There have been days in the not-so-distant past where I have considered scrapping my 10-year plan, moving to Italy, and opening a one-woman tannery — if only to bring one perfect work bag into existence.
Those days typically landed on the ones where I was trying to fit a change of clothes for the gym, sneakers, a water bottle, wallet, notebook, and a 13″ laptop into a bag that didn’t invite outright hatred from other public transportation riders.
It was much harder to find a stylish, affordable, and smart work bag than I thought it should be. I wanted versatility of design and color, high-end materials, and a compact design. Due to its ability to markedly improve five out of seven days of the week, I was even willing to spend a considerable chunk of money on the right one.
I realize now, after working at Insider Picks for a little over a year, that it wasn’t so much that these companies and bags didn’t exist as much as it was that I simply had not discovered them yet. I had been fishing around at my usual haunts and in department stores, and I was underwhelmed by the selection or overwhelmed by the price.
But thanks to feedback from coworkers and the high-volume of inventive startups that Insider Picks reviews, I’ve been able to cherry-pick five brands that are making the kind of bags I wish I had known about. The list ranges from cult-favorites like Everlane to Instagram sensations like Senreve to trailblazers like Dagne Dover, and hidden gems like Leatherology. Hopefully, you’ll be happy to have a smaller, better list to browse, if you know one or none of the startups below.
The company’s bags are made from 100% Italian leather and their strength lies in their simplicity and spaciousness. You won’t be getting all the bells and whistles of a higher-priced bag, but for those of us content to stuff the majority of our things into a beautiful, soft leather bag for a fraction of competitors’ prices, simplicity will be just fine.
Luxury bag company Senreve might have already popped up on your Instagram feed sometime in the last few months, but just in case it hasn’t, the first thing you should know about the startup is that it means business about old-school quality.
Aside from the distinctively new-age feel of their geometric designs, Senreve bags are making waves for being created in Italy by craftsmen who have been working with top luxury brands for over 50 years. Each is made from water-resistant genuine Italian leather and a supple, stain-resistant micro-suede material on the interior.
The company is also making each bag more versatile. The Maestra, for example, can be worn as a satchel, tote, crossbody, or backpack. It also comes in 14 colors.