The Cartable Tote by Clare Vivier ($335)

Rating: Trust It!

All I can say is that I've seen the light: After owning this bag from local Los Angeles designer Clare Vivier, I will never go back to buying lesser-quality $50-$100 purses (that are almost always destroyed after a few months anyways) ever, ever again.   

Her dedication to using top-quality leathers (that are tanned with environmentally-friendly vegetable dyes) is immediately evident once you hold this bag in your hand.  The price point is at a sweet spot ($330 for the leather totes shown here, $207 for the canvas), as it isn't something that one might be able to buy on a whim but isn't out of reach.  But trust me, a bag like this is worth the wait if neccessary.

I'm so fervently passionate about quality in handbags as I tend to be particularly rough on my accessories.  Like any multi-tasking woman, I carry the weight of my world in my handbags and they tend to take the brunt of my activity level.  More often than not, the straps are usually the first thing to go.  Contrary to what you might think by looking at this bag's skinny straps, they're surprisingly strong and after several weeks of sherpa-duty thus far show no signs of "pulling" away from where they're anchored into the body of the bag.  Another plus on the straps: they're short enough to sit chic-ly at your elbow but are long enough to fit snugly onto your shoulder when you need to go hands-free.

Another "I'm so over the moon in love" feature about CV as a designer is the monogramming style that is available.  Having had a Southern upbringing rife with atrocities such as paisley Vera Bradley matching sets and monogramming filled with such unnatural flourish, I vowed that nothing of mine would ever be monogrammed.  However, that was until I saw the CV style of monogramming; suddenly, it was something that had become permissible again with their smartly minimal design.  I opted to have my two initials stamped onto the bag which nicely compliments its bare and basic design.

If I were to find any downside with this purse, it would be the unlined interior.  It has been my experience with other unlined leather handbags that after a few weeks the bag begins to "shed" and little tiny bits of leather begin to appear all over your belongings within the purse.  So far, this has not been the case but I'm keeping my fingers crossed.  Another complaint that might arise in one's mind is the lack of side pockets stitched into the interior; however I see this as a key element of its minimal design.  To accomodate those (like myself) who need to stash away any small necessities (lip gloss, tampons, etc) to prevent them from getting lost in the bag, a teathered (yet removable) coin purse is smartly included inside.

So ladies, I think its safe to say that a valuable lesson has been learned.  Quality always wins over quantity.  This is a bag that I know I'll have for many years to come and the leather will only get better with use.  So trust it, invest in it, and run with it!

... as reviewed by Katherine Hanson