Bags from Yuzefi, Sezane, and Elleme
Accessories 09 Jul 2024 6 MIN

Low-key luxury bags are the new status buys

Not too pricey, not too cheap, exquisitely crafted. As Goldilocks would say it, these bags are just right

For many people, a bag is the first luxury item they buy for themselves. Be it a Dior Saddle or a Bottega Veneta Andiamo, unboxing that bucket-list bag is a milestone. No wonder the global luxury handbag market is booming. The Economist reported that French multinational LVMH sold about US$13 billion in leather goods in 2013, and by 2023, was selling €42bn-worth—a 320 per cent increase in just 10 years. But while numbers are up, a traditional luxury bag has become increasingly inaccessible for many of us. The price of a Chanel bag has increased by almost 60 per cent since 2019. Meanwhile, Prada’s Galleria bag is now a breezy US$4,600—85 per cent more than it was in 2019. So it makes sense that a slew of new brands has popped up in the last few years to fill the gap left behind by these rising costs.

Meet the low-key luxury brands that are offering the qualities of a luxury buy—craftsmanship, superior materials, and even the same kind of instantly recognisable icon status (among those in the know, of course)—but that you can own without having to take on an EMI.

To make it clear, it’s not just the price that these makes these brands so covetable—the most expensive are still less than ₹50,000 while the cheapest start at ₹5,000. Their creations are not simply dupes, high-street versions of the same iconic designs—they are aspirational on their own. Selena Gomez recently took her crystal JW Pei bag to the Golden Globes. Priyanka Chopra is a fan of Yuzefi—she’s carried both a more structured box bag and a mini sling from the brand. Even Meghan Markle loves her forest-green DeMellier top handle purse. What brands like these promise is Tanner Leatherstein-approved craftsmanship and the fact that, even though they usually come sans logo and any obvious branding, they’re quiet luxury coded, and still manage to be distinct.  

Social media has also fuelled the fire. The Reddit thread r/handbags is full of people sharing their new purchases and discussing the pros and cons of more niche labels. Headlines exclaim, “My Songmont Luna has arrived!!!” or “I discovered an affordable brand with really cool bag designs JWPEI”. There are already users looking for even cheaper versions of these brands—a sure sign that something has captured people’s imagination.  

So rather than chasing a carryall that has already been extensively eulogised and immediately brings to mind a number of previous wearers, free yourself with a low-key luxury bag. One that offers you the chance to express a unique personal style. Ahead, our edit of brands for you to start browsing right away.

With inputs from Butool Jamal and Chloe Chou 

01

Polène

Instagram and Tiktok are filled with videos of people unboxing their Polène buys, ready to prove that the brand’s impeccable full-grain leather bags are just as refined as any luxury choice. It’s largely thanks to social media that the brand’s organically shaped, folded, draped, or woven bags have achieved such cult status—even Kate Middleton has her own navy blue Numéro Sept top handle. The brand was founded in 2016 by three siblings, Antoine, Mathieu and Elsa Mothay, and each piece is produced by craftsmen from Ubrique, a Spanish town specialising in luxury leather goods. 

polene-numero-neuf-mini-taupe-grain@2x
Shop at polene-paris.com
02

Songmont

The Beijing-based label was started by former Google design director Song Fu and a group of ‘skilled grannies’ helmed by Fu’s mother. The resulting designs are infused with Eastern elements—think a silhouette inspired by a dumpling or an old-school satchel—and crafted in rich European leather. Our favourite is the Luna, which is having a moment this summer, not least because of its chic adjustable straps. Wear it one way and it’s an out-and-about day bag. Wear it another, and it’s a cocktail-night clutch. 

Songmont@2x
Shop at songmontofficial.com
03

Dragon Diffusion

Nothing spells summer like the basket bags by this Belgian label that was founded in 1985 by designer Craig Wright. Made entirely of handwoven leather in Tamil Nadu and inspired by basket-weaving cultures from around the world, each understated carrier is crafted on demand and can take up to 10 weeks to be delivered. Ashley Olsen, Alexa Chung, and a host of fashionable women are already fans of these supple, hardware-free, logo-free mini totes.

dragon-diffusion-woven-leather-bag-handmade-rosanna-steel-blue-1@2x
Shop at dragondiffusion.com
04

Yuzefi

Mochi, Gyoza, Pretzel, Scallop—no, that’s not a list of items I want on my dinner menu. They’re bags by London-based Yuzefi, a brand founded in 2016 by Central Saint Martins graduate Naza Yuzefi. The playful names reflect each bag’s design—for example, the Pretzel purse with its knotted handle and the pillow-like Mochi tote.

Yuzefi PRETZEL@2x
Shop at yuzefi.com
05

Hereu

Founded by designers José Luis Bartolomé and Albert Escribano, Hereu offers leather bags crafted in Spain by a network of family-run manufacturers since 2014. The brand is known for designs that incorporate artisanal traditions such as leather weaving with a contemporary, laid-back Mediterranean vibe as seen in its Bombon crossbody bag. If you’re on the hunt for a sensible off-duty tote that doesn’t scream ‘Look at me!’, the Y-shaped Callela canvas tote (also worn by Shiv Roy on HBO’s Succession) is a great option. 

Hereu CALELLA_@2x
Shop at hereustudio.com
06

DeMellier

The brainchild of Harvard graduate Mireia Llusia-Lindh, this label is best known for its elegant, high-quality handbags that have been spotted on everyone from music royalty Beyoncé to literal royalty Kate Middleton. For each bag purchased, the brand puts a part of the profits towards its ‘A Bag, A Life’ initiative to fund life-saving vaccines for children in collaboration with SOS Children’s Villages. 

Demellier The_Paris_Canvas_Black@2x
Shop demellierlondon.com
07

RSVP Paris

Approaching leather goods through the lens of design, the brand creates only 500 pieces of any one style, each bag stamped with a special three-digit number (between 001 to 500). If you’re looking for something playful yet sophisticated, you’ll love its sleek black bag with their signature ‘golden eyes’ hardware that evoke a robot’s face.

RSVP-Paris-Munchkin-Embosse-Croco-Navy-01_1200x@2x
Shop at rsvp-paris.com
08

Sézane

A French-girl favourite, Sézane’s lineup features several sensible crossbodies, totes, and bucket bags among other objects of desire. Founder Morgane Sézalory started the brand with a humble eBay storefront and now, a decade later, women like Sienna Miller can’t get enough of its Justine raffia tote, which is great for weekends away.

Sezane Justine Raffia Tote@2x
Shop at sezane.com
09

Elleme

Another Parisian brand to add to your wishlist: Elleme offers no-nonsense design with a timeless appeal and counts Priyanka Chopra Jonas, Hailey Bieber, and Bella and Gigi Hadid as fans. Founded by Jingjin Fan in 2015, the brand is famous for its Baozi bag that’s shaped like a dumpling and can fit all your everyday essentials, while the Boomerang piece is perfect for a night out.

Elleme baozi bag@2x
Shop at elleme.com
10

JW Pei

Few brands can say that they’re available on Farfetch, Amazon, and Nykaa Fashion all at once. This spectrum of retailers is proof of the brand’s unique position as a covetable yet accessible label (the bags start at US$59 or ₹5,000). Founded by LA-based husband and wife duo Yang Pei and Stephanie Li, the playful grab-and-go shapes and array of eye-popping colours on offer make them a favourite for those #OOTD posts.

Jw Pei hobo bag@2x
Shop at jwpei.com