My New Go-To Bag

In the last few weeks, I have moderated not one but two panels on sustainable fashion. It’s brought the topic to the forefront of my mind as a shopper and forced me to re-examine my own spending habits.

It also reminded me how lovely Cuyana co-founder Shilpa Shah is!

You’ve probably heard of the brand, which Meghan Markle has carried not once but twice: the chic blush saddle bag hanging off her shoulder in Australia, then the oversize black bag she carried leaving New York after her baby shower.

Shilpa and I first met back in 2014, when I wrote about Cuyana in my debut #THIS column for the Wall Street Journal. The brand’s mantra, “Fewer Better Things,” spoke to me then and resonates even more with me now. Going from living the single life in New York to being married with two kids in a house in the suburbs, I feel like I have acquired so. much. stuff. I want to live with fewer things, to love what I buy and use it for as long as I can.

Cuyana’s pop-up store in Palo Alto, Calif.

Cuyana’s pop-up store in Palo Alto, Calif.

On the first sustainable fashion panel, hosted by The Wing, Shilpa spoke so candidly about how difficult it is for a small brand make sustainability a core tenant. The very next day, I visited Cuyana’s pop-up store in Palo Alto, Calif. I had been on the hunt for a new work laptop bag for forever. I am... shall we say... quite picky when it comes to my purchases. I needed the bag to hold a lot of stuff without looking like it was holding a lot of stuff, if you know what I mean? It had to be both super cute and super practical, and at a price that wouldn’t make me cringe.

Enter Cuyana’s tall structured leather zipper tote, which comes in black, a rich tan and a weather gray. The name pretty much says it all! The bag is tall, a.k.a. vertically oriented, meaning I don’t unknowingly whack people with a large wide bag around when I’m in a crowd.

It reminds me a lot of the Everlane Day Magazine Tote that I carried forever (I don’t think Everlane still offers that style in black, which is what I had, but this red version is damn cute) The Cuyana version is more structured, helpfully standing up when I put it down. Plus, it has a zipper on the top to keep the contents from spilling out — or intruders reaching in.

The beautiful blush shade of leather on the inside helps me keep track of things, or keeps things from disappearing into a bottomless pit. The inside also has a sleeve for my laptop, which is clutch, and a small pocket for necessities. TBH I wish it had one more zipper pocket on the inside. But I tend to pack things in pouches, to make bag switching a bit easier, so I don’t miss it much.

At $215, the Cuyana tote felt like a purchase that required some thought but without the guilt of a significant splurge.

The very next day I took it with me on a work trip to the East Coast, first lugging it through Boston and then all over New York. It held up beautifully! Carrying it, even when full of so many things, didn’t feel like I was lugging around the contents of a suitcase.

But mostly: what I treasure is the feeling I get when I use the bag. Carrying this tote is a reminder that I, as a shopper, chose to spend my money with a brand that is committed to making beautiful things responsibly. And I am here for that!

What are your favorite sustainable brands? Please share in the comments so we can all shop smarter!