Even though fashion enthusiasts are always looking out for new trends, whether through Fashion Week shows, street style looks from their favorite editors, or recommendations from their favorite influencers, accessories are overlooked next to apparel. But alas, handbags have risen to the forefront to shine over the last few seasons, hitting every extreme as far as trends go: from the super mini, to the extra grande; from the utmost minimalistic to a display of maximum detail.
Perhaps the best part about handbag shopping is that, in an industry that so often feels exclusive to a certain body time, handbags are the one-size-fits-all option with endless opportunities. Even still, speaking of exclusivity, it’s no secret that the fashion industry as a business is just as selective, often withholding widespread recognition from Black designers and instead handing praise to European designers. Industry insiders are finally having long overdue conversations around Black creative representation, visibility and uplifting in fashion — one of the many outcomes of the recent devastating losses of innocent Black lives at the hands of police brutality and white supremacist.
As far as quality and trendy handbags go, Black designers and brand owners have hit the nail on the head. Brands such as BruceGlen offer bold, hardware-centric bucket bags while AAKS is the ultimate destination for all things rafia. Meanwhile staple names in Black fashion such as Off-White and Brother Vellies present their takes on the must-have accessory alongside their most known items (streetwear apparel and shoes, respectively).
Ahead, here’s 20 Black-owned brands to shop handbags from this fall and always.
Classic shapes often complete with metallic finishes are behind the beauty of the sustainable brand, Zashadu. Using a signature inverted “V” cutout design in the majority of her Lagos-made handbags, Creative Director Zainab Ashadu merges her past career in architecture with her love for bags, exploring geometry, line and form.
If understated luxury is your jam, Peryton is your brand. The New York City-based brand functions on a made-to-order basis, handcrafting each trend-transcending leather bag to perfection, using high-quality calf and goatskin along with exotic skins sourced across the U.S., France, Italy, Zimbabwe and North Africa.
VAVVOUNE is the subtly colorful handbag collection your closet needs. Designer and Founder Valerie Blaise tells ESSENCE the URSA wallet (hello mini bag lovers) is among her favorite styles, offering functional versatility (the bag can be worn any way from on the shoulder, to around the neck, to hooked through your pants’ belt loops) that’ll take you from a grocery store trip to an impromptu dinner date.
F&W Style’s hardshell Rose clutch is well-loved by handbag enthusiasts and it’s easy to see why. “We specialize in bags that add a pop of color to a woman’s looks,” Alexandria Alli, Designer and Founder behind F&W Style tells ESSENCE. Many lovers of luxury look for a signature design element to identify their favorite brands by (think Christian Louboutin’s red sole), and, to our delight, F&W Style incorporates a staple pink interior to their pieces which Alli describes as “a dose of happiness every time you open your bag.”
Brother Vellies, the Brooklyn-based label headed by Aurora James and loved by the likes of Beyonce, Solange and Bella Hadid has already earned the spotlight through its spunky and fashion-forward shoe designs, but did you know their handbags were just as rave-worthy? Intricate details such as wooden beads or ring handles give Brother Vellies bags heightened character, and as a plus, the brand is rooted in sustainability and transparency, describing in detail the specifics of where many of their pieces are sourced from in the product descriptions on their website.
Your everyday, go-to tote just got an update. Launched in 2011 with its flagship boutique at Store Strandstræde in Copenhagen, elegant, solid-colored leather bags are brought to the market by designer Yvonne Koné’s fascination with materials, colors and proportions. The result? Timeless and highly functionable bags that get you from one point to another with ease.
Ashya’s crossbody passport holders and belt bags are sure to be any traveler’s most-loved item. Pebbled leather, contrast-stitching and unexpected silhouettes are some of the design elements that aid Ashya’s luxury appeal, plus Beyonce has already given her stamp of approval.
AAKS was birthed from the relationship between Akosua Afriyie-Kumi, owner and Creative Director of the brand, and basket bags as a child growing up in Ghana. “I used to give them as gifts and also use them for storage,” she tells ESSENCE. Wishing they were softer and came in more modern color options, Afriyie-Kumi has since translated this realization of a market gap into perfecting handbags raffia bags, her collection boasting a color palette that will take you through every season.
BruceGlen’s eclectic designs are guaranteed conversation starters. Not ones to shy away from vibrant color, twin brothers’ Bruce and Glen Proctor make intentional use of loud reds, vibrant yellow, metallic blues and color blocking for those who simply want it all. Heavy hardwear and chain designs give the handbags a versatile edge, perfect for dressing up with an LBD, or down with distressed denim.
Handbags at Agnes Baddoo thrive in a truly timeless territory. The brand’s Sac design is reimagined across multiple variations: oversized totes, smaller totes, crossbodies and belt bags. The result is trendless, staple pieces that will become your next on-the-go go-to.
Anima Iris is unmistakably for the wearer looking to make a statement, no matter how big or small. Specializing in medium-sized handbags that add just the right amount of flare to any look, Anima Iris’ take on the accessory is classic but fresh, using poppy colors, envelope flaps, twisted handles and glossy finishes.
Beginning in its designer’s grandmother’s kitchen, Love, Cortnie is a testament to how quickly playing around with textures and shapes can elevate an item as staple as a handbag to something unlike what you’ve seen before. Advocating for fun color and prints, Love, Cortnie plays around with fur, calf hair, fringe and more.
Is it a handbag roundup without the Bushwick Birkin — I mean, Telfar’s Shopping Bag? The brand has received immense amounts of praise for their unisex bags which come in a variation of colors and sizes, to the point that they just can’t seem to stay in stock. If you missed their recent Bag Security Program offer which opened the gates for unlimited pre-orders for a short window of time, then you can sign up for notifications for their next restock, and you just may get lucky.
Launching in just 2018, JUMZ’ standout attribute is that of variety. The brand offers a wide range of bead bags, leather top-handle bags and woven basket bags. With an eye towards philanthropy and giving back, JUMZ’ handbags are handcrafted by local artisans, and the brand partners with local NGOs to give back.
Just in case you can’t get enough of tiny leather bags, Edas’ selection is particularly unique, with fresh designs that feel vintage-inspired. Head designer, Sade Mims, uses details such as large belt buckles, color blocking and chunky beaded handles to create what the brand describes as staple accessories for the “everyday, eclectic woman.”
When you’re looking for the latest trending style and silhouettes in one place (at an affordable price point, may we add), think Shy Diva. From pouch bag clutches to mini satchels, their collection is complete with bursts of pastel purples and pinks to unique, paint-splattered designs.
Founded by Senegalese-Canadian designer, Diarra Bousso Niang, Bouswari fuses African references with contemporary handbag elements. The result is a selection of handbags that feel youthful, but will work for anyone, and are sure to stand the test of time. The brand boasts exoctic clutches, great for a night out, all the way to spacious and roomy satchels, ideal for heavy work days or weekend trips.
Off-White has exploded in the high fashion and streetwear sectors over the years, garnering die hard fans behind his signature ironic quotation marks designs, collaborations with Nike, and more. While his menswear is most raved about, his womenswear collections are just as up to par — and of course, the handbags are, too. Off-White takes the classic handbag and remagines it with their signature design elements: their four-arrow logo, quoted phrases such as “CASH INSIDE,” binder clip closures and fabric straps.
Hello again, mini bag lovers. Alongside denim apparel creations, Cheyenne Kimora is the self-taught, Los Angeles-based designer bringing carefree fun and bling to the forefront of fashion. Despite its size, plenty of opportunity awaits for Cheyenne Kimora’s crystal Blunt Bag — dress it up for a night out, or wear it as a complementary accessory with a casual look. https://www.cheyennekimora.com/bluntbags/2a4-maroon