In Case of Emergency: Bags that double as weapons

Is it just me, or is the world on fire? Rioting, political unrest, pop stars being beaten in the streets of New York. What’s a girl to do, in the face of modern society ripping itself apart at the seams? Arm herself, of course.

I’m not talking about getting a gun or a knife. No, those are dangerous and it takes time to fish one out from the bottom of your bag. I’m talking about getting a handbag that can also be used in self-defense maneuvers of all kinds, so that if the apocalypse should rain down while you’re at the movies, you’ll be prepared to survive in the dystopian hellscape that you encounter when you leave. Or, you know, you can use most of these bags to whack a mugger in the head. But doesn’t the former somehow seem more likely than the latter lately? In all seriousness, though, be safe out there ladies. Particularly our readers in London.

Naturally, we couldn’t have this discussion at all without the Alexander McQueen Knuckle Duster Clutch. This design is the original handbag-as-weapon, or perhaps it would be more accurate to call it a weapon-as-handbag. How you use this one should be obvious. Buy through Neiman Marcus for $2125.

Those pointy bits on the front of the Botkier Flint Hobo are solid metal, and that means that in a pinch, you could cut one off, attach it to the end of a stick, and have yourself a handy shiv (or spear, if the stick is lengthy). Buy through ShopBop for $495.

You may not be able to see it in this picture, but we’re all familiar with the big honkin’ chain that graces every Marc Jacobs Stam. I’ve got one myself, and every time I’ve flown with it, I’ve found myself a little nervous that airport security might wonder why I had such a long, heavy chain. You could stave off an attacker in any number of ways with this thing, including a swift blow to the noggin. Buy through Neiman Marcus for $1350.

If there’s one thing that Alexander Wang’s bags are known for, it’s the sheet of solid, heavy studs that graces the bottoms of many of them. Of all the options in the line, the Alexander Wang Diego Bucket Bag is the best for self defense because of its long strap. Swing it around your head like Wonder Woman with her golden laso for maximum use of the bottom-mounted metal. Buy through Net-a-Porter for $975.

Because the studs on the Valentino Rockstud Satchel are of a different placement and lighter weight than the Wang bag, I’d suggest using this one with the short handles to give a harasser a quick smack directly to the face. And then run away. Quickly. Buy through Saks for $2875.

Ok, so The Row Alligator Backpack doesn’t have any particular qualities that might help you in a fight, but its price tag does indicate that anyone who can afford it can also probably afford a driver and private security. If you’re going to carry around a handbag worth more than most people’s cars, you might want to think about acquiring one or both of those things. The Row insists that the bag is “price on request,” but it’s either $39,000 or $34,000, depending on who you ask.

Forget my last obsession, my new one is Sang A

Oh, fashion. This industry is so mercurial. One day you can fully consumed by one piece or trend or idea, and then mere hours later, something else pops up and all your energy makes a shift so sharp and sudden that you’re surprised it doesn’t hurt its metaphorical knees. (Yes, my energy has knees. It’s a fully formed, if imaginary, person.) That’s exactly what happened to me at the sight of these Sang A python bags – two days ago, I was obsessed with Rag & Bone. Now, it’s all Sang A. If you’re going to do the whole Fall 2011 python thing, these bags are the way to do it.

The golden finish on the Sang A Pop Tote really has to be seen to be believed. No matter how many times I go into Kirna Zabete, I always, always pick it up to examine it more closely. It’s deep and multi-faceted and so incredibly expensive-looking that words don’t really do it any justice. Most metallic gold bags are terrible and tacky, but this one definitively proves that it’s possible to do shiny gold in an incredibly chic way. Buy through Kirna Zabete for $3400.

Even though the Sang A Geo Shoulder Bag looks exceptionally petite, the bag of this matte leather confection opens up in a way that you wouldn’t expect to give you increased storage space and easy access to your stuff. Buy through Kirna Zabete for $1250.

Multicolored python is perhaps the biggest of the zillions of variations on the python trend for fall, and the timeless shades of green and blue in the Sang A Plush Clutch mean that even after the trend fades, this clutch will be chic. And those are the trend pieces you should be buying – things that create an of-the-moment look right now but will have a home in our wardrobes forever. Buy through Kirna Zabete for $1740.

Meredith Wendell shows us how to colorblock properly

Meredith Wendell Bucket Leather and Canvas Shoulder Bag, $795 via NAP

Colorblocking. Every fashion magazine and fashion lover has been both talking about and sporting this trend for the last few months. Funny thing is, we have all done it with many of our outfits before, yet right now the focus is on extreme lines and colors paired together in an eye-catching way. Many designers in the handbag world have taken a stab and many have failed (remember the Chloe mess we shared earlier this week?). If you are looking for a handbag designer to turn to for the perfectly colorblocked bag, Meredith Wendell is your girl.

I’ve had this bag saved in my tabs list for over a month now meaning to share it with you. I adore the school boy coloring and design of the Meredith Wendell Bucket Leather and Canvas Shoulder Bag.

In fact, when I first saw this bag I felt a pang of nostalgia. While growing up, I had a watch that featured the exact same color family. That watch was my pride and joy, I wore it everywhere and was certain it was THE.COOLEST.WATCH. anyone in my school possessed.

Part of my love comes from that and part comes from the sheer awesomeness of this bag. How often have you seen colors this bright and vivid paired together in a handbag? And if you have seen them, I bet that more likely than not, they looked like a hot mess. But not on Meredith Wendell’s creation. On her bag, the colors are beautiful, playful and utterly chic. On top of it all, the triple-pocket interior structure is totally functional. This indigo, blue and red pairing is exclusive to Net-A-Porter for $795.

Loewe vs. Furla

Loewe Amazon Bag, $1760 via Matches. Furla Camargue Bauletto Satchel, $495 via Nordstrom.

I didn’t take much of a shine to the Loewe Amazona Bag until I saw one in person, but since I did, my borderline-obsessive interest in the brand has yet to falter. Loewe’s leather really is something that needs to be experienced to be understood; I’ve yet to see a photo that accurately depicts the simple beauty of one of the brand’s bags.

The problem, of course, is that not only is Loewe prohibitively expensive for the average consumer, but trying to find one of its bags in-store is the stuff of slight mental breakdowns. I’ve only seen them two places: Bergdorf Goodman, which has only one location (New York), and Jeffrey, which has only two (New York and Atlanta). The brand’s website has e-commerce, but doesn’t ship to the US. So what’s a girl with a limited budget and limited access to Loewe do? Find a Look for Less – how about the Furla Camargue Bauletto Satchel?

The Furla bag lacks the Amazona’s pop of red, of course, but the Amazona comes in many more color combinations, most of which have handles that match the rest of the design’s trim. It also must be said that the F-cutout on the front of the Furla drives me absolutely insane, and I can’t imagine why the company thought doing that would be a good idea. But other than than those things, the stylistic notes of the bag are similar – simple, neutral top-zip satchels with neat corners and contrasting trim.

Loewe Amazona Bag, $1760 via Matches

Furla Camargue Bauletto Satchel, $495 via Nordstrom

The latest Kardashian cash grab is a Botkier knock-off

Photos via Botkier, Sears

Let’s be real here: The Kardashian family will put its name on anything you want them to, so long as you’re willing to wave a big enough check at them. As reality stars, that’s not necessarily a bad way to go about business – they seem fully aware that their shelf lives are short, and they’re socking away as much money as they can in the meantime. I know a lot of people seem to hold that against them, which I’ve never particularly understood. If someone was holding a check with lots of zeros and my name on it, I’d “spokesmodel” for any toothpaste, hair product or used car dealership that they might be shilling.

With that in mind, I doubt that Kim, Kourtney and Khloe had anything more than a passing involvement in their Kardashian Kollection (you can’t even make that up) for Sears, which was announced just a few days ago. But shame on whoever saw fit to add a nearly detail-for-detail knockff of the Botkier Clyde Bag to the line of short, tight dresses and jumpsuits.

When Botkier founder Monica Botkier emailed me these pictures a couple of days ago, I wash shocked. We’re all more than used to seeing cheap plastic imitations of designer bags at low-end retailers, but usually high-profile capsule lines are free of such obvious “inspiration.” How can a store or brand keep up the illusion (and it is entirely an illusion) that a piece was “designed” by a celebrity if it was so clearly designed by an independent accessories brand years ago?

Surely, Sears is banking on the fact that its customers either won’t have any idea where the design came from or won’t care, both of which are probably true. Still, though, it’s unfortunate when a big national chain stores that has the resources to design its own products instead decides to pick on a smaller brand that takes pride in its own creative work, particularly when the results of the design-pilfering are so widely publicized.

Check out this absurdly expensive (and boring) Roberto Coin bag

When I sent a link to the bag pictured above to Amanda, she asked me, “Do rich people come home blitzed on Dom Pérignon from a night out at Le Cirque and impulse-buy ugly, overpriced gold and diamond handbags like the rest of us buy sunglasses on eBay?” I wondered the same thing when I laid eyes on this Roberto Coin Gold and Diamond bag. I’ll get to the design of it in a bit, but for starters, who literally goes online and spends just under $100,000 on one item. Do people do that? I understand it is all relative, but at that rate you could practically start buying houses with a few clicks of a mouse and stroke or two of the keyboard. This clutch strikes me as a strictly in-person splurge.

Money aside, let’s talk about the bag itself. Roberto Coin is well known for its high-end jewelery, but this bag is utterly boring and, when you consider the price, actually a bit atrocious. What you get for $100k is a gold and diamond bracelet attached to a gaudy gold leather clutch. Is that the best we can do?

I have no doubt the bracelet attachment is lovely. But no matter how much I love a good handbag, I doubt I’d ever opt for 18kt gold. To make matters worse, Roberto Coin made sure to splash its gaudy, diamond-encrusted initials front and center so that all your friends can judge you for how much money you wasted. Pretty much, this ridiculous evening bag is a waste of good leather, gold and diamonds. More info via Roberto Coin.

Look to Prada for the perfect summer-to-fall transition

Can you believe that we’re already about halfway through August? I can’t, but I walked past a store yesterday and saw a fall jacket that I liked so much that I bought it in two colors, realizing only afterward that I’d be able to wear them far sooner than I had originally thought.

This would probably be the place to say something profound about the inescapable march of time, but I’d much rather talk about the Prada Glace Calf Degradé Top Handle, a design for which my feelings are profound in an entirely different way. Carry this bag now, carry it in six months, it’ll look good 365 days per year.

Over the past year or two, I’ve developed a deep appreciation for what Prada does with its accessories. The brand makes the best nondescript everyday bags in the industry, bar none, which isn’t the kind of compliment I’m wont to throw around without merit. Prada’s accessories always provide a signature minimal counterpoint to Miuccia’s often dazzling runway clothes; think of them as an anchor.

In that sense, this bag is par for the Prada course. But with the lovely grey color variation, functional shape and gorgeous leather, I’m not sure how this bag could be par for anything. It’s the kind of purchase you won’t regret because you’ll be too busy not only using the bag, but also accepting compliments from envious friends and strangers alike. Buy through Saks for $2050.

Versace pulls from its brand heritage for an ornately printed clutch

Versace Baroque Printed Bag, $995 via Net-a-Porter

I’m as hard on Versace as anyone, but I like to think of it as a tough love situation. I talk smack because I want the brand to improve its handbags, not because I take any particular delight in its struggles. Although I have to admit, some of the company’s past bags have been almost delightfully bad, so there may have been a modicum of enjoyment on my part.

Versace may have turned the corner, though. The past couple seasons of ready-to-wear have been intriguing, and during the same period of time, I’ve noticed a conspicuous and considerable lack of Versace purses that make me want to throw a small fit. Not to mention that I actually like the Versace Baroque Printed Bag in all of its pattern-on-pattern glory.

This bag works for a few reasons. First, mixed patterns are having a moment in fashion right now, so the maximal look of brocade on leopard seems relevant in the context of current trends. Second, these two patterns in particular have a very “Versace” look to them, which results in a successful balance of brand identity and modern fashion ideas. Third, the bag isn’t very big. When an item is ornate and mixes several bold elements, a smaller scale tends to be kinder to the finished look. As is usual with Versace, I think the price is a tad steep for a simply structured felt bag with only leather trim, but for the first time in a long time, that’s the only trepidation I have. Buy through Net-a-Porter for $995.

Donna Karan goes ladylike for fall with her Liaison Bag

Over the past few days, New York’s hot summer nights felt a bit of a cool down and there was a slight tinge of fall in the air. As a lover of autumn, my excitement level for the coming season multiplied exponentially. I’ve been planning additions to my fall wardrobe for a while, and one of the staples we should all have in our accessories closet is a ladylike frame bag.

Donna Karan is aware of seasonal staples and appears to have designed the Liaison bag with feminine, chic, and efficient ladies in mind. Donna Karan bags follow closely to the brands overall feel, composing of luxe materials in a sculpted and subdued fashion.

While I’m not typically drawn to brown bags, there is something quintessentially perfect about a deep brown leather bag as the weather cools down. Cream, camel, and brown tones look both classic and fashionable. I imagine carrying the brown calf version and pairing it with the perfect wide leg pant and button up blouse. Simplicity in color and style leaves you with a stand-out outfit.

The Liaison bag draws attention because of its glossy resin bar at the closure along with the top handle. The design comes in both a small and large size, both of which are available in a variety of materials and colors. I also love the dimensionality that printed crocodile brings to an otherwise simple bag. Small for $2495 and large printed for $2595 via Donna Karan online.

The Marc by Marc Jacobs Leather Messenger Bag

Marc by Marc Jacobs Leather Messenger Bag, $480 via Mr. Porter

The resistance to man bags that I most often hear from my straight male friends is that they’re too feminine and too expensive. I think that the “feminine” thing is totally BS – no one’s suggesting that a dude carry a purse, and stereotypically masculine options abound for anyone who’s concerned. Men have carried bags for ages, this isn’t some kind of new metrosexual trend we have here.

The price-consciousness, however, makes a little more sense. Most men aren’t used to the price levels of luxury goods, which is why the Marc by Marc Jacobs Leather Messenger Bag is the focus of this week’s Man Bag Monday. With a non-fussy design and a price that rings up under $500, it’s the perfect gift choice for the boyfriend or husband who’s new to the accessories world.

$500 seems to be something of a psychological tipping point. Even men who are only passingly interested in what they wear can likely understand why a sizable, well-made leather bag that will weather daily use costs a few hundred dollars. This Marc by Marc Jacobs piece is neutral and modern without being obviously “designed” or too fashion-forward for men who might be experiencing some man bag trepidation; the brand marking is small and tonal, as is the hardware.

Not only that, but this design is fairly ageless. It has a note of youth to it, but it’s not so pronounced that a man well in to middle age couldn’t carry it without looking like a striver. With a reasonable price point and such a strong look, I can only wish that more MbMJ women’s bags were this well done. Buy through Mr. Porter for $480.

Check out the vintage Hermes sale at Moda Operandi

Images via Moda Operandi

Some days, talking about trends and design and the fashion industry just seems a little strenuous, particularly first thing in the morning. Today was starting to feel like one of those days, which calls for some totally gratuitous eye candy. Luckily, online trunk sale pioneer Moda Operandi is currently offering a generous selection of gorgeous vintage Hermes bags, and even though the sale is only open to Moda members, we have all the pictures.

The Hermes pieces range in price from $4,950 for a slightly worn leather Kelly bag to $79,900 for a rare, pristine Himalayan crocodile Birkin, which has evidently already been snapped up by an enthusiastic collector. The selection of croc, alligator and ostrich is truly impressive and ranges from the expected neutrals to brights like lovely vert anis green, and there are also a few nontraditional bags with a mixture of leather and printed canvas. Take a look for yourself after the jump, or if you’ve got deep pockets, shop the sale via Moda Operandi through tomorrow.

Diane von Furstenberg bags continue to impress

Diane von Furstenberg transitioned so flawlessly into the world of handbags that every designer trying to follow suit should take note. Not only did DvF bags quickly gather attention from department stores and shoppers alike, but they’re also easy to spot on the streets of New York. The latter part is the most important; a designer not only wants his or her designs to be recognized, but also to be worn.

I have professed my love for my two DvF Stephanie Hobos countless times (here here here) and now my DvF love is being geared toward the Elaine line of bags. Amanda already covered the Shoulder Bag, and today I want to share the DvF Elaine Festival Crossbody with you.

The Elaine line will undoubtedly offer countless sizes and options for every fashionista out there, but I am set on this iteration in particular. I love the classic appearance of the design paired with the long shoulder strap and tassel detail. Also, great news for those that don’t always love the extra tassel flair: This one is removable. For some reason, the idea of black pebble leather is not nearly as alluring as the tan luggage leather shown. Buy via Neiman Marcus for $475.