18 Luxury Designer Tote Brands That Offer Real Bags For Life
Today's tote bags are a functional extension of your wardrobe, so we’ve curated the high-end designer brands making the best versions in 2024.
Of all the bags and carryalls ever designed, the tote must be one of the simplest. An open sack with a handle stitched on either side, it’s most often constructed from canvas, jute or a technical fabric such as nylon. If good design is the simplification of form and function, then it’s no surprise that virtually every household on the planet will own some sort of tote bag.
The origins go back to around the 16th century, with the first known publication of the term ‘tote bag’ somewhere at the turn of the 19th century. Given that the German word for bag or sack is ‘tute’, we can probably hazard a guess that it was those enterprising northern Europeans who came up with it, but today it’s as ubiquitous an item as there ever was.
LL Bean is largely credited for popularising the style in the 60s when it created an ice-carrying tote, and since then the tote’s modus operandi has been as a conduit of utility, helping us taxi groceries and whatever else to and fro. Since sustainability has become so important, the tote has gained even more prominence as an alternative to plastic bags, although the efficacy of this swap is now being questioned.
What few people foresaw was the tote as moniker of fashion and signifier of luxury tastes, but an elevated species of tote has emerged which is exactly that. In some cases, a designer tote can be the single biggest driver of a brand’s seasonal sales.
Of course, this is not the cheap, flimsy canvas style with a flaky logo print we’re talking about, but instead a much more exalted iteration that uses fine fabrics such as leather and suede, and is designed to house tech accessories and business accoutrements rather than a loaf of bread and a cauliflower.
From specialist luxury bag makers to lauded designer fashion houses, this upmarket travel tote has become an easy fashion flex, and a very useful accessory to accentuate one’s look, too.
The behemoth that is Louis Vuitton – the pride of the LVMH group – has built its name on luxury luggage and bag making so it should come as no surprise that the Parisian house has plenty of tasty morsels on the tote front.
Almost all of them come crafted from the brand’s heritage Monogram or Damier canvas as well as signature House leathers. There’s nothing shy or retiring about them, but will be right up your street if you are partial to some logomania.
Look out for collaborations, such as the recent Louis Vuitton x Yayoi Kusama collection, which featured the Sac Plat tote daubed with the latter’s signature splodges.
Almost without fail, Spanish luxury house Loewe produces the ‘bag of the season’ pretty much every other season. Creative Director JW Anderson just has that knack of knowing what’s going to be iconic when it comes to bags, not least totes.
With a vast and eclectic collection, there’s something to love for every kind of discerning fashion hunter, from classic minimalist calfskin styles to fluoro paper calfskin shoppers, as well as totes displaying the brand’s signature anagram jacquard.
Not all of JW Anderson’s spoils are poured in Loewe, though. He keeps some of the good stuff for himself too.
Although he started out designing menswear for his eponymous brand, it’s his tote bags that have grown to become an entire sub-set of fashion themselves. Styles such as the Cabas and Bumper 31 are perfect resortwear accessories, while the more creative knotted totes are ones to make heads turn.
The Belt tote is the signature iteration however, available in an array of felt tones and featuring the JW anchor logo with leather details.
Even though they’ve been ripped off to the nth degree and plundered on every Mediterranean beach for the last five years, there’s no denying that Goyard’s leather totes have been one of the most sought-after bags of recent times.
A simple design executed in soft supple leather and hand-finished, the craftsmanship is exquisite. Available in a broad spectrum of colours, the Maison Goyard tote still sets the bar for iconic accessories.
Since Kim Jones stepped up to take on the Creative Director role at Dior Men, the menswear collections have become far more contemporary, and the bags have followed suit.
Dior produces only four dedicated men’s totes, which includes a beautiful calfskin leather saddle tote with palladium-coated brass hardware and the maison’s oblique jacquard monogram pattern.
Although the womenswear totes get all the column inches, you’re in luck because they are very much unisex styles. The emblematic Dior Book tote comes in four sizes and myriad embroidered floral designs, as well as the aforementioned jacquard styles.
Fendi’s small but perfectly formed collection of men’s tote bags is predictably discerning. The Italian luxury brand is famed for its craftsmanship, which is neatly exemplified in its tote bags.
Foremost among them are the leather shopper styles, made from full-grain leather, with a 3D-effect Fendi Roma logo, and available in beige and black.
The Vertical tote is the label’s classic tall style, made from leather and a technical cotton canvas FF motif fabric.
You probably haven’t heard of Philip Karto, but the American creative is quickly making a name for himself in the incredibly niche bag customisation world. Bored of the Louis Vuitton bag that he had borrowed from his mother, Karto decided to paint it in 2017, which was the first domino towards starting his own business.
Today, Karto takes vintage bags (some over 30 years old), dismantles them entirely, cleans them up, replaces their leather pieces with sustainable snake or crocodile, and swaps out the steel hardware for 925 sterling silver.
Specialising in Louis Vuitton, Hermès and Goyard, his totes are quite brilliant and literally one of a kind.
American designer Thom Browne is best known for his shrunken tailoring, but he’s also made a name for himself in bag design, most notably the styles shaped as animals. But he produces ‘normal’ bags too, of which his totes are among the best.
From preppy striped canvas totes to his Mr Thom felt tote with piping details, via a number of pebble grain calfskin options, what they all have in common is a smart playfulness that you can accessorise your luxury suit collection with.
The Italian minimalist best known for its stark silhouettes and predominantly black colour palette has always been a leader in accessories, and its tote bags perpetuate this trend.
Foremost among them is the classic leather tote which comes in a voluminous size and is embossed with the Prada triangle logo. The Saffiano tote is a smaller version better suited to smarter attire, while the new Symbole tote is a canvas style with a modernist geometric pattern that references the early trunks designed by founder Mario Prada.
Gucci’s tote collection still has Alessandro Michele’s fingerprints all over it. Classic interlocking ‘G’ pattern totes with leather details provide the assured backdrop for more flamboyant designs in the shape of the Diana tote, which comes in a number of iterations, all with vintage-inspired cane handles.
Also look out for the two models that make up the extremely collectible Adidas x Gucci collaboration, which is sure to be a sell out.
Given that Saint Laurent’s menswear collections rarely deviate from the glamorous all-black signature look it has become so renowned for, you don’t need two guesses to figure out what its bag collection comprises of.
Saint Laurent’s totes are deliciously dark and leathery, with the occasional splash of beige and tan. From large smooth leather styles with the Rive Gauche logo embossed on the side, to canvas options with leather trimming, and super-minimal options in grained leather, all of them are invariably chic and sophisticated.
Luxury shoemaker Ferragamo is also a dab hand at bag making. Its leather-working knowhow transfers well to the world of bags, and Ferragamo has applied its aesthetic excellence well, producing a fine line of suede calfskin totes in a variety of different bold colours, as well as smooth calfskin options in the form of a minimal deconstructed shopping tote, and canvas ‘1927’ styles with the Ferragamo logo drawn on the side.
Milanese luxury bag specialist Serapian has been producing stunning works of beautiful leather ever since it was founded in 1928. It’s one of those IYKYK brands, quietly going about business with a discerning customer base that loves its stealth wealth.
The totes, then, are of course exceptional, with the ‘Secret Tote’ in cachemire leather being a great luxury option for everyday use, as it’s more weekender bag size than a typical shopping bag. Our favourite however is the Vertical Secret Tote, which is more in-line with shopping bag dimensions, and features handles that pinch the bag to create a shape akin to soft pleats.
It comes in the brand’s ‘Stepan’ coated canvas, a sturdy and water-resistant material with an all-over S-etching detail that was first trademarked in the mid-seventies and remains an exclusive house emblem.
When Balenciaga isn’t making the news for all the wrong reasons, it is assuredly producing some of the most avant-garde garments and accessories in the industry. We might scoff at a calfskin bag made to look like a domestic trash bag, but it’s that kind of artistic creativity that has kept the label on everyone’s radar since Demna joined.
Outrageous (read: ridiculous) designs aside, the luxury brand has produced some stunning tote bags, such as the tough looking Army tote, and the undeniably chic Explorer tote in black lambskin.
Dolce & Gabbana
If you like a liberal sprinkling of logomania on top of your tote bags then the handiwork of Italian maestros Dolce & Gabbana will tick all the boxes. Their tote collection is as extensive as it is eclectic, but what ties it all together is the solid branding.
The most out-there totes come constructed in denim patchwork or leopard print coated cotton canvas with leather details, while the more subtle options are crafted from either soft calfskin or canvas with an embossed logo.
Valextra was founded in 1937 by Italian Giovanni Fontana and the Milan-based brand has retained an exceptional reputation for leather working ever since.
The totes, which are designed to be unisex, are on another level, elegantly and playfully displaying the label’s geometric aesthetic for clean sharp lines.
Although leather is Valextra’s main medium, the totes come in an array of soft felt shapes, as well as canvas, providing stunning everyday bags with a decidedly elevated twist.
With the playful graphic treatments that Hermès has become so renowned for, the exquisite French luxury brand produces a number of handcrafted totes each season, using leather from its own tanneries.
The Pursangle totes are constructed from military-grade canvas with leather handles and trim, and subtly display the ‘H’ logo, while the Etriviere bag is a more voluminous option made from canvas, cowhide and goatskin.
The Italian leather specialist is best known for its trademark woven style that it calls ‘intrecciato’, which features across its entire bag and small leather goods collections. The technique creates a luxurious artisanal aesthetic, which is perfectly played out across a range of stunning calfskin leather totes with bonded suede linings.
The small vertical shoppers are perfectly proportioned, the larger Arco styles have more of a business attitude, while the Cabat and Cube totes are more sizable and casual, but nonetheless high end.