Since its inception more than a century ago, Vogue has been fascinated by the infinite incarnations of the handbag. From the myriad surrealist creations of Karl Lagerfeld at Chanel to Prada's democratic nylon backpack, from the exclusive Hermes Birkin bag to individual vintage gems, the handbag is fashion's most inventive accessory. No shock, then, that the handbag market today is worth more than a hundred billion dollars. From each season's must-have to five-figure rarities, the handbag symbolizes the inexplicable power of fashion desire. Vogue Essentials: Handbags explores all the greatest hits in a collection that any fashion devotee will covet.'Any woman can wear shoes and handbags: it's not a question of how tall you are, how skinny you are, how blonde or blue-eyed or tanned or whatever.' Marc Jacobs
Carolyn Asome is a fashion and interiors writer and brand consultant. She was a fashion editor at The Times for 14 years and now contributes to the Saturday and Sunday Times Style magazine, the Telegraph, Evening Standard magazine, Vogue and Smallish. She lives in London with her husband, two daughters and one son.