While I’m not really an it-bag kind of girl — you prob won’t ever find me toting LV or Gucci or Chanel — I do have a bag vibe, if you will. I love handbags with a little personality. Whether it’s texture or a cool detail, I’m always on the hunt for a little something to elevate my (admittedly boring) everyday outfits.
And designers often do this little something better than most.
There are now a handful of designers I’ve come to rely on for seriously cool bags, without the Chanel-level price tag. I’ve been a longtime fan of designers like Clare V., STAUD, Nanushka, Marc Jacobs and even Coach (I promise they’re more than just classic bags), just to name a few. These designers offer up incredibly well-made bags, and with a little searching, I’ve found a few total gems with a little personality too.
25 Designer Bags (Under $500) To Gift Your Luxe Friends
Below are 25 seriously cool designer handbags, all with interesting details, luxe textures and/or a really good shape. They’re a mix of the kinds of bags I carry on the daily, as well as a few statement pieces for night (although, quite frankly, most can do both). All of these bags are very well-made, and they would all make fantastic gifts.
There’s something about this casual, everyday-bag shape done in a glitzy rhinestone that’s calling my name. The ’70s disco vibes are practically timeless and so freaking fun.
This Coach shoulder bag made me swoon. So much so that it’s one of the first gifts I recommend on our “gift ideas for her” page. I love the combination of the classic shape and unexpected color. Pair with black shoes, brown shoes, white, tan, burgundy, etc. Everything would work.
The genius is in the details: This Alexander Wang bag is actually made from a rib-knit sweater material. It’s beyond cute, and the fabric makes it extra-cozy. So good.
Linzi has this exact Clare V. bag, and it’s a total stunner. It can be worn under the arm OR crossbody, and the texture and color are really beautiful. I happen to think that this oxblood color is the most versatile one — it goes with EVERYTHING.
I’m not usually a tote girl, but the modern shape and cool-girl aesthetic of this one by Acne Studios got me. I’d carry this with everything, like a winter version of Jane Birken’s straw bag.
The colorways of this coated canvas tote are perfection (click through the pics on the website to see them all). This would make a gorgeous work bag.
I do love running out the door with just my wallet…and this borderline-obnoxious Balenciaga wallet-on-chain is kiiiiiind of calling my name.
I’m a sucker for good patchwork, and this Tory Burch leather wallet on a strap — with the pops of red patent and the tiniest bit of snake — is perfectly executed. Such a cool bag.
I’ve been staring at this belt bag for over a year now. Senreve bags are made in Italy, and this one is, quite simply, the coolest belt bag I’ve found. Also in black.
I picture this Isabel Marant tote with a cozy wool sweater, jeans and Doc Martens. It’s the kind of useful bag that bridges between lighter outfits and black boots.
Three words: AllSaints crossbody bag. It’s the quilting for me, yeah?
This Clare V. crossbody is sneakily useful. While the pattern first strikes me as bold, the tiiiiny pops of black ground it, meaning that it’ll work with dark winter outfits, even though the whole thing reads light. One of the few bags I can truly see myself using year-round.
This STAUD bag is another I’d totally use year-round. It almost has the same vibe as my straw bags but done in something more winter-appropriate. And it’s blue enough to pair nicely with black, brown, tan — everything.
Oh, my GOSH. I LOVE THIS BAG. The kind of bag I’d literally have forever. It’s quirky, fun and, of course, it’s See by Chloé.
This leather bucket bag by Marc Jacobs is a little small, but I’ve found that this shape fits a ton of stuff. I love the slight nautical vibes — in fact, the color is Blue Sea.
Like a vintage train case but in a refined crossbody. This is a really great Tory Burch bag.
This fun STAUD bag comes in a zillion different patterns — all beaded. I’m actually having trouble deciding on my favorite.
I have a Clare V. bag in this round little shape, and I think it’s very underrated. Because it gives off almost a duffle vibe — but in a fancy leather — I’ve found that this Manu Atelier shoulder bag goes with almost everything. It’s a good mix.
I’m a sucker for a good, buttery leather, and this STAUD bag has exactly that. Also in black.
I have been coveting this exact vegan-leather Nanushka bag for years. The shape is freaking perfection, and it’s the kind of bag that will actually hold a surprising amount of stuff. Highly recommend.
Since we’re talking gifts, I have to put in a plug for my beloved TUMI backpack. These things are so incredibly well-made, virtually indestructible, and still the most well-engineered, thoughtful travel bags I’ve found. Black is always a good place to start, but I just picked up the Zinc color for a lighter option.
Oh, HELP. I so totally want to be That Girl, casually throwing an Alex Wang backpack over her shoulder.
While this ripstop backpack was, technically, found in the men’s section, it would be wasted on almost every man I know. It’s MINE.
This coated cotton tote is one part suuuuper-luxe leather, one part paper grocery-store bag. I love it.
Any other bag recommendations?