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5 work bag startups you should know, and the best styles from each

 Summary List Placement

Senreve work bag

There have been days in the not-so-distant past where I have considered scrapping my 10-year plan, moving to Italy, and opening a one-woman tannery — if only to bring one perfect work bag into existence.

Those days typically landed on the ones where I was trying to fit a change of clothes for the gym, sneakers, a water bottle, wallet, notebook, and a 13" laptop into a bag that didn't invite outright hatred from other public transportation riders.

It was much harder to find a stylish, affordable, and smart work bag than I thought it should be. I wanted versatility of design and color, high-end materials, and a compact design. Due to its ability to markedly improve five out of seven days of the week, I was even willing to spend a considerable chunk of money on the right one.

I realize now, after working at Insider Picks for a little over a year, that it wasn't so much that these companies and bags didn't exist as much as it was that I simply had not discovered them yet. I had been fishing around at my usual haunts and in department stores, and I was underwhelmed by the selection or overwhelmed by the price.

But thanks to feedback from coworkers and the high-volume of inventive startups that Insider Picks reviews, I've been able to cherry-pick five brands that are making the kind of bags I wish I had known about. The list ranges from cult-favorites like Everlane to Instagram sensations like Senreve to trailblazers like Dagne Dover, and hidden gems like Leatherology. Hopefully, you'll be happy to have a smaller, better list to browse, if you know one or none of the startups below.

Below are 5 companies making the best women's work bags on the market:

Dagne Dover

Shop Dagne Dover bags here.

Price range: $135 - $395

Dagne Dover hasn't been making handbags for long — only since 2012, to be exact — but it's wasted no time becoming an industry trailblazer. Each new work bag shows an improvement in already thoughtful and inventive design, beautiful materials, and a grasp on what working women need (and, just as important, what they don't) that can't be overvalued.

As Dagne Dover founder and CEO Melissa Mash told Insider earlier this year, "It's no longer good enough to just be 'arm candy.' Nowadays we expect the services and products we use to multitask, to be data-driven, and to work harder."

Dagne Dover bags certainly do all of the above, with savvy upgrades like a zippered laptop compartment, water bottle holder, key leash for easy access, and magnetic tab closure and adjustable interior in the Allyn that lets you extend the inner compartment up to 5 3/4" longer. Each bag also comes in a variety of beautiful colors that won't have a tough time transitioning from work to happy hour.

Read the Insider Reviews reviews on the work-friendly Dakota Backpack ($175), Allyn Tote ($345), and Classic Tote ($245).

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Cuyana

Shop Cuyana bags here.

Price Range: $155 - $395

Cuyana is a startup that makes luxury wardrobe staples in beautiful colors and materials, but they're best known for their unusually perfect leather goods.

As a team, we've collectively tested a decent amount of their leather repertoire — the Travel Case Set, Mini Tassel Bag, Passport Case, Backpack, and Small Carryall Tote — and we've had exceptionally positive experiences with each one thanks to the quality of the leather, knock-out simplicity of design, beautiful color, and still affordable price point.

Their Small Carryall ($195) my favorite go-to tote, but I'd opt for something larger like their Classic Structured Tote ($195) or their aptly-named Work Satchel ($395) if you plan on bringing home a laptop. The Classic is their version of the classic oversized leather tote, with a characteristically clean and architectural aesthetic. The Satchel is a "multifunctional masterpiece" made from Italian leather and outfitted with a 13" or 15" laptop sleep, zipper pocket, and adjustable crossbody strap. 

True to Cuyana's mantra of shopping for a lean closet filled with "fewer, better" things, each bag is meant to age into an heirloom piece and is crafted from start to finish like an investment rather than a fad or fast fashion buy. In other words, Cuyana's bags are built to last and to age well.

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Everlane

Shop Everlane bags here.

Price range: $78 - $198

Everlane is known for making simple, versatile, and well-made bags at affordable prices. 

The company's bags are made from 100% Italian leather and their strength lies in their simplicity and spaciousness. You won't be getting all the bells and whistles of a higher-priced bag, but for those of us content to stuff the majority of our things into a beautiful, soft leather bag for a fraction of competitors' prices, simplicity will be just fine. 

The Day Market Tote can fit basically everything you could possibly need for the day — wallet, 15" laptop, gym clothes, book, water bottle — and it comes in at a budget-friendly price of $180. It has become a dependable favorite of high-profile celebrities like Meghan Markle, Angelina Jolie, and Jaime King, as well as fellow Insider Reviews senior reporter Connie Chen

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Senreve

Shop Senreve bags here.

Price Range: $795 - $1,175

Luxury bag company Senreve might have already popped up on your Instagram feed sometime in the last few months, but just in case it hasn't, the first thing you should know about the startup is that it means business about old-school quality.

Aside from the distinctively new-age feel of their geometric designs, Senreve bags are making waves for being created in Italy by craftsmen who have been working with top luxury brands for over 50 years. Each is made from water-resistant genuine Italian leather and a supple, stain-resistant micro-suede material on the interior. 

The company is also making each bag more versatile. The Maestra, for example, can be worn as a satchel, tote, crossbody, or backpack. It also comes in 14 colors.

The sharp, unusually memorable lines of Senreve's bags have gained the admiration of celebrities like Selma Blair, Priyanka Chopra, Jenna Dewan Tatum, and Jessica Alba, as well as popular bloggers Chriselle Lim and Rocky Barnes. As Insider Reviews senior reporter Connie Chen noted in her review of the company, it's a lineup of supporters as versatile as the bags themselves.

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Leatherology

Shop Leatherology bags here.

Price range: $150 - $525

Leatherology is likely the company you're least likely to have heard of on this short list of work bags worth knowing about.

The company was founded in 2008 and has made affordable leather classics with minimal branding their bread and butter — and they're extremely good at it. Quality far surpasses price (with most bags going for 50% less than similar styles in department stores), and you'll find all the essentials in the staple colors you want to own readily available. 

For work, the best options in terms of space will be the Uptown Vertical Tote ($150) and the Large Zippered Downtown Tote ($195). They also carry traditional laptop bags ($170 - $480).

You can shop really cool new "painted" pieces and always have the option to monogram, but you won't be stuck with a large label or, most importantly, the price tag to match a heavily-branded legacy bag. The leather is buttery soft and designs feel intuitive, with helpful but unobtrusive updates to the traditional crossbody and tote bags. Their customer service is also great.

Whenever somebody asks me where I got my Leatherology bag in public, I normally describe the company as a hidden treasure of the e-commerce space.

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