for sustainability and ethical production, too: Hereu is keeping female artisan techniques alive in Spain, while Neous is championing recycled packaging, and Reformation bags, which just launched this week, is already considering the afterlife of its new drop.

An 'It' bag is life, not just for Christmas – so make sure you're buying the right one. Keep scrolling to see ELLE's edit of the best affordable handbag brands worth investing in for 2023.

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1) Reformation

Following on from its expansion into shoes a few years back, Reformation has launched its handbag department this week, alongside a campaign starring actress Camila Morrone. The 19-piece collection sees timeless shapes with the same 1990s vibes as the ready-to-wear – fuss-free leather styles, sans hardware, in playful but timeless colour palettes. The LA-based brand is working with the same European tanneries that supply major luxury brands, so these babies are built to last. Nonetheless, they are 100% recyclable through RefRecycling (this scheme is currently US only but it is coming to the UK asap).

Prices start from £278


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2) Manu Atelier

Manu Atelier was founded by Beste and Merve Manastır (the daughters of one of the oldest hand craftsman and leather goods manufacturer in Istanbul, Turkey) back in 2014. Despite a very successful expansion into footwear, handbags are still at the heart of the brand – with its cult Cylinder bags still being a best-seller nearly a decade on. The sisters count The Princess of Wales, SJP and Bella Hadid among their stylish fans.

Prices start from £275


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3) Jacquemus

Jacquemus might have launched on runways as a designer womenswear brand, but it was the French label's handbags that helped propel it to global mega-success – in particular the micro-mini Le Chiquito that went viral on Instagram shortly after it launched. Beloved for their ice-cream colours, graphic gold logos and playful proportions, Jacquemus handbags are in a league of their own. No wonder Lizzo, Bella Hadid, Hailey Bieber, Rihanna and Kendall Jenner keep coming back to them.

Prices start from £355


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4) Cult Gaia

Founded in 2013, Cult Gaia put itself on the map in with the launch of its Arc bag – the slatted bamboo style that went viral on Instagram and was soon snapped up by Beyonce, Jessica Alba and Rosie HW. The LA-based label has since expanded to ready-to-wear, swimwear and shoes, but its object d'art bags are still the shining stars (quite literally: we're obsessed with this season's crystal-chainmail styles).

Prices start from £245


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5) Hereu

Hereu specialises in leather goods – from elevated boho totes and basket bags to fisherman sandals and moccasin Mary Janes – produced by family-run manufactures in Spain. Founders José Luis Bartolomé and Albert Escribano are committed to creating beautiful pieces that are kinder to people and the planet: they only use responsibly-sourced Italian and Spanish leather, vegetable dyes, organic cotton, and try to incorporate recycled materials where possible. The brand's USP is cool hand-woven detailing – it makes each item you buy totally one of a kind.

Prices start from £275


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6) Oroton

Founded in Sydney in 1938, Oroton is the oldest luxury fashion company in Australia. The Aussie brand grew to fame in the 1950s thanks to its metal mesh bags that later sparked chainmail and paillette versions from the likes of Gianni Versace ad Paco Rabanne. The brand's current creative director Sophie Holt revived Oroton in 2018, introducing new sustainable goals and switching up its aesthetic. Meghan Markle's a fan of its elegant leather handbags.

Prices start from £245


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7) Neous

Founded by former fashion editor Vanissa Antonious in 2017, Neous was one of the first in a wave of independent luxury labels. Six years on, the accessories brand is still beloved for its sculptural silhouettes, grown-up colour palettes and avant-garde hardware. Every bag is handcrafted by skilled makers in Italy (known by name, the brand hastens to add) and packaged in thoughtful recycled materials.

Prices start from £520


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8) Wandler

Elza Wandler launched her namesake label in 2017 and still works from her hometown of Amsterdam. The handbag brand quickly catapulted to fame with its cult Hortensia model: the capacious, trapeze design felt like a breath of fresh air a time when micro bags reigned supreme. Wandler has since expanded to footwear and ready-to-wear, but its USP is still – architectural, elegant, but just a little 'out there' – handbags.

Prices start from £480


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The kind of investment purchase that won't totally bankrupt you