Shane Watson: Is this the last straw for leather handbags?

How to dress like a grown up with Shane Watson: Is this the last straw for leather handbags?

  • Shane Watson shared her advice for embracing this season’s straw bag trend 
  • She took inspiration from Olivia Palermo and Bella Hadid on the Miu Miu catwalk
  • British style expert revealed a selection of High Street stores offering the look 

Lately, in the ongoing conversation about What We Really Can Do Without Now, leather handbags have come pretty high up the list.

Admittedly, this has yet to be properly tested. Once we’re back to weddings and lunches and city mini-breaks, a little leather top-handle handbag may be exactly what we want. But I’m not so sure.

Even before All This, there had been a distinct shift away from luxury leather, buckles and chains, and towards bags with less to prove; lighter, more playful bags — bags with bags of character.

Last summer, fashion-conscious women were heading to work in the city with straw basket bags, sometimes decorated or multicoloured.

British style expert Shane Watson, shared her advice for embracing this season’s straw bag trend as seen on Olivia Palermo (pictured)

My fashion-editor friend went everywhere with a striped straw bag that she could have bought in a market in Rome (in fact, she’d gone no further than Kate Spade). ‘It makes me smile,’ she said, when I asked why she wasn’t carrying her usual polished leather, heavily branded, oversized bag.

And that was back when, it turns out, we didn’t have a care in the world. In unsettling times, you’re even more likely to want a bag that puts a spring in your step.

They do feel right for now — summery, practical, casual, the opposite of flash. The secret with this bag is to make sure it’s a bit different, and too well-turned-out to be a beach holdall, or something you bought in a market in Ibiza last summer.

Obviously steer clear of anything embroidered with the word ‘cabana’ or parrots, and plain straw shoppers.

All the big-name designers are sold on this new style of ‘elevated’ basket bags. Fendi does an X-Tote (£3,100, with gold hardware and leather handles, should you be looking for inspiration, and Ferragamo’s hand-woven multicoloured raffia handbag (a snip at £1,151, is top of the rich list.

Shane advises opting for straw bags with leather handles for a smart look. Pictured: Bella Hadid for Miu Miu

A lot more affordable, and not unlike the fashion editor’s pick, is Claudie Pierlot’s striped straw bag (£77.50, claudie with a fringe top and leather handles. Kate Spade does something similar in a dark and sky-blue stripe (£124,

Leather handles are the secret to keeping a straw bag extra smart, while fringe tops are the summer 2020 ‘Yes I am a handbag’ detail, so these cover all bases.


  • Leather handles keep a straw bag smart.
  • Look for stylish extras such as stripes or a frayed edge.
  • Avoid beach-holiday details, including pom poms and embroidery.
  • Go for medium-sized bags, not giant ones.

Still, if you’re prepared to pay a bit, I would head straight to Vanessa Bruno. Whatever your regular taste in bags, there’s a riff on it in raffia.

You might like a mini raffia moon bag (£295, vanessa with a chain strap and shocking pink fringe trim. It reminds me of one of those decorative Fendi Baguettes from the mid-1990s. Or, if you’re more of a leather pouch sort, the label’s raffia and calfskin Holly bag (£295) fits the bill.

My favourite is the cotton and raffia cabas tote in natural and green (£295), which is practical but a bit show- offy, too. And, when it comes to matching shoes, if you escape the website without adding the raffia slingback flat sandals to your basket (£255), you’ll be proud of yourself.

Also right at the top of the smart straw tote charts are Tory Burch’s bags. The sleekest, the straw Perry Nano (£357,, comes with a brown leather shoulder strap and black leather top handles, and looks like something Jackie Kennedy might have carried around Martha’s Vineyard.

Shane recommends going for straw bags with extras such as stripes or a frayed edge. Pictured: Reese Witherspoon 

There are plenty of classic top-handle snap fasteners, such as Mirta’s raffia and cotton bag in bright blue (£229,, which is undeniably cute. But for me a proper handbag in raffia is missing the point of this easy breezy bag moment.

At the other end of the scale, plain basket bags — especially the bigger ones — can look a bit like you are lugging around your home storage. If you’re going for plain, make sure there’s a detail that takes it up a notch. Whistles’ round straw fringe tote (£59, is a good example.

It doesn’t have to be straw, either. Anything woven — crochet, macramé, cotton — fits the bill this summer. A red macramé shopper (£45, or a lime crochet tote bag (£45, have the smile factor.

And your woven bag can clash with your outfit as much as you like. Nobody cares.

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