The Daily Telegraph - Saturday - The Telegraph Magazine

Lisa Armstrong Big bags that pack a luxe punch


1. Curved leather bag, £159, Arket (

2. Printed leather Portobello tote, £897 (down from £1,495), Mulberry (

3. Leather and nylon canvas bucket bag, £315, Soeur (

4. Large woven leather tote, £345, Dragon Diffusion (

5. Raffia and leather bag, £425, Demellier (demellierl­

6. Recycled-plastic tote, £695, Anya Hindmarch (anyahindma­

7. Striped tote, £160, Jigsaw x Collagerie (

8. White Suede Satin Matte Lip Colour in Shameless, £44, Tom Ford (

LISA WEARS Wool-blend jumper, and wool-blend trousers, from a selection, Toteme (matchesfas­ Synthetic tote bag, £795, Nanushka ( Leather mules, £325, Dear Frances (dearfrance­ Jewellery, Lisa’s own

I never thought I’d write this after the last time we were tyrannised by socking great bags – circa 2012 – but I like this Big Bag Outfit.

Nanushka’s floppy black tote, with its crochet stitching, certainly adds shape and interest to a pared-back look. If you’ve ever felt your outfit needed some je ne sais quoi but never succeeded in draping the jumper round your neck or shoulder-robing the jacket in a way that didn’t make you feel like a berk, then maybe you, a bright lipstick (try Tom Ford’s Shameless), matching nails and a big bag could be kismet.

At any rate, the tote attracted lots of attention on the shoot. It happens to be a great bag – light, capacious, wipe-down, with press studs and a tie to stop everything falling out. All considerat­ions to put on your list if you’re looking. It’s synthetic, so it won’t biodegrade at the end of its life, unlike leather. But given its price, you’d hope it lasts for decades. It folds flat for storage, courtesy of its origami design so it’s pretty much an ideal travel companion and for those who don’t want to wear anything made from animals, it’s the dream.

Do I want to carry it around all the time? Nope, especially if you’re used to carrying a small, neat bag – it’s enjoyably liberating to discover you don’t always need to schlep the kitchen sink around. But this is a good time to invest in a tote-sized bag for those times they’re necessary.

If you don’t want leather, the options are increasing. Anya Hindmarch makes a virtue of using recycled plastic in her jolly ‘I am a plastic bag’ line of totes. Plantbased compositio­ns – mainly mushroom or apple at the moment – weren’t heard of back in 2012. Now they’re the focus of developmen­t at top-notch fashion conglomera­tes such as LVMH (Louis Vuitton, Dior, Stella Mccartney ) and Kering (Gucci, Saint Laurent, Alexander Mcqueen). They’re pricey but you’re paying for striking design and thoughtful details.

Alternativ­ely, since Dior introduced its runaway canvas hit back in 2018, structured woven totes have been everywhere. Comfortabl­e and roomy, their downside is the lack of fastenings, but stowing loose bits in pouches solves most of that problem.

For some, only leather will do, which has the added benefit that good leather can be endlessly repaired. If you’re also concerned about the environmen­tal effects of tanning and dyeing, the Portobello, featured here, is Mulberry’s first 100 per cent sustainabl­e bag and, like most upmarket bag sellers, Mulberry also offers a repair service on its leather goods.

For more accessibly priced big bags with classy touches such as top stitching, well-finished interiors and quality hardware, Strathberr­y, based in Edinburgh, and Demellier in London are good starting points. On the high street, Cos, Arket (see the curved bag that sits ergonomica­lly against the body, above), Sézane and Jigsaw do an excellent job.

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