Looking for a luxurious but within-your-reach upgrade to your handbag collection? We’ve rounded up 10 affordable under-the-radar designers and handbag brands that are little-known but well-loved…
Listen, handbag branding gets us too! Sometimes you’re overwhelmed by flashy luxury brands and their hefty price tags, and it’s easy to feel misled into purchasing an investment piece that you don’t actually adore. But on the other hand, we’re trying to do our part for the earth and stay away from fast fashion picks that might be budget-friendly but offer no longevity (and pollute the planet!). So what are you to do? We’ve rounded up our favourite independent and affordable designers and handbag brands that offer up gorgeous well-crafted pieces actually worth a (little!) splurge.
Read more: Local Sustainable Fashion Brands We Love
Under-The-Radar Designer Handbag Brands
Flying out to a fashion capital for a shopping spree may be off the cards, but Milan-based Mirta’s selection of luxury handcrafted goods stands as the next best thing for us in Hong Kong. Mirta goes the extra mile to connect you with luxury Italian artisans through its online platform, highlighting the craftsmanship behind each piece — made by people, not brands. Browse through the specially curated collection and enjoy free shipping to Hong Kong for orders above €150 (around $1,280).
How Much: From around $1,400.
What To Buy: Bestsellers include the Opera Crossbody Bag (pictured above) by Boldrini Selleria, which features a unique accordion opening. Made with Vachetta leather, the handbag has a glossy appearance that takes on a vintage finish over time; the perfect piece to elevate an everyday look or bring along for a special occasion.
Use promo code MIRTAxSASSY10 to enjoy 10% off sitewide or get an exclusive 20% off with code MIRTAxSASSY20 (valid for orders above $3,130). Offer valid until Saturday, 28 May.
Shop Mirta online on its website
Under-The-Radar Handbag Brands We Love
We’re starting off strong with celebrity-approved handbag brand BY FAR, feeding right into our Y2K dreams and nostalgia about the late 90s and early 2000s. Yes, we’re talking about “tuck-and-go” under the arm shoulder bags. Despite being carried by the likes of Bella Hadid and Hailey Bieber, this Australian-designed Bulgaria-made brand is surprisingly accessible — happy to help give us another meaning for arm candy.
How Much: From as low as $2,500.
What To Buy: We can’t stop thinking about the new MINI SOHO in disco bronze hologram leather ($4,550), with a distinctive early 2000s shape in 100% Italian calfskin leather — complete with oversized double-progued buckles and multiple eyelets.
Shop BY FAR online on its website, NET-A-PORTER, and at its physical stockists — in Hong Kong, that’s I.T!
Read more: Y2K Fashion Is Cool Again, Here’s How To Wear The Trends Now
Cafuné, (Portuguese for “the act of playing with a lover’s hair”) is the brand to know if you’re in the market for a timeless and minimalist bag. Sourced straight from Italy, each piece is crafted from exceptional quality leather and comes complete with custom-designed hardware accents for added chic. This under-the-radar handbag brand was founded in Hong Kong by lifelong friends Queenie Fan and Day Lau in 2015, who strived to re-imagine luxury, wanting their consumers to make sustainable choices while forming an attachment to their chosen piece.
How Much: From as low as $513 for pouches and clutches, and starting around $1,500 for bags.
What To Buy: You can’t go wrong with a classic! The Stance Bag in Black ($5,019) is a bestseller — a mid-size satchel inspired by vintage briefcases. It’s timeless and modern, and a firm favourite. The bag is fronted by Cafuné’s signature C-Lock hardware and is made of a new sustainable leather. And we can’t get enough of the teeny-tiny Stance Pod Case ($753), so precious!
Shop Cafuné online on its website and at its physical stockists — in Hong Kong, that’s kapok!
Read more: 8 Hong Kong Female Entrepreneurs On Career Success, “Breaking The Bias” & More
Launched in 2016, ESEMBLĒ has a modern take on vintage handbags: classic designs in premium leather, with eclectic details that take their cue from all things retro. The brand’s best-selling Bell Shoulder Bag is influenced by visits to open-air flea markets, featuring gold embossed “Chase Rainbows” inside the flap — ESEMBLĒ’s take on a motivational poster.
How Much: From as low as $250, with bags currently starting at around $450.
What To Buy: We’re partial to the Bell Shoulder Bag in Canvas and Brown ($1,830), a brown cow leather micro-suede bag with a gorgeous gold oyster-shaped charm accessory.
Shop ESEMBLĒ online on its website and at its physical stockists
Read more: Bridgerton-Inspired Style Hits To Shop Now
With a mission to offer traditional luxury bags at a far more affordable price point, Jennifer Chong and Roman Khan’s beautifully minimalist brand is a classic fashion girl’s dream. A start-up that launched in 2014, Linjer soon exploded into a social media staple, with the brand’s pieces regularly appearing on influencers’ feeds. The under-the-radar brand is named after the Norwegian word for ‘lines’ — with designs that emphasise simplicity. All bags are made with top-grade sustainable leather and designed with longevity in mind.
How Much: From as low as $1,750.
What To Buy: One of Linjer’s top-sellers, The Tulip Bag ($4,270/$6,700) is made with buttery Italian vacchetta leather and Italian linen, and can fit everything from a Kindle to your makeup, sunglasses and even a light sweater. We love its handy compartment and super long strap.
Shop Linjer online on its website
Read more: Sustainable Style – Eco and Ethical Leather Alternatives
What started out as a passion project in 2008 has become a formidable fashion go-to thanks to the brand’s timeless designs for everyday wear. Founder Michelle Lai (her nickname being Mischa) wanted her bags to capture the spirit of women today, with accessories that are stylish and essential. Inspired by vintage obis and kimonos, the locally-founded brand’s signature hexagonal prints are a symbol of longevity and Eastern flair.
How Much: $1,726 for totes, $2,393 for duffles.
What To Buy: The canvas Jet Set Tote ($1,726) is a much-loved classic that holds it all — and you have to keep an eye out because it’s perpetually out of stock. The leather handles are comfortable and durable, and the wide top makes it easy to reach in for whatever you need. Best of all, you can safeguard your valuables in the detachable canvas pouch.
Shop MISCHA online on its website and at its physical stockists
Read more: That Girl – Michelle Lai of MISCHA
Created by industrial designer Meb Rure in 2015 in Istanbul, this Turkish brand was directly inspired by the artists and architects of the Bauhaus movement. Meb’s designs ensure the bags are both practical and exquisite. Innovation tied to aesthetics, Mlouye’s masterpieces feature unexpected shapes that resemble sculptural landmarks, with smart details — offering a luxury feel at a far more affordable price.
How Much: From anywhere between $1,500 to $4,700
What To Buy: It’s genuinely hard to pick, but we do love the bestselling Sera Tote ($4,659) — featuring a mix of clean lines and intricate 3D detailing, available in so many fun colourways. We also have our eye on the gorgeous Wave ($3,305) and the too-fun Helix ($3,863).
Shop Mlouye online on its website
Read more: Spring Colour Trends We Love & How To Wear Them
Handbag brand SENREVE believes women should have it all without compromise. Founded in 2016 by powerhouses Coral Chung and Wendy Wen, the brand is all about a professional luxurious bag that doesn’t just adjust to and work within your busy modern lifestyle but actually empowers you. It uses a range of traditional leathers imported from Tuscany, including the durable, everything-resistant “pebbled” and soft and supple “dolce” among others, but has also branched out into gorgeous sustainable vegan leathers (that’s right, more than one!).
How Much: From as low as $760 for chains and cases, and starting at $3,200 for bags.
What To Buy: It really does depend on your leather and shape preference but we’re curious about the Vegan Terra collection, crafted from plant-based proteins and 100% traceable.
Shop SENREVE online on its website and its physical stores in Hong Kong
Read more: Female-Founded Brands To Support Now
Sarah Staudinger and George Augusto co-founded this LA-based company on the basis that fashion shouldn’t just empower women — it should be widely accessible too. When it comes to handbags, STAUD has it down to a science, with cool designs, fun prints and dreamy colours. The collection draws inspiration from vintage clothing and downtown street art, with pieces that walk the line between high-end and homegrown.
How Much: From as low as $745.
What To Buy: We can’t get enough of the beaded Tommy Bag ($1,960 to $3,100), in so many fun variations that feature the likes of embroidered poppies, pink patchwork, bright oranges and more.
Shop STAUD online on its website and at NET-A-PORTER
Looking for a handbag fit for a princess? Strathberry became the talk of the town when Meghan Markle accessorised her outfit with one of its iconic totes. Founded by Guy and Leeanne Hundleby in 2013, this Scottish brand is best known for its classic shapes and luxe aesthetic, along with that signature bar closure.
How Much: Handbags start from $2,800
What To Buy: If you’re after something sophisticated and powerful, then the classic Midi-Tote ($5,800) is hands down the best choice (although we can see plenty of reasons to pick up the nano or even the full-size!). With two interior pockets, it’s ideal to take along to the office, yet chic enough to accompany you to your after-work dinner. We’re in love.
Shop Strathberry online on its website and at Lane Crawford
Founded by That Girl Nina Sieber, We Eat Avocado Toast — or WEAT — is a cool girl-approved handbag line. Even its name is punchy! A homegrown brand, it embodies all things feminine, functional and fashion-forward with pieces curated for a generation of go-getting, game-changing modern women.
How Much: From as low as $761, with bags starting at around $1,000 and Toast Bags starting at $2,042.
What To Buy: Any Toast Bag, the brand’s signature and best-loved style — with an eye-catching triangle carabiner that enables you to wear it as a practical crossbody, a statement clutch and more. Go for a classic, like the Big Toast in Coconut and Gold ($2,522), or try something new like the super cool Reflective ($1,844) that literally changes colour!
Shop WEAT online on its website
Read more: 10 Questions With Nina Sieber, Founder Of We Eat Avocado Toast
Editor’s Note: “Under-The-Radar Handbag Brands” was originally written by Ashleigh Butterworth in April 2021 and was most recently updated in April 2022 by Sakina Abidi.
Our “Featured” sticker indicates a paid partnership.
Hero image courtesy of STAUD via Instagram, image 1 courtesy of Mirta, image 2 courtesy of BY FAR via Instagram, image 3 courtesy of Cafuné via Instagram, image 4 courtesy of ESEMBLĒ, image 5 courtesy of Linjer, image 6 courtesy of MISCHA via Instagram, image 7 courtesy of Mlouye via Instagram, image 8 courtesy of SENREVE, image 9 courtesy of STAUD via Instagram, image 10 courtesy of Strathberry, image 11 courtesy of WEAT.