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Saturday, October 03, 2009

A Satchel for S.

Sometimes, our friends like to ask us for our fashion advice. They are too cute. Our reaction is always to the tune of, "Oh, what? I don't know...look at how I'm dressed, I look like a total mess today, I couldn't possibly--HERE ARE SEVENTEEN THOUSAND LINKS FOR WHAT YOU WANT. Go and shop, dear friend!" So obviously, secretly we love getting asked for our expert opinions, it's fabulous and you get to play stylist for an hour. Other than that, we're all business.

So, when our dear friend and reader Ms. S. (of the Big Apple) e-mailed to ask a favor, I was only too happy to oblige. S. says:

I'm looking for a leather satchel-type bag, probably around 13"x13". Minimal hardware, zipper or clasp top, clean lines, kind of vintage looking (or will look awesome once the leather is broken in.) Should be able to be worn like a messenger bag or handbag. Would like not to spend a month's worth of rent money on purchase.

Where do I find such awesomeness?

I understand the need for a functional, mininalist bag that CLOSES (i.e., not a regular canvas tote) to protect your wallet, sunglasses, house keys, and various baked goods safe from curious hands in the city. I was bad and basically went all around Tokyo for a year using only canvas bags until I realized it was time to graduate to a real, big-girl handbag, it was not pretty. I've never been pickpocketed that I know of, but my very safety-minded mother pressed the necessity of bags with zippers and hardware for closure since I was old enough to remember to take my purse with me outside. So, minimal hardware and zipper or clasp top should be easy, right?

Next: the satchel-type. What bag designers seem to be calling "satchels" are far too tiny for a working woman's use--they're like clutches with longer straps. I mean, seriously, high fashion designers? No one really carries clutches, FYI. Satchels to me are akin to doctor's bags, roomy enough to carry all of your essentials (sunglasses, wallet, keys, lip balm, compact, iPod, headphones, business cards, random matchbooks and band-aids in case of emergency, a book to read, and some pens) but not so bulky that it dwarfs you. Let's take a looser interpretation of the practical satchel and expand the search to include large handbags and briefcases, shall we? Just out of my own adventurous spirit. I've been keeping an eye out for a lady's briefcase that is both professional and AWESOME, not unlike this leather bow briefcase we saw at Baby, the Stars Shine Bright in San Francisco.

The vintage or vintage-looking leather requirement can cost a pretty penny. Like "distressed" denim, "vintage" leather is a big moneymaker for fashion houses--everyone wants to look like they've just had that awesome leather jacket lying around forever, since before James Dean made it cool, all nonchalant and a little edgy. Quality bags in vintage leather sell like hotcakes at the Goodwills and resale shops, so you know the hunt is on. I've been carrying around the sturdy nylon Bea handbag by MZ Wallace, which I nabbed for a song at Loehmann's last year, but the appeal of leather is perennial. (Sidenote: try to avoid buying leather sourced from Brazil, although it can often be difficult to tell where the individual components/materials of a bag are from, ranching for beef and leather in Brazil has widely contributed to the destruction of the Amazon rainforest. Heads up.)

S.'s price point is a realistic one--we can't all shell out a year's worth of grad school/college tuition for a handbag (looking at you, Posh!) every six months. Is it so much to ask for a great, functional fashion bag made of real materials at around $200? I don't think so. Let's see what we found for Ms. S.:

Most of these are running into the $200 range, which I think is a little steep, but they are all fabulous leather bags!

-Etsy seller RenaissanceArt out of sunny Santa Fe, New Mexico has your classic schoolgirl satchel. It reminds me of the fun, boxy red "randsel" backpack I carried as a little kid at Japanese kindergarten. (A quite interesting, brief history of the randsel bag pour toi!)

-For a more ladylike, yet rough'n'tough handbag that can carry a day's worth of books and all your junk, I love all of Rennes le Chateau's bags. I always have a problem with wearing out the straps of tote bags because I fill them up just a smidge too full and carry them for a little too long--they just snap right off of the bag, the bastards. Those leather "Annie" tote bags might just be the ticket...what do you think? I for one am sick and tired of having to repair my bag straps all of the time!

-Canadian seller EKAA has a great line of leather clutches and most importantly, the Graceful shoulder bag. Love the funky brocade lining! Fun lining is always a plus when your bag is all business from the outside and a party on the inside.

-Those with tastes running to the industrial and minimalist will enjoy this lovely chestnut-brown zip bag. It's almost steampunk in style, but being super long and flat, may end up in some awkward vertical stacking of books and personal accoutrements.

-Chii Designs from the United Kingdom has sweet-ass hand-stitched bags, their satchel is pretty sweet, but might be a little rough around the edges until it's all broken in to satisfy S.'s desire for the vintage leather look. It is, however, classic and simple in a rich, delicious color, can't beat that!

-Edinburgh's SodaKitsch also loves the classic, super-classy brown leather hangbag--how sumptuous is this? If you could buy it at Bendel's, you know it's what Blair Waldorf would carry to school.

Cheaper options, with more faux-leather:
-For a funkier, professorial-chic look, Rejoice Bags out of Riverside, California has this faux leather and tweed oversize bag that could double as a tote. It reminds me of a girl I knew in college who wore tweed suit jackets with elbow patches and a baseball cap every single day, rain or shine--only this is the touchable, nubbly feminine version of her look. Rejoice also has a laptop bag that's sold out but looks perfect for a back-to-school bag.

-I am a big, big fan of the "dapperly Dietrich" satchel on ModCloth, it looks like a functional, funky doctor's bag that you could keep a metric ton of goodies and secrets in. (It also happens to be featured in a Polyvore set I have waiting in the wings for a post on vintage nurse styling, so keep your eyes peeled for that, dear readers.)

Once upon a time, there was a Hideo Wakamatsu store here in Silicon Valley, but they suddenly disappeared from the mall one day--likely due to a very obvious lack of business. I was sad, their window displays were always inspiring and made me want to become a professional jetsetter. His bags are amazing (and crazy expensive), but they absolutely scream, I AM A PROFESSIONAL WOMAN ON THE GO! Jeanne just got a purse by him that is hella sweet, she may be able to give you a bit more insight on--that said, I'll bet you could find a good deal on one on eBay.

Our favorite discount department stores like Marshall's, Loehmann's, Nordstrom Rack, Filene's Basement, TJ Maxx, et cetera, are all kind of hit or miss in the bag department, but you may have luck if you prefer the tactile experience. Try the men's departments, they often have minimalist bags in good leather that doesn't look all schmaltzy like ladies' bags. I checked out Fossil's bag line online and their men's section of messenger bags is pretty fabulous. Ladies could definitely rock the plaid messenger bag look without a hitch during the fall and winter.

So, there you have it, the full list of leather satchel options I provided to Ms. S. Only time will tell which bag she chooses, if she braves the cold, dark shopping world of New York City to find an alternative, or relies on our internet shopping expertise to provide. As for me, I'm on a personal shopping moratorium until October 30th. All of my money is going to groceries and incidentals, I promise!

Photos from HideoWakamatsu.com, Etsy user SodaKitsch, and ModCloth.com

1 comment:

WendyB said...

Wow...you did some serious research!

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