It was a design back in 2011 from the Olsen Twins’ luxury label The Row that first made the leather backpack a fashion must-have, though at $39,000 it was strictly for the 1 per cent.
Fast-forward to 2019, and there are now plenty of intelligently-designed leather backpacks marrying office-appropriate style with the practicality required for long and challenging commutes.
Quality leather backpacks tend to be on the expensive side – it’s hard to find anything under £100 that isn’t lacking in design or made from cheaper polyurethane faux leather.
That said, we’ve tracked down some fantastic options for every budget, occasion and taste.
John Lewis & Partners alina leather backpack: £75, John Lewis & Partners
This sleek design from John Lewis & Partners looks far more expensive than its price tag. It’s smart enough for the office, can fit a 14-inch laptop and has a D-ring inside so you can attach your keys or a purse to the lining. There’s a zip, as well as a flap closure for added security. The straps are adjustable but not padded, though we still found it comfortable to wear. It comes in black and tan, but our favourite is this punchy orange.
Mansur Gavriel mini backpack: £525, Mansur Gavriel
This Mansur Gavriel backpack is expensive, but it’s a fashion industry favourite and a modern classic. The straps are adjustable and this mini size can just about accommodate a small laptop. The minimal hardware keeps it lightweight and the pale tan leather will age beautifully, plus we love the contrasting pale pink interior.
The Cambridge Satchel Company small portrait backpack: £165, The Cambridge Satchel Company
The original school satchel makes for a great vintage-look backpack for kids and grown-ups alike. This mini-size has enough space for all your everyday essentials, plus a tablet and a bottle of water. There’s not much hardware, keeping it lightweight, and the buckled flap top covers both the main compartment and the front pocket, keeping your possessions securely within. It’s also a fair price for a well-made product.
The White Company leather zip-top backpack: £145, The White Company
We love the intelligent design of this ultra-soft backpack by The White Company. There’s a handy zipped side pocket, while the top strap is long enough to sling over one shoulder. The combination of a zip and flap top for the roomy main compartment should help deter pickpockets and the khaki hue is both smart and versatile.
Ally Capellino Hoy mini leather backpack: £495, Ally Capellino
If you hadn’t already guessed from the name, this luxurious backpack is designed with cyclists in mind, but it’s still smart enough for the office. It’s lightweight, made from super-soft tumbled leather and has a dedicated laptop sleeve inside. It can also accommodate A4 pages easily. There’s a leather top-handle allowing you to carry it like a tote and webbing straps, which are adjustable.
Asos Design leather pushlock backpack: £42, Asos
We love the doctor’s bag aesthetic of this elegant backpack, which could easily pass for a vintage piece. At this price, you can’t expect perfection, but the interior is lined, the straps are adjustable and the bag looks far more expensive than it is. There’s also an interior zipped pocket for valuables.
Moleskine classic match slim backpack: £175, Moleskine
This streamlined design is a great commuter backpack: slim enough not to occupy too much space on a crowded tube or bus, yet large enough for a laptop, wallet, phone and keys. We liked thoughtful details like the air mesh back, which feels cooler to wear, and the pockets and pen holders inside. There’s even a loop on the back so it can be affixed to a suitcase handle. The straps are adjustable and the front pocket has a zip.
Chiara Ferragni flirting small backpack: £387, Farfetch
Italian influencer Chiara Ferragni has translated her online presence into a successful accessories line, most familiar for its “flirting” wink motif. This micro-mini bag has all the practicality of a backpack while still retaining enough fashion cred for festival or club night looks. The lavender colourway taps into the trend for all things pastel, while the zips and front pocket will keep your essentials contained within.
Radley multi dog medium leather backpack: £99, Radley
This simple silhouette is brought to life with a sweet dog print in muted shades of blue, taupe and cream. The zip-top tote shape makes it easy to rummage inside, and the three inner pockets will help organise the items within. It feels lightweight for a leather bag, has a handy top handle and adjustable straps. We especially liked the zip pocket on the back, a great way to keep valuables out of the reach of pickpockets.
The verdict: Women's leather backpacks
Verdict: If you can afford to splash out, the Ally Capellino or Mansur Gavriel are worthy investments that will serve you well for decades. We were really impressed by the thoughtful design of the Moleskine too, but for the ultimate combination of style, practicality and price, the John Lewis & Partners alina backpack is hard to beat.