Nine West Debuts Rafe Bags

Nine West bag
Photo courtesy of Nine West
A faux crocodile laptop bag

Oh Nine West, what pretty bags you have!

The accessories retailer is getting a makeover for spring, thanks to its new creative director, Rafe Totengco.

Totengco, of handbag line Rafe, has managed to do what many other mass-market brands have struggled with: He's designed luxe, quality bags (read: expensive looking) that come at a price tag we can all afford.

Bag fanatics and blogs were abuzz in December when Totengco's appointment was announced. His own line (currently on hold) offered up chic leathers in a variety of shapes and colors. He's taken that same approach with Nine West.

As he said while we were fondling the merchandise, there's no reason a good-looking bag can't be affordable.

Nine West bag

Photos courtesy of Nine West

A grey leather frame bag, left, and a distressed-leather bag from the Vintage America collection

For those expecting Nine West's usual offerings, you're in for a surprise. The pieces are on trend (frame bags, clutches, mini handbags, leopard print) and useful—a couple carryalls were large enough for laptops. You won't be stashing any of these at coat check.

Unexpected detailing like bold hardware, padlocks, and textured finishes add to the aspirational quality of the line. You can wear them pretty much anywhere (shopping, work, country club if that's your jam) and they're durable.

That's not to say there aren't classic looks available—black totes, satchels, and chain straps are all on hand. But even the simplest styles have a more polished feel, something that was missing in Nine West's bags.

For those who like a more rustic look, the Vintage America collection has distressed, faded leather, faux shearling trim, and metal embellishments. The leather is, much to our delight, soft and almost buttery.

Totengco even redesigned the ever-important tote bag, adding a faux fur top (yes, for spring) to a quilted fabric. (Inside each tote is a matching clutch wallet.)

And now for the even better news: The price points for most of these are under $100; the Vintage America collection creeps over that mark but not by much.

The bad news? We have to wait until June to buy them and for now must content ourselves with ogling the photos.