Despite what a lot of YouTube videos will tell you, you don’t have to resort to dupes to find a bag on the high street that looks expensive. In fact, the more it mimics an in-demand designer style, the worse it looks. I’m going to share with you my tips and tricks on how to find expensive looking high street bags that will last and won’t break the bank.


    To shine or not to shine?

    That polished finish on a bag can be a dangerous game to play. Get it right and you look like you’ve bagged yourself a luxe piece but on the other hand, nothing says ‘tacky’ more than a surface that actually looks… sticky. Patent ‘leather’ however, although not currently a 2019 trend, is a very different story. Let’s revisit when it’s back in season and there are enough examples available to purchase.

    Luxury examples


    Good high street finishes


    Bad high street versions of a finish


    Take a look at the different shine surfaces from these accessible pieces. Not cute. They look tired and inexpensive – worst of all, these are likely to scratch easily because of their coating. Unlike clothing, it’s harder to determine the material composition of handbags and even in this instance, real leather doesn’t necessarily equate to quality.


    (Mock) Croc and snake skins

    Somehow, mock crocodile skin always looks expensive, even more so now as many luxury labels are shunning the use of exotic skins and furs, and retailers are turning their back on stocking these materials. Snakeskin not so much, most likely because of the gaudy colours that many retailers are opting for in the name of a 90’s Spice Girls revival.

    Luxury examples


    Good high street versions of faux skins


    Keeping the sizes micro, the faux skin is more of an eye-catching statement than a sign of bad taste. Just don’t use the horrible hardwear that comes with ASOS’s vintage-inspired brown edition.


    Bad high street examples


    It’s not just size to keep in mind, look at the handles, shape and lining of these examples.

    Weave bags

    Hot for summer, variations might include braided and woven leather strips, even straw or raffia designs. The material doesn’t matter so much as the way it fits together. The go-to for such a look is classically Bottega Veneta. But after their new collection that’s taken a change of direction and has been bleeding dry wallets everywhere, look to Loewe for inspiration. Cult Gaia on the other hand, is an example of how the boho take on the woven bag can still look elegant.


    Luxury examples


    Good high street woven bags


    Charles and Keith is more successful than not if you’re looking for uber stylish pieces for a low price. The company is part owned by LVMH, meaning that you’ll find a lot of similarities in the silhouettes from this Singaporean retailer and the likes of Loewe and Givenchy. Luxury design is in their DNA, although as always, check the trimmings and details of each piece.


    Bad high street examples


    If you didn’t think you could find an undesirable straw bag after many seasons of their reign, think again. The problem with these examples is proportion for the left, and the strap for the right.


    Box bags

    Usually favoured as an evening bag, the unconventional trend towards oddly-shaped bags means that boxy clutches and crossbody styles are making a comeback. Best known for this is Mark Cross, who delivers ultra-sleek versions or Aspinal of London with their everyday sling bags.


    Luxury examples

    Good high street box bags

    Bad high street examples


    With box bags, always look at the closure. Is it clunky in proportion to what is typically a ‘mini bag’? The takeaway-style version from Topshop on the right looks cute at a glance, but this is not an evergreen style. Neither is it kitsch enough to warrant novelty investment status, like a Kate Spade design would.

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    21st July 2019
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