If you follow this space, you know the team at Barneys is bag-obsessed. Kind of hard not to be when every month marks the arrival of amazing new styles that speak to every occasion and personality. But sometimes it’s tricky to choose a favorite. How can you possibly pick between a chocolate-hued, croc-stamped canteen or a midnight-black smooth-grained bucket?
You see where this is going. This month, we couldn’t decide on a single bag, so we’re celebrating an entire collection: specifically, Co‘s handbag launch. Brought to you by Stephanie Danan and Justin Kern, the designers behind the brand’s elegantly minimalist ready-to-wear offerings, the bags showcase the same thoughtful, streamlined aesthetic. “We spent two years thinking about what we wanted these bags to look like as well as understanding their necessity and functionality,” says Danan, who researched production partners for months before settling on a small factory outside of Venice, Italy, known for making quality leather goods for some of the world’s most coveted houses.
The line features three silhouettes—a round canteen, bucket, and tote—and three distinct fabrications of croc-stamped leather, smooth leather, and sturdy canvas. This season’s palette focuses on dark browns, creams, and blacks—rich, earthy hues that reflect the brand’s affinity for nature. “We are constantly inspired by natural settings,” says Danan. “We’re more interested in selling a grounded, realistic lifestyle than a fantasy one.”
It’s been eight years since Danan and Kern delved into the world of ready-to-wear. The brand launched with Barneys New York in 2011 and found its niche catering to high-profile women seeking intelligent, no-nonsense answers to their daily wardrobe dilemmas. Strong lines and silhouettes that explore proportion and shape have become the bread and butter of the West Coast label, which centers its collections on a monochrome color palette along with the occasional delightful print. Nearly a decade after its debut, the time seemed right to expand the company’s offerings.
Functionality has always been an essential part of Co’s DNA, and its importance was magnified when the designers began to consider bags. “As a brand, we are about dressing intelligent women with busy, professional lives,” says Danan. “Our customer doesn’t want to be changing bags three times a week to go with her outfits or digging to the bottom trying to find her keys.”
Danan found a like-minded partner and muse in Garance Doré, the French artist and writer who first connected with the designer at a party a few years ago. It’s been mutual admiration ever since. In Doré, Danan saw a representation of what the Co woman is all about: openhearted, creative-minded, ready to embrace and explore life, so she tapped her friend to partner on the launch of the new collection, a role Doré does not take lightly. “It’s an honor because I think the Co woman is a woman with intention,” she says. “She buys better, not more. She knows who she is and that she has something to bring to this world.”
It helps that Doré is full-on obsessed with the bags. “They are understated and super high quality—the kind of thing people stop you on the street to ask about,” she says. “After years in fashion, I settled on a simple way of getting dressed, one that brings me ease and confidence. The Co bags are like that. They are for the woman with a full life who actually uses them.”
In keeping with the less-is-more theme, Co’s bag collection is intended to blend in with clothes rather than play against them. The styles are without large logos or flashy hardware. The look is quiet—understated—more of a respite in the madness of the 9-to-5. “It’s an incredibly noisy world out there,” Danan says. “We’re just trying to offer a calming presence.”