Fashion

5 summer-ready designer handbags for under £300

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Grace Cook
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Luxury handbags for under £300 are far and few between, but Stylist has rounded up the best and they’re ready to shop this summer.

A bag is arguably the most important accessory in our wardrobes. Not only does the humble handbag store your daily essentials — so you’d be pretty lost without it — but a bag adds the finishing touch that sets the whole mood of a look. A statement colour-pop bag dresses up a look; a tiny bag denotes an air of efficiency — this is a woman who can pack everything into a bag that small.

A designer bag was once a super-luxury item, with a price tag that rolled towards the £1000s. But thankfully, the boom in the contemporary brand — where items rarely retail beyond the £500 sweet spot — has led to a birth in new labels offering premium leather goods at a fraction of the cost of a bag from a heritage label. 

There’s a plethora of such bag brands on the market now, identified by their directional silhouettes, cute colour palettes and affordable price tags. Instagram has fuelled the boom — remember a few summer’s ago, when Cult Gaia appeared as if out of nowhere and has dominated our Insta-feeds ever since? The brand’s Noah’s Ark bag, a spherical half-moon made from bamboo, single-handedly overhauled the bag market as we know it today. Designers realised bags with a sense of aesthetic resonance were what garnered likes, and sales. 

Cult Gaia has since graduated from bamboo to leather, much to the happiness of its loyal clientele wanting a style that extended beyond the summer season. Because, let’s face it, we don’t all want to carry a basket bag every day — a sartorial fact that becomes trickier the closer we edge towards the warmer months, when the majority of shops are offering canvas, cotton or raffia bags. 

Thankfully, our favourite, affordable luxury brands are offering us summer-ready bags in supple leathers that work just as well with summer outfits as they do with autumn palettes.

Here, we round up the best leather bags to buy now.

Dragon Diffusion

Shopping: leather bags for under £300 — Dragon Diffusion

Part tote, part basket, this woven leather bag by Dragon Diffusion is an ideal choice for summer days in the city. Big enough to fit in all manner of work things like a notebook, iPad or tiny Macbook, this bag gives the impression of a carefree wicker style but with the sturdyness of a leather style. 

Perfect worn with light-coloured tailored trousers and easy summer linens — the woven texture won’t overwhelm breezy summer fabrics, while the two-tone check will make it suitable for use in autumn, too. 

Dragon Diffusion Cannage woven tote, £285, Net-a-Porter

Staud

Shopping: leather bags under £300 — Staud

Does anything scream summer quite like this pale pistachio hue? Conjuring up images of pastelly ice creams eaten beachside, this tiny Staud bag is big enough to fit in the basic essentials — think phone, keys, lipstick and bank card. 

With a lizard-effect leather, we love it carried with the grab-top handle, but it gets bonus points for the detachable shoulder strap for easy wearing. Perfect worn with crisp white jeans and a lightweight checked blazer. 

Staud Mini Bissett bag, £270, Selfridges

Cult Gaia

Shopping: leather bags under £300 — Cult Gaia

Following on from the Insta-fame of its bamboo bags, US brand Cult Gaia bring us the delicious Astraea bag — the sculptural silhouette reminds us more of a piece of pottery than it does a bag, while the geometric gold handle reinforces the artistic message. With a clever wrap-over fastening, this bag is big enough to store the basic essentials — but what it lacks in size it makes up for in style. 

Cult Gaia Astraea bag, £235, Lane Crawford

Nanushka

Shopping: leather bags under £300 — Nanushka

Remember that tan leather trench dress doing the rounds on Instagram earlier this year, when basically every fashion editor stepped out in it at the shows in February? Well it was by Nanushka, and it wasn’t leather at all — but vegan leather. The Hungarian brand brings its staple textile to bags this season — we love the drawstring element on this sophisticated fan silhouette. Bonus points: it also comes with a detachable strap to turn it into cross body. 

Nanushka Lynne croc-effect tote, £285, Net-a-Porter

By Far

Shopping: leather bags under £300 — By Far

A black bag doesn’t normally scream summer, but sometimes a simple yet sophisticated monotone bag is the perfect accompaniment to warm weather outfits. This 90s-inspired dinky design, crafted from satin and a croc leather, has a slouchy top and a shoulder-length strap that looks just as good worn over the arm as it does carried. Its smaller size also makes it ideal for wearing with light fabrics and beige silks for summer evenings — pair with simple flat sandals and sunglasses. 

By Far Jamie bag, £210, Net-a-Porter