Buying a new bag is often as much of a choice about function as it is fashion. And like shoes, there’s a tendency to lean towards international brands in your search for the perfect carryall. But with a focus on craft, quality and sustainable practices, these local labels are setting a new standard for “it” bags and investment pieces alike.
New Zealand brand Yu Mei has built a steadfast following for its draping totes, structured crossbodies and perfectly petite mini bags. Founder Jessie Wong believes that being able to carry your laptop, lunch and basically everything but the kitchen sink to work or university is just as important as being able to dance hands-free until dawn. “Yu Mei bags are not driven by trends,” she says. “Most customers start with a larger bag and then build up their set. Our new product development is more focused on the trajectory of meeting our customers’ daily needs.” The Teresa Tote is a tireless choice for the 9–5. And the brand’s growing range of small accessories can provide the perfect complement.
Affaires calls on natural fibres and classic shapes to create its carefully considered range. Dropping small collections throughout the year instead of following traditional fashion seasons, the brand favours slouchy silhouettes that can hold all your daily needs. Tomato red wool and lilac linen are current favourites. But there are more neutral options available too.
Sage Avenue’s sell-out bag range is full of modern classics. There’s a vintage air to baguettes and slouchy totes in denim, crochet, suede and polished faux leather finishes. A new collection is on the horizon for spring – keep your eyes peeled, these styles will go like proverbial hotcakes.
Georgia Jay uses premium deadstock leathers to create handmade collections in the brand’s Auckland studio. Sleek lines and minimalist details define favourites like the Pebble crossbody, Bean baguette and Baby Ombra tote, which are available in a revolving array of colours.
Could Be Something
Vivid vinyl-coated styles are the name of the game for Sydney brand Could Be Something. Upcycled vintage tablecloths, silk scarves and custom-dyed fabric offcuts bring personality to the handmade pieces. Order via Instagram or find one-offs in-store at Newtown’s So Familia and Terrific Effort in St Peters if you’re local to Sydney.
From its beginnings as an importer of luxury European textiles, Oroton has grown into the modern, practical and sophisticated Australian brand we know it as today. Contemporary and easy to wear, the label uses durable canvas and smooth leather to create a core range of totes, baguettes, shoulder bags and crossbody styles. This spring, a largely neutral colour palette is livened up with seasonal splashes of green and metallics. The brand also offers a collection of apple skin pieces to cater to non-leather lovers.
Poppy Lissiman’s signature bold silhouettes are frequent companions on morning commutes, at cocktail hours and beach hangs alike. Striped totes, bright but functional crossbody bags and retro-inspired faux-leather shoulder bags are consistent bestsellers. The new pet collection sees dog portraits adorn a range of items for a dose of daily whimsy.
Rylan’s structured satchels, baguettes and totes speak to the Sydney brand’s minimalist design ethos. In an effort to reduce waste, the label offers an imperfect sale collection, selling slightly flawed pieces at a reduced price to make sure they still find a loving home.
A-Esque’s founder and creative director, Amanda Briskin-Rettig, keeps manufacturing local and specialised to create a bespoke experience for her customers. Offering made-to-order pieces, as well as a small and carefully considered in-stock collection, the brand has gained a following for its softly sculpted designs. The Grocer Tote will do some serious heavy lifting in your wardrobe day in, day out. A-Esque takes measures to be more sustainable each season, offering a repair service, selling pre-loved products and upcycling older designs to create new wares.
Launched in 2005, Deadly Ponies has gone from garage project to trans-Tasman sensation. The brand’s new collection, named Carousel, features shades and finishes inspired by British artist Tracey Emin – known for her autobiographical works, which span mediums including drawing and needlework, painting and sculpture, film and neon text signage. The collection includes zesty hues, sculptural shapes and playful prints. Shop the new range, alongside core pieces, online or in one of its Auckland or Wellington boutiques.
Creating beauty without the beast is at the core of Melbourne label Sans Beast. Research and development is a large focus for the business, as founder Cathryn Wills and her team aim to work with the most sustainable materials available. PETA-certified, vegan-friendly fabrics are used to create brand signatures like the Reader Satchel and Nomad Tote, as well as colour-pop pieces such as the Tiny Spark Crossbody in citron.
Gold Coast-based Mimmi Terra’s handwoven totes are made from recycled plastic in limited edition drops, with pre-orders currently available for its most-loved styles. The lightweight, durable and waterproof pieces instantly conjure European glamour in both neutral and more vibrant colourways. Take your phone, keys and credit card out for dinner in micro silhouettes or stow your office essentials in larger, double-handled designs.
July might be best known for its luggage collection, but the Melbourne brand also has a number of smaller pieces suited for everyday use – whether you’re at home or away. The Everyday Tote and Daybreak Backpack both fit a laptop and essentials for journeys big and small.
Bringing craft back into fashion, George bags are hand woven from cotton, linen and bamboo thread blends. Made to order in Canberra, they resemble plastic shopping bags in shape but aim to promote a more sustainable practice with recycled materials used where possible. Previous collaborations with Nobody Denim saw limited edition drops made from indigo offcuts.
Maison de Sabre
Maison de Sabre’s colourful collection includes staple backpacks and handbags, as well as phone pouches, magsafe wallets and Apple Watch bands in grained leather. Take the opportunity to personalise your pieces – monogramming is available across most of the range.
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