The 2021 Handbag Trend Report

The 2021 Handbag Trend Report

It goes without saying that 2020 has been a year we’ll never forget – and fashion, like every other industry, has changed immensely in the process. With a new year dawning, we look ahead to see what handbag-shaped delights 2021 has to bring us, as well as highlighting some of the larger macro trends reverberating through the luxury fashion universe.
Text by Suzannah Wilkinson

Micro Trends

Bright Now

There’s one way to stand out from the crowd (or a Zoom call) in 2021, and that’s through colour: a bright accessory adds an exclamation point to any outfit. After a dreary year, positive palettes of highlighter hues and pretty pastels stormed the SS21 runways. Embrace bubblegum pinks (hello Hermès 5P), sunset oranges and verdant greens. How to wear it? Take your cue from Pantone’s colour of the year, a pairing of joyful yellow and soothing grey, and use colour to amp up a neutral look.

Clutch Control

Bottega Veneta’s oversized Pouch clutch was the hit bag of 2020. Soft, surprisingly roomy and eminently huggable, Pouch-mania has ushered in a new era of voluptuous clutches for 2021. These bags are not just for evening: tuck a maxi monogrammed Dior clutch from their SS21 collection under your arm for lunch with the girls.

Practically Perfect

Mini and micro bags have been a favourite of handbag lovers for a few years now, but in 2021, they’ve gained a decidedly more practical edge. Purpose-built pouches and belts for smartphones and even water bottles were seen at Fendi, Versace, Balenciaga, Chanel and more. With more of us now working from home, these functional bags are a fuss-free alternative to a heavy office tote.

Weaving Magic

From netted totes to caged clutches and rattan basket bags, woven textures were a regular feature on the SS21 runway. Invest in a Bottega Veneta Cabat, crafted from their signature Intrecciato weave, or add an Hermès Kelly Picnic to your wishlist. We love how Chanel took the trend to typically luxurious heights with a 2.55 caged in ‘quilted’ silver.

Ladylike luxe

For all of 2021’s uber-modern trends, there was also an interesting shift to more ladylike, retro silhouettes. Handbags in petite proportions with mini top handles, designed to be carried in the crook of your arm, proliferated at the likes of Chanel, Saint Laurent and Gucci. This vintage vibe has always been championed at Hermès – we’re thinking of the Kelly bag of course – and Dior’s Saddle bag also fits in beautifully to this trend. 

Macro Trends

Digital First

2020 was the year when screens became more important than bricks-and-mortar shops. With brands unable to host their usual runway shows, many turned to incredibly innovative digital alternatives – and at the same time made these events more democratic for all. Hermès’ digital fashion show for SS21 took viewers behind the scenes at their Paris atelier in a live-streamed performance, the camera serenely weaving between models and the brand’s treasured artisans. For its latest Métiers d’Art show, Chanel also went wholly digital, broadcasting a cinematic runway film set in Le Château des Dames, watched solely in person by brand ambassador Kristen Stewart – and millions at home.

Rewatch the ‘Le Château des Dames’ Chanel Métiers d’Art 2020/2021 Show.

The State of Fashion report by The Business of Fashion and McKinsey & Company has crowned this revolution the ‘Digital Sprint’, with traditional brands having to evolve rapidly into a digital-first approach. Expect to see more of livestreaming in 2021, and the introduction of ‘livestream commerce’, where you can shop products directly while watching – already popular in China.

Sustainability and Secondhand Shopping

Sustainability is at the forefront of shopping in 2021. More than ever, consumers are reacting against the practices of fast fashion, and instead valuing products with transparent and ethical supply chains, long-lasting materials and a low carbon footprint. ‘Newness’ is no longer at the top of everyone’s wishlists, and as such, the circular fashion model that SACLÀB and other secondhand retailers champion is taking up more and more space in the luxury arena. With brands like Hermès celebrating the durability and timeless craftsmanship of their bags, the logical step is to ensure that these creations are given the long life they deserve through resale. As we’ve seen above, fashion trends ebb and flow, with vintage silhouettes often making a return, so remember that embracing a trend doesn’t necessarily mean having to buy brand new. 

Less is More: Primary Market Price Rises

Another factor in the surge in secondhand retail is due to the ‘less is more’ approach that luxury brands are now taking post-pandemic. Due to overstock issues, with large markdowns becoming necessary, fashion houses such as Dior, Louis Vuitton and Chanel have reduced production of their leather goods and subsequently raised prices multiple times in recent months. Buying a designer handbag on the primary market is only getting more expensive – so secondhand retailers are an increasingly attractive and affordable alternative. 

What to Invest in

Given the difficulties of retail in 2020, it pays to know what to invest in for the future. Thankfully, demand for designer handbags is as strong as ever. LMVH’s fashion division (which includes bags) saw 12% year-on-year growth in 2020, even while their overall sales fell by 7%. Similarly, Hermès saw 7% growth. With leather goods seemingly riding the recession wave, a high-end designer handbag remains a wise investment for the future – just make sure to treasure it whilst it’s in your possession.

Which trend has taken your fancy? Let us know what’s on your wishlist, and we’ll take care of it.


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