Designers are enjoying a spring fling with wristlet and single strap handbags in every size, shape and colour imaginable – here's where to find the prime movers
When it comes to handbags, each season the conversation returns to size, structure and shape. This spring is no exception: there are miniscule box bags and minaudières galore, sack bags that practically dwarf the torso and all manner of far from utilitarian shapes. But straps are also sharing the limelight. Wristlets or designs with a single strap attached at one central point were shown on the catwalks by many fashion houses for the first time.
“Wrist and strap bags are emerging as serious contenders for the number one evening bag spot,” says Ida Petersson, Browns’ accessories buying manager for womenswear. “I always favour a wrist bag as it allows me to have both my hands free, and I am less likely to accidentally leave my clutch behind. Our customers are going crazy over Alaïa’s version, in particular the perforated leather in white.”
Wristlets have become a staple of Alaïa’s accessories collections. Its three Palmelato calfskin designs this season are especially striking, and ideal for daytime, too: in black, studded with the grommet eyelets that Azzedine Alaïa used in his first collections from the 1980s (£1,530); the white laser-cut style so popular at Browns (£1,790); and a new nude appliqué silhouette that has around 80 floral studs mounted by hand like a neat miniature flowerbed (£1,400).
At 82 years old, Giorgio Armani still has plenty of invention to offer – including a new wristlet in the metallic and soft Impressionist prints that ran throughout his latest collection, nicknamed Charmani. In calfskin or snakeskin with twist turn closures, it is a classic take on the wristlet, compact and boxy (from £990).
Lanvin’s new creative director Bouchra Jarrar – who stopped designing under her own name to take up the post last year – delivered her first show in September. It was full of the sharp tailoring for which she is known, and the draping that Alber Elbaz developed before her accession. Among this spring’s accessories is the fringed Chaîne by Lanvin mini drawstring bag, created by hand in an atelier near Florence.
“It has been designed to be worn like a jewellery piece on the wrist while remaining functional and powerful,” says Lanvin’s studio. “From casual handbag to evening, this shape is very feminine and delicate. It will bring the final touch to a modern and edgy silhouette.” The Chaîne channels 1970s style with ivory snakeskin and black velvet calfskin (£1,260), in shades of black with a giant gemstone-encrusted flower (£925) or elongated to a rectangle in black with electric blue side panels (£885).
Some interpretations on the wristlet are much bolder: Salvatore Ferragamo’s crocodile creation comes in a brave canary shade (POA), while Japanese designer Issey Miyake has taken his Pleats Please line in a kaleidoscopic direction with geometric and block colour pieces, sparingly punctuated by black and white. Many of his bags are attached onto unusual shapes by long wristlet cords: crinkled PVC buckets (£360), an oddly twisted and pleated number that resembles bright white coral (£275) and sporty, androgynous structural pouches (£315).
Mulberry’s creative director Johnny Coca lays often contrasting ideas of Britishness onto his designs this season, including sacks and satchels that juxtapose punk and countrified glamour in navy, oxblood and racing green. “It’s about how we can use tradition, to make it feel modern,” he says. His new Tyndale, while sporting a longer strap, was styled as an oversize wristlet-cum-bucket bag on the runway – folded in on itself at the sides, and scrunched at the top (£995). Elsewhere, Diane von Furstenberg’s geometric wristlet uses soft nappa leather in an origami-inspired style (£308).
Narciso Rodriguez – the New York designer that Michelle Obama wore at the former President’s first and last State of the Union addresses – brought an open-top bucket wristlet to the catwalk back in September. Although not destined to be produced, like the Tyndale, it showed the versatility of large wristlets.
Gone are the days of the ‘It bag’, but an unusual strap by Chloé – a large hoop bolted atop a small calf leather horseshoe – is turning heads (£1,195). “The most wanted bag of the season is the Chloé Nile bag,” says Selfridges’ accessories buying manager, Josie Gardner. “The brass gold handle encapsulates the label’s sophistication and easy-going attitude.”
Its saddle shape and suede marquetry are ready to lend an equestrian edge to a chic city look. “What I love about the Nile is that it has a dual purpose,” says Clare Waight Keller, Chloé’s creative director, who will step down at the end of March. “You can wear it cross-body, it’s got a bracelet, you can hold it in your hand.”
Although the cross-body strap can be attached at whim, Chloé recognises all too well that there is a more interesting way to hang a handbag this season – dangerously dangling.