Summer Purses

By Ilona Kauremszky

TORONTO, Canada -- They say a dog is man’s best friend but ask a woman these days and chances are she’ll say it’s all to do with the bag, a handbag of course. With our ever-growing need to keep our lives organized, those compact stand-alone pieces usually seen hanging off shoulders have come to represent a new chicness this summer.

Ever since Jackie Kennedy Onassis clutched her Gucci “Jackie O” handbag, women have been calculating new ways to secure their essential items. Even before the Queen of Camelot graced the world stage with her classic signature style, fashionable purses preceded her. Watch black and white flicks and catch starlets like Claudette Colbert, Ingrid Bergman, Greta Garbo and Audrey Hepburn who all held lovely purses as they gazed into the eyes of their paramour.

Fast forward to this summer’s fashion scene and discover the trends revolve around bursts of color, leather and sleek forms with some designers even adopting names from the legendary actresses for their summer collection. The fashion houses and designers have used a variety of themes to express what today’s girl is after. Gone are the days of the all-year round handbag.

This summer’s hot fashion themes use influences from the Dark Continent with lots of leathers, earthy tones, beads and raffia weaves that come in a variety of sizes. You’ll also spot palettes of vintage colors from sixties turquoise to hot pink to coral along with Martha Stewart orange and grasshopper green.

Other summer sizzlers for the handbag diva will show lots of bold hardware (think gold) and strong shapes.

Gucci has reintroduced a limited floral pattern that first made its debut in the sixties. Every 20 years the glorious field of poppies, cornflowers and bachelor buttons pattern is reborn. This time around, the front flap clutch bag uses the inspiration of Jackie O. Ballerina slippers and hat are also available. New Yorkers are seen bolting Manhattan with this stylish bouquet. The bag in flora canvas with natural leather trim has bamboo handles and retails for $905 at Holt Renfrew. It certainly is summery.

For the racier girl, Gucci’s runway bags are a big summer hit. Burnished leather designs in soft beige with brushed gold accents and studs show this girl means business. Holt Renfrew sells them around $1,625.

For color, the always-popular Italian design house Pucci swirls its signature sassy colors using hot pink, canary yellow and black against a white canvas to create a summer fun handbag packed with whimsy and a hint of flirtation. It’s all about the psychedelic kaleidoscope look. Other color combos include green, burgundy, black and white. ($1,170 available at Holt Renfrew).

Tom Ford for Yves Saint Laurent is taking polka dots by storm. Using white and black polka dots, it’s all so “La Parisienne.” With Fendi, the classic Fendi bag adapts its signature logo patterns in leather and fabric going with lighter shapes this summer. Look for the long pencil thin zipper purse in black or try the ivory leather with the famous signature logo print in oatmeal that’s finished with heavy brassy hardware. Meanwhile the youngest line from Prada (Miuccia Prada), Miu Miu sports fabric, leather and metal to create this summer’s “Twiggy” sensation.

Here are some other gems:

Bottega Veneta
Holt Renfrew, Toronto
Breezy florals and lots of butterflies add the summer zest to this designer’s season. Since Tomas Maier took over as creative director of Bottega Veneta four years ago, the butterfly has been the label's emblem, and has appeared as a signature print on his ultra-luxe bags. While the signature-plaited leather comes in neutral butter-soft tones, his runway clutch screams 50s drawing inspiration from the fabulous Cote d’Azur. The talk here is the one-of-a-kind beauty, which is displayed in its own glass case at Holt Renfrew’s Bloor Street location, was seen on the runway. Handmade in Italy with green suede interiors and whimsical butterflies flitting on the long narrow turquoise clutch. (Price $2,790: Location, Holt Renfrew)

Louis Vuitton
111 Bloor Street West, Toronto
For the first time, the famous leather goods designer, Louis Vuitton is launching a complete canvas summer bag collection. Brassy buckles sport this flashy red and purple or beige and red number. The Antigua line besides conjuring images of lazy summer afternoons by the idyllic Caribbean island uses three designs with each revealing a classic nautical spirit that has the iconic Louis Vuitton fashionable luggage nails making it ideal for travel. It’s fresh, new and is perfect as a weekend, pouch or shopping bag. Try the cherry red Besace PM Bag that combines the messenger satchel and casual city look into one. You get bright purple contrasts with the LV handles, a sleek logo nameplate and the ultra LV signature with its polished hardware nails.
Price: $600

66 Bloor Street West, Toronto
This deluxe shoe emporium in tony Yorkville has packed the ultimate finesse with its summer collection. Purses adorning the display cases include labels from Icon, Desano, David and Scotti along with woven crocodile styles from Nancy Gonzalez. Started in 1988, Nancy Gonzalez’s designs are available in the best boutiques around the world. Taking inspiration from her homeland Columbia, her distinctive handmade designs are created from exotic skins including Cayman crocodile, South American alligator, python and ring lizard. LA designer Icon takes its summer inspiration from paintings like Gustav Klimt’s “Woman and Child.” The big bags are all sold out but you can still snag small purses for $350. Then there’s Desano’s periwinkle blue soft leather woven pattern that takes the look of a blossoming flower. The exquisite shape makes it a stylish addition to any evening out. Price $595. David and Scotti have summer styles such as its Carmen shoulder accessory bag. Made from woven linen with delicate crochet overlay and leather trim, it has dual shoulder straps and retails for $150. Colors are coral and lagune.

Prada 131 Bloor Street West, Toronto
Over at Prada, raffia is in and so are shades of yellow, orange and cream at this boutique that highlights styles for classic and contemporary living. Bright canary yellow with straw mesh accentuates a long sleek line with the triangle Prada logo on the side. (Price: $1790) For the beach scene, take your virtual aquarium. Prada has introduced brightly patterned orange/yellow seahorses, pink starfish, bubbling fish in yellow and purple. It’s all Jacques Cousteau-like on white canvas. The canvas sea print tote is a great accessory for those beachy afternoons.

Biba Boutique 162 Cumberland Street, Toronto
This high-end boutique showcases a collection of international designers where everything is one of a kind. So once you see it once you don’t. Choose from Furla, Longchamp, Francesco Biasia, and the minimalist chic of Coccinelle. These designers are all contemporary yet elegant and make a great alternative to the other bigger labels.

Furla 41 Avenue Road, Toronto
Canada’s only flagship shop for this third generation Italian design house showcases the latest summer collection. Feminine and functional, the soft leatherwear is also great for any girls’ pocketbook since most of these finely formed pieces start from $300. The company is busily expanding worldwide. Furla has been part of the design history of Bologna since the 18th century. The Italian designer is introducing summer with lots of color in the softest calfskin leather along with classic lines. It will surely remind you of trendsetters like Jackie O and other fifties film sirens. Check out the “Greta” shoulder bag, a Hermes inspired birkin bag in “I want to be alone” black. Then there are the contrasting tones of black/white, shell/curry, paprika/shell and white on white in the “Gigi” style, which beckons an elegant modern look.

Cole Haan 101 Bloor Street West, Toronto
New from Cole Haan is the Sydney Straw style, a textured straw purse with handcrafted beading. Another hot summer seller is the straw tote collection of soft pebble-grain leather with contrasting white and tassle accents along with a rope handle ($660).

Chanel Boutique 131 Bloor Street West, Toronto
This world renowned haute couture house has been creating styles for the 20th century gal and ever since Karl Lagerfeld took over the esteemed design house in 1983, it’s rolling into the 21st century especially when it comes to stylish purses and handbags. When you take a look at such summer fashion purses as the soft eggshell with the classic Chanel logo in soft leather, this narrow clutch bag is a must-have. (Price $1350.) Another popular summer item comes in baby pink or the classic black and white Chanel tones. Prices $2025


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