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8 Brands Making Cool, Affordable Bags

Your new favorite bag, for less than $300.

COS

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It's not hard to find a good looking handbag. There are plenty of amazing designer bags (with price tags that include commas) and lots of cute, cheap novelty bags (that'll last you a few good months). The space in between these extremes of investment bags and quick PVC thrills is a tricky one, though.


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We did some digging and unearthed eight accessory lines doing affordable handbags right: quality materials, good construction, and versatile designs. These are the brands to turn to when you're looking for something that will last, but don't have a spare grand to throw down. Styles from streamlined shoulder bags and leather backpacks to one-of-a-kind lamb hair clutches are covered, so you're sure to find your new favorite for day, night, and the holy grail: day-to-night.

For even more bag shopping, check out our guides to the designers owning the minimalist aesthetic and where to find cool travel bags, from duffels to suitcases.

The Stowe

Designed and made in Montreal, The Stowe offers minimalist dream bags in pretty much every common silhouette (tote, bucket, backpack, the list goes on). Crossbody and shoulder bags are between $300 and $400, all in smooth, black buffalo leather with discreet branding. Our favorites are the half-moon 'Eloise' ($375), a structured square style called 'Charlotte' ($376), and a tapered shoulder bag named 'Juliette' ($328). Another standout is 'Frances' ($343), which converts from a backpack to a crossbody.

primecut-bags-portland_2016_01

Primecut

This made-in-Portland line uses one-of-a-kind hides for texture-rich collection of purses, pouches, and totes. Think curly lamb clutches ($155) and crossbody bags with spotted cowhide inlays ($165). For a straightforward, durable daily bag, check the large black leather purse ($180) or the double pouch purse ($185).

Intentionally Blank

We first fell for this LA accessory brand's clunky-cool shoes, and were delighted to find that they've added handbags to mix, too. There are a number of roomy backpacks, totes, and duffel bags to choose from, but we really love the itty-bitty 'diet' bag ($130), whose tagline is "control your portions." For something a step larger, check out the 'diet' bag's sized-up cousin, 'diet-x' ($144), which features neoprene sides that expand to hold more of your stuff, while staying "small enough that you are not that girl constantly digging for your keys." Amen.

Baggu

Baggu is the gold standard for inexpensive, cool bags. What began as a selection of bright, reusable nylon totes has grown to include leather bucket bags, streamlined weekenders, and backpacks you wouldn't be embarrassed to wear post-high school. We're especially impressed with the perfectly-sized drawstring purse ($140) and the crossbody purse ($120), which currently comes in pretty suede colors like navy and olive.

Cambridge Satchel Co.

You know the made-in-Britain brand for its iconic satchels, but there are actually a ton of other cute styles to check out, too. The 'large push lock' ($150) is a great everyday style that comes in a rainbow of color choices (plus, the strap clips off, so it works as a roomy clutch, come night). Another cute day-to-night choice is the 'cloud' bag ($185), which is compact in size with a cute scalloped flap. For festival season, you could do a lot worse than the 'mini push lock' ($100), which is just big enough to hold your phone, a small wallet, and sunglasses.

Steven Alan

Steven Alan's in-house collection has a small but solid selection of handbags that range from crossbody and shoulder styles to backpacks and waterproof totes. One of our favorites is the 'Lilly' bag ($235), which has two zippered compartments, but comes in at just eight and half inches wide, keeping your essentials organized without hogging much space. We're also fond of the top-handled 'Inez' style ($276), which is softly structured in unlined, Italian leather that promises to age beautifully.

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Pine & Boon

Designed and produced in Seattle, Pine & Boon makes totes, crossbody bags, and pouches in no-frills shapes perfect for day-to-day use. Just because they're versatile doesn't mean they're boring, though: hand-painted grid patterns, hole punches that mimic polka dots, and geometric appliques add a cheerful element to every piece.

A number of styles are designed to be worn more than one way (as a clutch, a crossbody, or around the waist, for instance), and the materials here are excellent for the price point (like YKK zippers, which are pretty much the Rolls-Royce of zippers). Our favorite Pine & Boon bags include the knotted crossbody ($225) and the convertible suede pouch ($60).

COS

The bag section at H&M-backed COS offers a nice selection of staple shapes and trendy options. Leather and suede crossbody and shoulder bags run between $100 and $200, while larger styles like backpacks and shoppers are closer to $200. Cool buys in stock right now include a contrast shopper ($250), a rounded shoulder bag that comes in a lovely olive leather ($115), and a unique trapezoid style ($115).

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