With the majority of the world still living, working, or going to school from the comfort of their homes over the past year, the need for a brand new handbag has been slim to none. With that being said, we’re starting to shift our focus from a constant rotation of reusable grocery totes to cooler, indie-founded bag brands that are already taking the internet by storm. Plus, they’ve all only launched within the past two years, with some as recent as the beginning of 2021.
From Ciriaco’s signature mini bags that sell out as soon as they drop to brands like XO Gogo, OMW, and Santos by Monica spotted all over Instagram, these up-and-coming brands hold more meaning than just being a stylish accessory. Take designer Brandon Blackwood, for example, who found the best way to speak up during a racially-charged summer was by dropping his now-iconic ESR (End Systematic Racism) Tote in a wide range of colors, textures, and patterns.
Whether it’s through sustainable practices, shaking up the system, or seamlessly turning a functional bag into something that’s much more fashionable, these indie brands are bound to be big during a time when we’re all thinking of what we’ll be carrying out in the world again. Read on to learn more about a few of our favorites and the people behind them.
After graduating college and wanting to truly take control over her career, Bronx-based 22-year-old Ashley Ciriaco started her own namesake brand just this year and has continuously sold out her handbags, known for their silver Ciriaco logo and slanted zipper closure, with every drop. “I wanted to bring my sketches and ideas to life and share it with the world,” the young designer tells NYLON. “I also wanted to create bags that were affordable, but yet stood out when entering a room full of the typical Louis and Prada.” And that they do. Ciriaco’s signature bag, the Ashley Minimalist Baguette, has been flaunted all over the internet, from Instagram to Twitter, with fans constantly posting up with it.
Before single-handedly changing the mini-bag game, Brooklyn native Brandon Blackwood started out right here at NYLON as an intern. Afterwards, he started working within the retail space, where he decided to create his first bag. Now, Blackwood has created two of the most sought-after bags within the last year. From the Kendrick Trunk to the conversation-starting “End Systemic Racism” Tote, his designs have solidified him as one of the hottest Black accessory designers right now. “I want to make a difference and represent,” Blackwood shares with NYLON. “I feel like taking up space in this arena is so crucial and necessary.” While each of his bags is truly a statement piece, Blackwood wants them to be functional, too. “I believe a handbag should make a statement, but should always have a purpose,” he says. “I want to make everyone's go-to bag.”
Originally from Madison, Wisconsin, and now residing in Los Angeles, Kim Christenson founded Glob to fill a need. Realizing how many people wanted to make more conscious and mindful buying decisions, Christenson started Glob to give people more access to sustainable products. “We want [Glob] to be more accessible than many of the sustainable goods out there with a lot less of the crunchy factor,” the designer tells NYLON. Describing Glob as “optimistic,” “exuberant,” and “mindfully spontaneous,” the brand that was just launched this year is all about being as sustainable as possible while still being for everyone. The reusable, packable bags are made out of recycled plastic bottles and come in a wide range of shapes, sizes, and colors for all of your toting-around needs.
For New York City native Sandy Ley, it was the phase of wearing a designer “It” bag that inspired her brand XO GOGO. A designer bag was cute and all, but not the most functional for Ley’s lifestyle, so she started making bags that served both purposes after taking night classes at the Fashion Institute of Technology. “Instead of a gigantic leather bag with tons of hardware, I wanted something cute and durable that I could wear on my bike but also not feel embarrassed if I ended up at dinner somewhere nice,” the young designer tells NYLON. Her very useful and super fun designs, from a ‘90s-inspired shoulder bag covered in daisies to a bright green mini tote, are all about embracing your personality.
Designed by 26-year-old Vancouver native Olivia Wakeham, OMW bags are all about repurposing. Describing her brand as “playful,” “thoughtful,” and “novel,” each piece is truly just that, giving you the bouncy appeal of your favorite scrunchie but still being able to carry your everyday essentials. While all of the bags are typically the same shape and style, it’s the sourcing of different materials and textures that tells the story of each bag and keeps Wakehem inspired. “I’m obsessed with hunting down new textiles to work with and seeing how they act when they’re scrunched and stretched,” she shares with NYLON. “It’s the different materials that really keeps it interesting for me and hopefully for my customers.”
Santos by Monica
It was in the middle of the pandemic when 27-year-old Puerto Rican-raised Mónica Santos Gil decided to quit her full-time corporate fashion job and to give Santos by Monica her all. Wanting to “challenge the traditions of the fashion industry,” Santos by Monica is all about creating timeless pieces that are sustainable while bringing awareness of buying practices to the forefront. The sculptural bags are made to order, available in limited quantities, and handcrafted from vegan leather. “Our mission is to minimize the impact fashion has on the environment and educate both consumers and brands alike on their contribution to waste, as a means to foster more mindful consumption,” Santos Gil shares with NYLON. “Emphasizing this and finding new ways to make sustainability a part of everything I do are what inspire me to keep going.”
Coming of Age
Founded back in 2019 by 29-year-old Amanda Lurie, Coming of Age was inspired by the designer’s own personal coming-of-age story. Born and raised in Miami and now based in Brooklyn, Lurie often finds that her environment and community keep her going. Describing Coming of Age as “playful,” “nostalgic,” and “timeless,” Lurie puts a lot of work, effort, and thought into her boxy, two-toned, and reversible pieces. Not only can they function as everyday bags, but their signature gingham prints and iridescent hues make them fashion-forward, as well. Plus, Lurie will be expanding into footwear with a debut launch of clogs in May.