There’s runway fashion and then there’s practical fashion. Sometimes, what’s seen on the runways might not necessarily be practical to apply to real life situations. Layering on multiple down jackets for example, makes for a cool look that definitely gets everyone talking, but doing the same in real-life could prove to be a physical hindrance. Runway concepts are often styled to create a story, and it’s up to our discretion to figure out what works best for our own personal style.
One trend that’s been quite apparent for a couple of seasons now is the resurgence of small bags in menswear. We see them in the autumn/winter 2018 collections by Louis Vuitton, Dries Van Noten, Valentino, and Fendi, just to name a few. They’re worn with everything from suits to casual streetwear-inspired outfits, and actually look like they’re quite possible to pull off.
I decided to test the practicality of the trend and challenged myself to carrying five different small bags across five days in succession. There are certain aspects of working at Esquire Singapore that you might want to take note of while you read the rest of the article. I work on an office MacBook that I almost never bring out of the office so there is no real need for me to carry a big bag in the first place. However, I do tend to bring a number of things that I have to have with me, no matter where I’m going. Unless otherwise stated in each review, the following are the essential items that I always have on hand (with the exception of my phone, which I hold on to when I’m on the move).
Day 1: Leather small Gate Frame bag, by Loewe
Agenda for the day: I had a watch spread to style in the morning, and headed to the office after to write my stories. After work, I went out to watch a movie.
What’s great about the bag: The easily accessible flap design—just slide the flap under the knotted belt to quickly secure the contents of the bag.
Best for: Guys who want to explore carrying bags from the women’s department.
When Loewe debuted the Gate bag in spring/summer 2018, I wasn’t a fan of it. The first series had contrast stitching all over the bag, which I personally felt gave the bag unnecessary visual clutter, especially on the knotted belt feature. This season’s Gate bag however, did away with the contrast stitching and added a metallic frame detail which runs along the bottom of the bag. Loewe’s Gate bag is essentially a women’s handbag but the addition of the metallic frame, gives it an edgier feel.
I had to make use of the last notches on each side of the strap for it to comfortable sit at the right height when I slung the bag across my body. In place of leather loops to secure the excess ends of the bag strap, the Gate Frame bag has metallic loops at fixed positions of the strap. This means that at the configuration that I was using it, the ends of the straps couldn’t be held down—a small caveat that I wasn’t bothered with.
The best thing about the Gate Frame bag is that I don’t have to fiddle with zips or any sort of mechanical closure to secure the bag. The flap design is easily removable (just a quick slide in and out) and makes accessing the contents a breeze.
Day 2: Leather small D-Ring bag, by Burberry
Agenda for the day: Before heading to the office, I made my rounds to some of the luxury brand offices around Orchard Road to pick up samples for a shoot. The rest of my day was spent in the office.
What’s great about the bag: It might look rather small in my hands but the multi-gussetted design can definitely hold more than that you might think possible.
Best for: Those who want a clutch that’s designed with separate compartments.
Burberry’s D-ring bag is the second women’s handbag that I picked for this experiment. Truth be told, I thought that this would be fairly easy but I only realised at the very last minute that the chain shoulder strap is a mere 30cm drop. No matter how I tried, I was not able to wear the bag as a crossbody bag; at least, without looking ridiculous. But like all great small handbags, the D-ring bag is easily adaptable as a clutch.
The bag consists of three compartments of varying capacity. Use the smallest of the three (located at the last slot) to fit in the chain strap. Or if you’re fancy, wrap the chain around your wrist. I made use of the D-ring closure to get a better grip of the bag and it was a fairly easy carry.
This is probably an extreme example of getting on the small bag trend. But who’s to say that a bag is strictly designed for a specific gender anymore? If it works for your look and fits what you need to carry around, by all means, get it. And the D-ring bag definitely fit in all that I needed with me. But if you’re looking for an option with a long strap for wearing it across your body, the D-ring bag comes in other variations as well.
Day 3: Leather ‘Rider’ mini bag, by Dior Homme
Agenda for the day: Before lunch, I made my way to a press event and then proceeded to pick up samples for an upcoming shoot.
What’s great about the bag: It’s basically a mini backpack. Additional zipped pouches and compartments are sold separately and can be attached to the bag, to form a connected string of mini pouches and bags.
Best for: This is the perfect bag to start delving into the small bag trend.
This seems like a cop out, doesn’t it? The Dior Homme ‘Rider’ mini bag is more of a miniature backpack than anything else. At first glance, it might look a bit strange; like an odd amalgamation of a backpack and a messenger bag. But therein lies the charm: it combines the best of both.
Out of the five bags picked for this challenge, this Dior Homme bag is the roomiest. I managed to fit in all of my usual necessities and only filled about half of the main compartment, even after fitting in an item I received at the press event. As you can tell from most of the pictures of me with each bag, I’m paranoid of getting pick-pocketed, so I tend to wear my bags to the front. And it doesn’t look half as weird with the ‘Rider’ mini as it would with a regular backpack (which I wouldn’t do or recommend, in any case).
Day 4: Canvas VLTN crossbody bag, by Valentino Garavani
Agenda for the day: A birthday party and a movie in the evening. But before all that, some alone time at my favourite Starbucks outlet.
What’s great about the bag: It’s incredibly small but fits the most basic essentials for a night out.
Best for: Frequent night owls who want to dance the night away without worry of losing their cash and cards.
This Valentino Garavani piece is incredibly small. It measures a mere 15cm x 17 cm x 7cm. The size is both a blessing and might be why you probably wouldn’t gravitate towards this in the boutiques. But hear me out. This is obviously not a bag you’d use on the daily or one that’ll get you through an entire office-bound day, purely because there is not that much that you’d be able to fit in it. This is a bag you bring out for the times when you don’t really want to have anything on hand but you simply can’t afford to.
I used this bag on a Saturday night out, where all I had going on for me were a birthday party and a late-night movie after. All I had to have with me were the keys to my house, my hand sanitiser, a travel-sized bottle of perfume, my AirPods, and my small cardholder-wallet hybrid. And they all fit rather nicely, with some strategic arrangement in play. Tiny but mighty.
Day 5: Canvas Monogram Titanium messenger PM bag, by Louis Vuitton
Agenda for the day: A late brunch with a friend at a cafe, and then hung out at another friend’s place for some Netflix bingeing.
What’s great about the bag: The canvas construction is a plus for those who want something less precious than leather. The Monogram Titanium is also quite possibly, the best iteration of Louis Vuitton’s monogram yet.
Best for: If you can’t be bothered with the amount of care leather pieces require, this is a great alternative.
The Monogram Titanium is one of Kim Jones’ last offerings for Louis Vuitton. And personally, it’s one of the best that the house has released. It goes really well with the fabric, giving off this luxurious sheen, on canvas no less. In terms of colour, the Monogram Titanium and the softer, almost pastel leather trims is a winning combination. It looks somewhat industrial and like it would be able to handle some rough-handling.
With any Louis Vuitton design, the details are quite carefully thought out. The zipper tab is shaped in a way that it’s easy to pull in between two finger. And the interior main compartment is further organised with slots attached to the back. But the best part is that the bag is lightweight and super sturdy thanks to its canvas construction. Why carry a small bag that’s already weighed down by a bulky design, right?