While trends, by nature, come and go, designer handbags are a different story all together. They transcend seasons—years, even—and therefore make wise investments for those in the know. Pick the best designer bags, and the value of your style may even increase over time. According to Cynthia Morrow, co-founder of Covett x Front Row (a luxury bag co-ownership programme), Hermès, Louis Vuitton & Chanel have all seen a 55% increase in price in the resale market, compared to their retail price of late(!). With such impeccable quality, they can even make special heirlooms to hand down over generations.
Whichever way you cut it, though, a luxury bag is still a hefty investment in the first place, so it’s a decision you’re going to want to think long and hard about. With so many styles out there, and new ‘It’ designs being released every season, it can be hard from the outset to know which are actually classic enough to have staying power.
That’s why we’re here today, to help guide you if you’re looking to make a luxury bag investment, into choosing the best accessory that you’ll be able to cherish forever. The Who What Wear team collectively have decades of experience working in the fashion industry, and we’ve seen many an ‘It’ bag come and go (and come back again). We’ve also seen which styles have endured—and it’s those that are truly worth your money. So I brought the question to the wider team, and I reached out to industry experts to ask their opinions and together we’ve curated the ultimate list of the best designer bags of all time.
Of course, buying a bag that feels extremely special and right for you is a very personal choice. You might want a very recognisable logo to elevate all your outfits, or a more subtle design that speaks more to a quiet luxury. Your life might call for a more roomy tote bag, to throw everything in for work, kids or travel. Or you could be after something more compact, like a classic crossbody which works for both day and night. These bags may be luxurious, but they’re also made to be used, after all. All of these factors we’ve taken into account and, in my opinion, there’s something below to suit every taste and requirement.
So, whether you’re looking to treat someone else and completely nail your gift choice, or treat yourself (rightly so), scroll down to get inspired by the ultimate list of the best designer bags of all time, according to the experts…
Style Notes: Of course, it doesn’t get more timeless than a Chanel flap bag. Whether you opt for a vintage 2.55 invented by Coco Chanel herself in 1955 with an understated turn lock, or Karl Lagerfeld’s famous classic flap bag—designed in his first year at the house in 1983 with the addition of the Double C logo—you can be confident that your choice will never go out of style.
Style Notes: Hermès bags might be a significant investment, but they’re considered valuable collectors items which may even increase in value over the years. A Birkin is arguably the ultimate designer handbag, no questions asked. But in my opinion the slightly more triangular Kelly, with its minimalist hardware and top handle that feels more modern. Fashion people are opting for smaller sizes these days (25-28 rather than the more roomy 35) and wearing with a crossbody strap over everyday outfits to elevate them instantly.
Style Notes: According to Who What Wear UK’s deputy editor the Maillon is one of Saint Laurent’s “most luxurious-looking styles.” She says, “For me, the key to making a designer bag an instant classic lies in its subtlety. Logos and monogramming can be extremely fun, but the nuanced approach of the Maillon has much more longevity and will work with more outfits than any statement iteration. The oversized gold-chain hardware—which inspired the bag’s moniker, which is the French word for “link”—makes the collection feel modern while at the same time still being completely classic. It might not have the iconic YSL emblem on its front, but those in the know will instantly recognise it, and that’s a big part of its charm. It’s versatile, too; the long strap makes it very much worthy of everyday wear but, tuck it in, and it looks like a deliberately-designed clutch. Looking at it, you would never guess that this was a new bag style for Saint Laurent, having launched in spring 2021, which only illustrates its timelessness.
Style Notes: The clue to this bag’s timelessness is in the name. The now-famous metal horsebit detailing is one of Gucci‘s most iconic house emblems—first designed in 1953, and first used on a handbag in 1955. Almost seventy years later, it remains one of the brand’s most coveted designs. The modern Horsebit 1955 Shoulder Bag is Alessandro Michele’s neoclassical interpretation of the original, re-introduced in 2019, and is Managing Editor Poppy Nash’s handbag of choice right now. “There’s something special about the Horsebit 1955. The iconic gold hardware, the long shoulder strap, the boxy satchel-esque shape. With its sleek minimalism and versatility, there’s no doubt this bag will feel just as elegant in another seventy years’ time. You simply can’t go wrong with the OG black leather iteration,” she says.
Style Notes: If you or that special someone is looking for a carry-all tote that is hard-wearing, timeless and can take them from planes to school pick-ups and from meetings to drinks—Louis Vuitton’s Neverfull tote should be the bag of choice. Although in the Noughties the loud, colourful LV logo became synonymous with It girls, from Paris Hilton to Nicole Richie, the brown and beige iteration has stood the test of time and now feels like a neutral. In fact, Cynthia Morrow of Covett x Front Row confirms that any bag with the famous monogram still makes it onto their most-wanted bags list. After all, it’s been used by the house since 1896—proof, surely, that it will never go out of style.
Style Notes: Despite being designed over twenty years ago, Prada’s re-nylon mini bag just claimed fashion data and search platform Lyst’s illustrious ‘bag of the year’ title in their 2022 Year in Fashion review. There’s just something about this small but mighty shoulder bag that feels youthful and fun, but the simple triangular logo and un-fussy design means it stays classic too. According to Lyst, searches for the bag increased by 131% over the summer, with over 4.2million views on the hashtag #pradanylonbag on TikTok.
Style Notes: If you love Prada’s logo aesthetic, but are looking for a more elegant, grown-up designer bag, I’d personally recommend the Galleria. The medium size (not too big, not too small), crossbody strap and multiple pockets make it practical for work or daily life, yet the pared-back minimalism and top handles will elevate the simplest of outfits.
Style Notes: Bottega’s compact Loop has been one of the top-selling bags on Who What Wear UK this year. Although its not necessarily been seen everywhere on celebrities, influencers and It girls, that’s the charm of this understated, hands-free crossbody. In fact, opting for a bag design that isn’t all over Instagram is one of my top tips for ensuring your investment has longevity. Of course, it still features the heritage house’s iconic woven Intrecciato leather pattern (first introduced in the 1960s), and so insiders will recognise its quiet luxury instantly. But the avoidance of shouty logos or ‘trendy’ design features means this practical little bag will feel relevant for many years to come. Who What Wear’s Branded Content Editor Rebecca Rhys-Evans agrees, and says she’s “been obsessed with Bottega’s understated Intrecciato patterns since previous creative director Daniel Lee first re-introduced it, and arguably re-invented the brand at the same time. Where the Loop narrowly beats the the Jodie bag, for me, is with it’s ever-so-practical crossbody strap. What can I say? I live to look chic with both hands free.”
Style Notes: If you’re looking for something to impress, something elegant and timeless, that screams ‘designer luxury‘ to make all your outfits look better—I would always recommend a classic black and gold Saint Laurent logo-ed style. Beauty Editor, Eleanor Vousden agrees. “I’ve always been drawn to Saint Laurent’s bags. In fact, I bought my first designer bag from the brand, the Kate crossbody in black with gold hardware, which I invested in to use for evenings or special occasions. But what really made me fall in love with the bag is the instantly recognisable logo. If I were to invest in a daytime bag, I’d choose the Solferino bag, which I also think is a timeless classic.” Whether you’re looking for a does-everything bag like the brand’s most-popular LouLou style, a more modern take with the Le 5 à 7, or an evening bag that you’ll wear forever, you really can’t go wrong with Saint Laurent.
Style Notes: According to Who What Wear‘s contributing editor Florrie Alexander, “when it comes to bags, Saint Laurent has had more icons than most. From the Loulou to the recent iCare that was spotted on the shoulder of every celebrity from Laura Harrier to Hailey Bieber. But, there’s a reason that classics stick around. A decade ago, Saint Laurent introduced the Sac de Jour, which soon became one of the brand’s most successful editions. The timeless silhouette ensures that your investment piece will remain a staple of your handbag collection, whilst the structured shape adds a polished feel that is relevant whether you’re wearing a smart suit or loungewear. With various sizes and colours to choose from, the Sac du Jour caters to all aesthetics, and has proved over the past ten years that this bag has real staying power.”
Style Notes: A modern classic, Loewe’s Puzzle was the first completely original new bag designed by current creative director Jonathan Anderson. Impressively, seven years on it’s still one of the brand’s most-coveted accessories. The roomy, contemporary silhouette with it’s top-handle and practical crossbody, is instantly recognisable. But paired with the sumptuous leather that the Spanish brand is so well known for, in a palette of luxurious neutrals, it’s no surprise the puzzle has gained ‘classic’ status. Never one to sit on his laurels, Anderson recently reimagined the Puzzle in the form of the new Hobo shoulder shape, which has now gone straight to the top of my most-wanted bag list.
Style Notes: If you’re looking for ultimate luxury that you can use everyday, it has to be Celine’s Triomphe bags. The French label‘s pared-back bag designs let the logo (known mostly to insiders) speak for itself, and buttery soft leather finish off the look effortlessly.
Style Notes: A little more flashy and modern than others on this list, Gucci’s Marmont is one of Alessandro Michele’s designs that will live on in the brand’s iconography, long after his recent exit from the brand. The Marmont designs, whether you opt for the flap or zipped, all have signature quilting, the glossy GG logo and both chain and leather straps. And while you can find the bag in many colours, if you’re looking for something versatile the black and gold is our favourite.
Style Notes: Chloé’s Woody bags became an instant classic when they launched in 2021. Premium-looking yet still practical, the roomy canvas tote with logo straps was the bag we never knew we needed. Gone are the days of carrying a ragged shopping tote around with you, this laptop-friendly style also stores children’s paraphernalia and basically everything but the kitchen sink, while to the naked eye of a passer-by you look calm, polished and, let’s face it—rich. While the whole team are straight-up obsessed with the canvas Woodys, there’s always the drawback of how hardwearing can cream fabric actually be? This autumn when the leather iterations landed, all our (and your) bag prayers were answered.
Style Notes: So many of Daniel Lee’s designs for Bottega Veneta, or ‘New Bottega’ as the zeitgeist liked to call it, went completely viral and became coveted cult accessories from the outset. It’s the handheld Jodie, though, that has proven its staying power, and remains one of the brand’s best-selling designs. It’s unsurprising, really, as the label’s heritage Intrecciato woven leather combines with the squishy, knotted shape to create the ultimate modern classic. The Jodie comes in all different sizes to suit your needs, from large to ‘candy’ (teeny, tiny by the way). But, personally, I feel the size that is really worth investing in is the mini, which sits at a more reasonable price point and makes for the ultimate evening or event bag.
Style Notes: A.P.C.’s Demi Lune easily has he most affordable price tag of all the bags on this list. But that doesn’t take away from it’s timeless elegance. The smooth leather and subtle gold foil logo makes it feel just as luxurious as its more expensive counterparts, and it remains—after many years—one of the most worn handbags by fashion people everywhere. You can always count on the Parisians to do it best.
Style Notes: It wouldn’t be a list of the best designer handbags, without a Fendi Baguette on here now, would it? Like many of the other designs I’ve mentioned, it truly deserves a place in this edit after already proving its longevity. Carrie Bradshaw may have made us all fall in love with the fun shoulder style, but its throw-on Nineties shape and timeless vintage-appeal have allowed it to remain the most coveted shoulder bag, long after Sex And The City wrapped. And in a break from the tradition of this list, in my opinion the more fun the Fendi, the better it is. The Baguette is a bag you can truly indulge your inner maximalist with—from all over FF logos to metallic gold and embellishments. It’s also a bag that works whether you’re 16 or 60, and I don’t think that will ever change.
Style Notes: At perhaps the complete opposite end of the designer bag spectrum, this one’s for all you minimalists out there. If you’ve got money to spend on quality, yet don’t feel the need to show off with designer logos, The Row’s Park tote is the one for you. You’ll be in good company—Gigi Hadid is also a fan. The ultimate in quiet luxury, the buttery soft leather and slouchy shape speak for themselves here, and we all like what it’s saying.
This story was originally published at an earlier time and has since been updated.