“Hey V, we’re going to be in Paris soon. Where should we go?” “Yo V, I’m coming to SF in two weeks. Where should I eat?” “V, I’m planning a birthday for my friend. Any ideas for what to do?”
Answers? I got ’em! Here’s the deal: In real life and Internet life, I’m often asked questions about where to eat, what to see (especially in SF), where to shop, how to cook, tips for entertaining, and more. I also get asked questions about work, marriage, therapy, all that good real life shit too. I thought it might be helpful to start sharing the questions friends ask, and writing about them here. So today, I’m excited to kick off a new series called Ask V. Think of it as the local advice column around these parts. If you have a question, lay it on me! You can comment below, or shoot me an email whenever: email@example.com.
Today’s inaugural column features a question from L, who messaged me last week with the following (and who cemented my idea for this new series!):
V, My nearly 5 year old Kate Spade is finally showing its age, so I’m looking for a good, classic handbag. Max budget of $500. Tote or a satchel style. Must have zip closure. Neutral as I never switch handbags. Large enough to hold a Kindle Paperwhite and a pouch for the million lip products I never seem to take out of my purse. The pouch doesn’t have to come with the bag, I just need room for it. Any good recs?
Ok, L, here’s where I landed:
First things first. I’ll admit, L, this search was a challenge and tougher than I had anticipated! Finding neutral colors is easy enough, sure. But with current trends, a top zip tote or satchel that can also be dressed up or down feels like a rarer jewel indeed (you’ve probably noticed as you’ve been shopping around, but we’re deep in straw bag territory at the moment). And I feel you—if you’re the type of person who likes to find a handbag you love and then use it every day (for five years!), then picking something that’s classic is key. I’ve selected a mix of true totes and satchels; many have top zips, but I’ll cop to it, some rely on magnetic closures, flap closures, or a few interior zip pockets which I figured could be utilized to keep your stuff secure. If you carry a ton of stuff, a few of these bags are on the smaller side. But here, I also assumed you might not always carry your Kindle with you, and like something that felt a little daintier. A few options veer more casual too, if you simply need a workhorse bag. Here are some additional notes on my faves:
1. So here’s a perfect example of a bag that won’t close, but I was completely struck by. It’s from an up and coming accessories designer named Haerfest (pronounced Harvest), and if you’re into modern, clean lines like me, this baby is gorgeous. I love that you can use the shorter handles to carry the tote as a handbag, and the longer loops—which look really structural—can also be worn as shoulder straps. Bonus: the tote comes with its own pouch, and is available in 7 colors. Shop it here.
2. We talked mostly about totes and satchels when you asked me this question initially, but have you considered a hobo? When done right, I love this shape because it can feel very casual and relaxed, but with the right outfit, dressy and sophisticated. Option E is one pretty version (that long tassel is a pretty detail!); I also really love Option X.
3. Have you ever heard of the tote company Dagne Dover? About a month after I got to New York, they launched and I attended a big party for their unveiling. What I remember about the bags is how functional they are—these are a good option if you just need to carry a lot of shit around with you (laptop, water bottle, the works). The bags can fit a ton of stuff and come in a larger size and medium size too. One caveat: I seem to recall them being quite heavy, but the reality is that if you’re carrying around a laptop on the reg, you’re probably used to this. My friend Hitha really likes this brand, so check out her posts if you wanna see more of the bags in action.
4. Hi, have we met? You know I couldn’t resist putting in some really structural, modern options. I’m guessing this cognac tote will be a little too avant garde for any everyday bag, but isn’t it pretty? It has a zipper top! But really, I hadn’t seen anything quite like it. The other option which doesn’t have a zip top but I can vouch for as a surprisingly versatile bag is Oliveve’s Zoe tote. I have this bag in navy. It’s small enough to feel dainty but it fits a surprising amount of stuff. It also comes with a strap so you can wear it as a crossbody when you’re out and about. Shop more colors here.
5. We have to talk about Cuyana obviously. Have you ever tried their stuff? I don’t have a handbag from them, but I do have a wallet and I love it. It’s held up beautifully over several years. Cuyana offers several zip-top options, like this tote, this hobo, and this small carryall. These options are a little slouchier (read: more casual), but that might work for you? They also have a more structured work tote which always reminds me of Saint Laurent’s Sac de Jour. Great if you need to cart around a computer and more stuff generally.
6. This is an example of a non-zip top bag that I thought might still be a great option, because it offers two interior zip compartments. Add in your own pouch, and I think your stuff will be pretty secure! I have to say, if you’re into the saffiano leather look, Tory Burch or Kate Spade easily had the most options right now.
7. This is a super casual option, but I really love MZ Wallace’s totes. I have a small version of the Metro tote, and I use it all the time. It’s an awesome gym bag, beach bag, travel bag, grocery store bag…the list goes on! It’s easily washable, can fit a TON of stuff, comes with lots of interior compartments, and its own pouch. This version of the bag shown above is newer than mine, and comes with one feature I don’t have: the crossbody strap! I’ve had my tote from them for probably 4 years now, and it looks perfect.
8. Madewell’s Transport Tote is pretty well known at this point, but did you know they make a zip top version that also comes with a crossbody strap? If you need a simple, classic leather tote bag, this is a great option at a good price point!
9. Ok, so I’ll admit, this is my super selfish pick. I came across handbag maker Polène in my searches for you, L, and I’m OBSESSED. This bag doesn’t have a zip top, but it does have a secure flap which covers the contents of your bag. It comes in a TON of colors and different materials, and gah, it’s just so pretty. I love how easy and elegant it is. Plus, it has a crossbody strap! I’m kinda considering ordering it in the tan color…or maybe grey…or maybe sand…or classic black. If I had to get a new handbag right this second under $500? This would be my pick.
Hey friends, do you have a handbag rec for L? Comment below if you’ve seen anything recently that you think fits the bill for her! And don’t forget you can ask a question about style, food, music, career, life—anything!—and I just might answer it in the next Ask V column!