OK, so this is En Brogue. The flat shoe blog. Occasionally it’s about socks, once or twice shoelaces, but for the most part it’s all about the shoes, right? Well I don’t know about you, but I always match either my socks or my shoes to my bag, which makes them integral to my entire footwear wardrobe. Also, I’m very particular about what kinds of bags I like. Plus, loads of you ask me on Instagram where my bags are from so I thought it was time for a blog post on bags. Guys, it’s time!
Before we get into the actual bags (patience, people), let me explain what makes the perfect bag for me. Firstly, I’m mad for a cross body. I have a degenerative spinal disease called ankylosing spondylitis (one of the reasons I wear flats but don’t worry, it sounds worse than it is!) so not only does a bag have to be easy to carry, it has to be small enough that I can’t overfill it with too much crap. I’m also a big fan of rucksacks, but let’s save that for another post.
Second, I like a simple bag. I hate lots of brass and buckles – the more simple, the better – but that’s not to say that I won’t go for a print or a bright colour. My personal collection is a mixture of subtle blacks and olives, with a few statement bags in monochrome prints and bright yellows.
Also, ideally, I like to know where my bags have been made. There are lots of smaller brands out there that use sustainable leather or small artisan workshops, which is much more appealing to me as a consumer than the mass production of the high street. This is also has an effect on the price though – you’re going to have to invest if you want a good leather bag, but then it should last you decades if you look after it properly. I’m not talking the prices of designer it bags, but do think about saving up if you’re looking for something special and hardwearing. Plus, it’s a leather bag – if you think about the materials and labour involved in making it, it really shouldn’t cost any less than £50 (depending on size). I’m not saying I don’t ever shop on the high street (see below) but I’m more interested in niche sustainable brands.
Bag, Milli Millu; trainers, adidas; dress, COS (all old)
Finally, I’m all for practicality, obviously, but that doesn’t mean that it has to be black or brown and large enough to house your entire make-up collection, a spare pair of shoes and the kitchen sink. Pick something that is really ‘you’, and that gives you the same buzz that a special pair of shoes does. I don’t have loads of bags, but I really, REALLY love all of them because I’ve put a lot of thought into how they will work for me, size-wise, and how well they will fit with my wardrobe.
So here you go, my guide to the best, quality cross body bags out there at the moment.
Baia Bags ‘Mini’ in olive leather, £240, baiabags.co.uk
Regular followers of my Instagram account will be familiar with my Baia dalmatian spot bag (above), which I wear all the time. I LOVE it. It’s the perfect size and houses a small wallet, phone, sunglasses, a few bits of bobs of make-up, dog treats…I think I’ve even managed to squeeze and umbrella in there. Sadly, this colour has been discontinued (although secretly I’m quite happy about the fact that I’ll never see loads of people wearing it!) but they’ve brought it out in olive for the new season, as well as peacock blue, pink and sand. An olive green bag is a real winner to have in your repertoire (I have a similar one I bought in a Greek market); it’s less harsh than black but still goes with everything. If this is too small for you, consider upsizing to the ‘Midi’, which is the same bag, only bigger. Baia bags are all designed in London and made in the UK.
Cambridge Satchel Company
Cambridge Satchel Company saddle bag, £145, cambridgesatchelcompany.com
Don’t be fooled by the name – this British brand now makes far more than just satchels, and I love the smaller sized cross bodies like my new saddle bag (top). This brand plays an absolute blinder when it comes to colour choices. I mean, who knew you could get a Breton stripe bag?! Totally smitten. It makes all of its bags in the UK (it even has its own factory). Something I also love about this, and all of the brands I have featured here, is that they shoot the bags on models either on their websites or Instagram feeds, so you can see exactly how big/small they are. This is vital if you’re having to consider your old lady spinal disease!
& Other Stories
& Other Stories gold ring leather bag, £79, stories.com
Whenever I wear my & Other Stories bag I get loads of compliments on it. People always think it’s designer and from somewhere really expensive, so I love putting them straight! I put this down to the quality of the leather it is made from, and the really cool design. Mine is a few years old now, but it’s not dissimilar to this bag that is in store at the moment.
Lost Property of London
Lost Property of London mini ‘Arlington’, from £165, lostpropertyoflondon.com
I’ve been swooning over these bags on Instagram for years now, and I love the story with this brand. Their ethos is to use ‘zero waste’ techniques – including salvaged materials – but its suppliers are all top notch, so the quality of the bags is great. They also use vegetable tanned leather, which is much better for the environment than other techniques used to colour leather. And one of the things I love most about Lost Property of London is the amazing colours, so it’s obviously a brilliant technique, too! This style, the ‘Arlington’, also comes in an even smaller size, the micro.
Manu Atelier mini ‘Pristine’, £388.58, shopbop.com
I have a special connection with this Turkish brand, having been taken on a press trip to Istanbul two years ago to meet the founders Beste and Serve Manastir. These sisters have bag making in their blood, and their father is the one who actually makes the bags in his tiny workshop in the city (I went there – when I say tiny, I mean TINY!), although the brand has become so successful that he now does the designing (with the girls) and the cutting before passing on the construction to a factory down the road. These bags are a bit of a cult street style favourite, particularly the Pristine design pictured here. The original, based on a camera bag, is much bigger, but I prefer this mini size. I got a sneak peak at their collection for next season and I’m here to tell you that it’s amazing (and involves stripy straps to die for!).
COS small constructed bag, £59, cosstores.com
COS doesn’t make millions of styles of bag, but the few it does are lovely. I’m all about these mega-minimal designs and the size of this particular bag is perfection. Classy white bags are so hard to fine! COS bags are also really good quality for the price.
Milli Millu mini ‘Berlin’ bag, £285, millimillu.com
If you want to treat yourself, I highly recommend the ‘Berlin’ or its mini counterpart from Milli Millu. It’s a real eye-catcher (one of the few times I’ve been photographed by a street style photographer was when I was wearing this bag) and is brilliantly designed with lots of pockets for all your stuff. I love this new season colour with green, beige and yellow – so different!
I’d love to know your favourite bag brands – leave comments below!