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I maintain a rather comprehensive criteria for new accessories, particularly handbags. Whether it's a timeless design from a heritage label or a striking silhouette from an emerging brand, a bag has to meet four specific attributes for my essential, go-to styles. Do I pick up the occasional novelty or trendy accessory, here and there? Absolutely. But I don't typically consider those to be as investment-worthy as ones I reach for regularly.
As an accessory enthusiast—and a fashion writer of 12+ years—I've dabbled in many a trend, carried many a bag, and encountered more than a few disappointing carryalls, enough to help me identify the attributes that distinguish a great bag from a so-so one. In that time, I've also gone from a regular fashion show attendee to a working new mom, a transformation which has led me to appreciate functionality as much as aesthetics in any new bag purchase.
All of this brings me to my latest obsession: Cole Haan's Quilted Tote Bag from the label's new Quilted bag collection. This sumptuously soft tote has ascended the ranks of my most used bags because it fulfills all the items on that checklist. Here they are below—feel free to crib them, add to them, or redefine them to create your very own guideline to finding the perfect bag.
Longevity. This is first pre-qualifier in every daily bag I buy. If I'm at all concerned about growing tired of a design after one season, it's a "no." Instead, I look for elements that will unquestionably stand the test of time—a neutral color, versatile shape, or both. Beyond looks, construction has a lot to do with meeting this benchmark. Premium materials ensure a bag can handle what my routine throws at it. The pillowy, yet durable, noir Napa leather of this Cole Haan design definitely fits that description. Moreover, the washable nylon interior makes the makeup stains, crumbs, and beverage leaks that invariably transpire within my most-used bags far less painless to clean.
Styling. Aesthetically, my taste skews classic, but with contemporary details to add freshness. The puff design of this pliable silhouette (a trend seen on multiple designer runways lately) delivers an element of coolness without feeling too current. Clean lines and minimal adornment elegantly counterbalance each other for aesthetic harmony that indeed sings.
Space. In a luxurious, do-it-all bag, proportion and structure are of great importance. I need enough space to fit my laptop (*sigh*, I'm always toting it)—but not so much that I get lost searching for other items within the interior's confines. Measuring about 9.5 inches tall and 12 inches wide, this quilted Cole Haan carryall is what I like to call succinctly roomy. It offers the perfect amount of space I require for regular use without weighing me down.
Organization. I've found that a few well-placed interior pockets which allow me to locate my most-reached-for items (phone, keys, lip balm) without looking are game-changers—and this downy design delivers. I'm not one for exterior pockets; I get too nervous I'll lose something significant. And I don't want anything too floppy for fear of damage to my laptop, or valuables spilling out whenever I put my bag down. On the flip side, if a pocket or flap is too rigid, the leather can feel stiff and inflexible. Finding the perfect medium is a tall order, but this multi-wear design checks each box and some, going from top-handle to cross-body with ease—I love carrying options.
Even though this is my perfect go-to bag, I'd never expect one tote to keep me covered every day. There are times when I crave more ladylike elegance, and others when I need maximum hands-freeness for efficiency's sake. Cole Haan's quilted collection has me covered in both cases, with the Quilted Shoulder Bag and Grand Ambition Small Convertible Puff Backpack next on my to-buy list. However your preferences line up, each bag within this collection is unquestionably one to invest in.
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