Meet the affordable bag brand the A-listers are loving

The affordable designer bag market has boomed in recent years, with the demand for accessible luxury continuing to rise. Racing to fill the gap between the prestigious houses and the high street, names such as Charles & Keith, Coperni and Staud are developing firm fanbases for their mid-range pieces that combine strong style DNA with contemporary touches.

Now, there’s a new name to know. The A-list are already all over Aupen, the Singaporean label quickly generating a starry fanbase for its minimalist-with-a-twist bags and contemporary jewellery. Hailey Bieber chose the sculptural, slanted Purpose bag for the much-photographed launch of her Rhode beauty brand in London, while Selena Gomez favoured the sparkle-soaked Miracle Ice style at last year’s VMAs. Emily Blunt has been spotted on more than one occasion with a Nirvana bag in her grasp, and the brand’s jewellery line has proven similarly popular, with Emma Stone and Dakota Johnson both wearing the statement metal pieces in recent weeks.

So what’s fuelling the hype? Really, the appeal here is simple: refreshingly free from outré logos or loud-luxury ostentation, these bags are created for reality, not the social-media lens. The sculptural silhouettes are striking enough to enhance a modern wardrobe, yet unobtrusive enough to be worn on any occasion, be it a busy Monday in the office or drinks at the weekend. And of course, there’s the practicality of the proportions: in a world of capacious XXL totes and irritatingly small evening bags (if you can’t fit your phone inside, it’s probably not a wise purchase), these sensible shoulder styles feel just right.

So, which to choose? The brand currently offers 12 styles in a range of hues, but the current darling is the Nirvana: a supple, slightly slouchy style with a braided handle, made from traceable leather and coloured in tanneries approved by the Leather Working Group. The Fearless is a curved take on the Noughties baguette, which has recently been restocked after Kylie Jenner sent demand through the roof. For something more structured, consider the Purpose: a simple, linear design with a magnetic front flap, which opens to reveal enough space for those small essentials (think keys, phone, lipstick).

hailey bieber with an aupen bag
Hailey Bieber carrying her Aupen bagNeil Mockford / Ricky Vigil M - Getty Images

There are vegan options too (although the brand is reportedly phasing these out in favour of traceable food-waste leather). The petite, supple Joy feels especially appealing in the season’s key postbox-red colourway. And for those long-awaited summer parties? Consider the Purpose Ice, designed to dazzle with a cascade of crystal fringing, your party-ready partner.

It’s notable that the design team behind Aupen are consciously elusive: the four members of the design ‘collective’ are based across San Francisco, Brooklyn and Singapore, where the bags are produced. It’s this anonymity that makes the remarkable celebrity fan-base even more of an impressive feat: for many new-to-market brands, an influencer-come-designer or famous founder is the key to quick success. Perhaps there’s power in simple practicality after all.

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