Let's be honest—no matter how many chic bags you own, the bag you reach for most often is a sturdy leather tote. It's the unsung heroine of our bag collection. I enjoy different types of bags as much as the next fashion-loving woman, but a leather tote is the most essential when it comes to my day-to-day lifestyle. No other bag can double as a gym bag, a work bag, a brunch go-to, and more.
Whether you’re a corporate girl on the hunt for a tote that doubles as a laptop bag or a trendsetter in need of a practical-yet-stylish carryall, the best leather tote bags will serve you well. Nowadays, leather totes come big and small in a variety of shades and materials, including faux, vegan, and genuine leather. Whatever your taste, needs, and preferences, there’s a tote bag out there waiting to be your next favorite purchase.
To get the lowdown on the best leather tote bags, I spoke to some leading ladies in the field: Jenny Lei, founder of Freja New York, and Karla Gallardo, co-founder and CEO of Cuyana. Keep reading to learn everything there is to know about the best leather totes, and to shop our favorite picks.
What to Look For in the Best Leather Totes
When on the hunt for the most perfect leather tote bag to suit your needs, Gallardo and Lei suggest considering these factors:
- A bag’s feel and texture are major, according to Gallardo. “A good leather tote bag should be soft and supple,” she says. “You should always look for a grainy, pebbled feel.”
- Lei recommends looking at a bag's features such as: “comfortable straps, good structure, lots of pockets, a classic silhouette, and the ability to go from day to night and blend into any environment.”
- For both women, a brand’s processes, transparency, and story are key when making a purchase. Gallardo argues that making educated decisions (i.e. researching a brand’s materials and sustainability certifications) is the most critical step. “Transparency from brands and third-party certifications are key to identifying the authenticity and quality of a product,” she says. Lei is in a similar boat in that a brand’s story is particularly crucial to her, adding, “It’s important that every item I invest in was made consciously and for a purpose.”
The Best Leather Totes
- Best Overall Leather Tote: Madewell The Transport Leather Tote
- Best Budget Leather Tote: Kattee Leather Satchel
- Best Splurgeworthy Leather Tote: Freja New York Lafayette Tote
- Best Genuine Leather Tote: Cuyana Classic Easy Tote
- Best Faux Leather Tote: BÉIS The Work Tote
- Best Vegan Leather Tote: Matt & Nat ABBI Vegan Tote Bag
- Best Leather Tote for Travel: Calpak Haven Laptop Tote Bag
Best Overall Leather Tote
"If you're in New York City in 2023, you've no doubt seen this bag out and about—on the subway, in bars, by your coworkers' desks. Its simple design and sustainably-sourced leather, in addition to its (relatively) affordable price tag, make it a winner in every category: it's long-lasting, can fit everything you need, and can be customized with your initials for a fashion-editor touch." — Jenny Hollander, Director of Content Strategy
Cons: No top closure; Unlined.
Customer review: "I've been looking for the perfect bag for a loooong time (3 years) and finally found it. This tote is big enough to fit all my stuff and then some. I like that the shoulder strap fits over the shoulder and the brown handle adds a nice contrast." — Nordstrom
Best Budget Leather Tote
"If you're in need of a roomy tote that won't break the bank, this Amazon pick will definitely do the trick. After going with this real leather option I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of this bag given the price. The leather is soft to the touch and I'm obsessed with all of the bag's pockets. I can fit all of my work essentials including my laptop, notebooks, pens, makeup, and water bottle. It even has two pockets on the outside! It's been at least six months of carrying this tote to and from work and I'm happy to report it's held up so well." — Brooke Knappenberger, Associate E-Commerce Editor
Cons: Has a strong scent that fades over time.
Customer review: "Who needs to spend a hundreds, thousands when you can get this bag for less than $100?! I was skeptical when I purchased it but when it arrived…blown away! It feels so good and looks pricy. So many compliments! If you’re on the fence, just do it, you won’t regret it!" — Amazon
"I’ve fallen in love with the small-tote trend over the past few years, and this Marc Jacobs tote is my go-to for weekend afternoons. The grained leather is both very soft and durable enough to keep its shape when empty, so whether it’s stuffed or nearly empty I know my tote will remain sleek with no slouching. It also comes in several sizes and colors—I’ve had my eye on the mini size in red for a minute." — Quinci LeGardye, Contributing Culture Editor
Cons: Cannot fit a laptop.
Customer review: "The leather is top notch quality and the bag is the perfect size and holds quite a bit while still light weight… I own the Black and I used it all summer.. highly recommend." — Nordstrom
Best Genuine Leather Tote
"My current favorite is our new Easy Tote, it’s my go-to for any occasion! I love the relaxed, unstructured look and find that it fits seamlessly into my routine no matter what the day brings - whether it’s heading to work, out with friends, or traveling. I also love the versatility of the double handle design, perfect for hand or shoulder carrying." — Karla Gallardo, Co-Founder and CEO of Cuyana
Pros: Fits a 16-inch laptop; Comes with double set of handles; Lightweight.
Cons: No top closure; Unlined.
Customer review: "My new favorite tote. It is beautifully made, plenty of room for all essentials but best of all, light weight. Love!read more about review content My new favorite tote. It is beautifully." — Cuyana
The latest tote bag I've been taking out for a spin is this Rebecca Minkoff tote, and I gotta say so far it's been serving me well over the last four months. The leather is luxuriously smooth and there hasn't been a scratch or scuff on it, despite carrying this tote to and from work every day. Speaking of carrying, this bag is incredibly lightweight for how roomy it is, so much so that my shoulder never aches even when the bag is full to the brim. And full to the brim is usually how I carry it—this tote holds all of my essentials such as my laptop, water bottle, makeup, sunglasses, and notebook with ease. It also gets major points for its cool hardware, a signature of Rebecca Minkoff, that serves as a style and function.
Pros: Fits 14-inch laptop; Inner and exterior pocket; Comes in four colorways; Holds its shape.
Cons: Only one interior pocket.
Customer review: "Gorgeous, soft, perfect size for me. And lightweight. I hate a heavy purse. This one is perfect. Doesn't make my shoulder ache." — Nordstrom
In the last couple of years, COACH has been going through a major glow-up and this bag is proof. It nails the quiet luxury look the fashion set has been favoring down to a T. The silhouette is a classic shape, made of luxurious, sturdy leather and the black and burgundy is the perfect color combination for everyday wear. On the inside, you can easily keep your things organized thanks to its dual compartments and large interior pocket, which zips close, by the way, to secure all of your valuables. Another thoughtful detail is the subtle COACH logo—not only does it add a touch of polish to this bag, but it also conceals the bag's magnetic closure.
Pros: Two compartments for organization;
Cons: Only one large interior pocket; Over $300.
Customer review: "I like the purse, the leather and texture is nice, and it stays in place, has different compartments, it seems safe, I like the black color outside and the wine red color inside, it looks elegant and nice, I like the Coach logo is discreet, I think it’s a good purse at a good price, a good purchase, I plan to use it on a future trip, hope it fulfills the task" — Nordstrom
Best Leather Tote for Summer
Say hello to your new favorite summer tote. Madewell's bags are so great and well-loved, we had to include another. This one, though, feels especially fresh for summer with its chestnut color and basket-weave texture. The Medium Transport Tote is only slightly smaller than the tote above, but it can still fit all of your necessities thanks to its extra roomy interior. Keep in mind as well that this bag has a slouchier silhouette, which feels particularly on-trend for spring and summer.
Pros: Under $200; Includes crossbody strap; Fits a 13-inch laptop.
Cons: No top closure; Unlined.
Customer review: "It’s absolutely perfect. I love that you can tuck shorter shoulder straps inside. It doesn’t look bulky or messy. The long strap is removable and feels comfortable on. It’s versatile. You can wear it three different ways. Along body, across and as a shoulder tote. Perfect around town tote and travel. Well done." — Nordstrom
The Best Faux Leather Totes
Best Leather Tote on Amazon
"When a job suddenly opened its offices again and I needed a work tote fast, of course I turned to Amazon and its Prime shipping. This bag has the ability to fit everything you need and then some whether it be your laptop, notebooks, water bottle, makeup case, or all of the above. I especially love all of the bag's pockets—each one of my things has its own designated spot, which is exactly how I like to stay organized." — Brooke Knappenberger, Associate Commerce Editor
Pros: Under $100; Has several internal pockets; Zip top closure; long shoulder straps; Includes crossbody strap.
Cons: Bag loses shape over time; Shows scratches easily.
"The materials have changed (it’s now made of a plant-based leather alternative) but this classic bag has lasted me years. Back in the day, when Meghan Markle brought this bag to an early date with Prince Harry, I was sold: That year (2017), I bought one for my own. It’s a simple construction, but spacious and durable. It’s lasted one move, several jobs, a bunch of trips, and two kids. It still looks awesome and functions beautifully." — Katherine J. Igoe, Contributing Editor
Pros: Fits 16-inch laptop; Made from sustainable materials; Under $200; Comes in three colors; Lightweight.
Cons: Only has one interior pocket.
Customer review: "This is the lightest leather bag I have ever used - it looks very elegant, the color looks very good, not fading under the sun, and so far I have carried pretty heavy stuff for day/weekend trips, its durability is awesome! I would definitely like to buy another one for my mom!" — Everlane
Best Splurgeworthy Leather Tote
"I’m biased, but I could never find the perfect tote so I designed one myself," says Jenny Lei, Founder of Freja New York. The businesswoman cites Freja's Lafayette Tote as her choice leather tote. She details, "It blends functionality with sophisticated design, the unique handles are comfortable and a conversation starter, and the contrasting interior hides all stains and pen marks."
Pros: Comes with four internal pockets; Magnetic top-closure; Lined in vegan suede; Fits a 16-inch laptop; Includes key leash; Vegan.
Cons: Over $300.
Best Faux Leather Tote
"When it comes to business travel, BEIS totes and weekenders deliver on space and style. The Work Tote features removable shoulder straps, interior, and exterior pockets, padded laptop sleeves, key-ring leashes, and more. While this large tote works for work, after-work, and just about any errand, its trolley pass-through sleeve makes it an ideal and easy nag to pair with your carry-on roller. The two exterior side pockets are perfect for the travel essentials: phone, passport, hand sanitizer, lipgloss, etc. Best of all these bags maintain a neat and clean silhouette no matter what or how much you throw in it. The croc-embossed look adds an extra boardroom-ready touch." — Tanya Benedicto Klich, Senior Editor
Pros: Has designated laptop sleeve; Has several internal and external pockets; Zip top closure; Has trolley pass-through; Fits a 13-inch laptop.
Cons: Some reviewers note the shoulder straps are especially thin.
Customer review: "Love this bag, perfect compartments, perfect size, and the leather and the feel of the bag is excellent. Such great quality at an affordable price. Oh not to mention the access, great design and construction. I’m now wanting the entire collection. I’m in love!!!" — BEIS
Best Minimalist Leather Tote
"I love this under-$200 pick from Everlane because it goes with everything, and I'm kind of cheating considering it's not actually made of out real leather. The shape is minimal and sleek, and it holds all my essentials (including a laptop), which means it could easily double as a work bag. Plus, the cactus leather material has proven to be nearly scratch free, which is great because I'm generally a bit rough on the bags I carry on a daily basis." — Julia Marzovilla, E-Commerce Editor
Pros: Under $200; Has an adjustable shoulder strap; Fits a 13-inch laptop; Vegan.
Cons: Unlined; No top-closure.
Customer review: "I love this bag!!! The cashew color is gorgeous. (I also bought the dark honey, which is striking, too.) it fits just enough: my Mac Book, slim wallet, keys, and a small pouch containing my pens. Thank you, Everlane, for using cruelty-free, sustainable materials. I can finally get a bag that’s sturdy, fits my stuff, and is a kind choice for animals and the environment :)" — Everlane
Best Leather Tote for Travel
Designed by travel company Calpak, this tote bag was made for your next big trip. It's incredibly roomy and sturdy, but the real magic is the included removable insert. It has a big pocket for your laptop or tablet, three smaller interior pockets for valuables, and four exterior pockets for, well, everything else. use the extra thick crossbody strap for long hauls or use the handles to add polish to your outfit. It even has a trolley sleeve for you to go hands-free at the airport.
Pros: Under $200; Includes a removable insert with multiple compartments; Fits a 16-inch laptop; Includes wide, adjustable shoulder strap; Has trolley pass-through.
Cons: No top closure.
Customer reviews: "It was very well thought design. The pocket are amazing and stands up well on its own! Very stylish and makes my work outfits more appealing and professional. I love it so much!!" — Calpak
A high-quality faux leather tote doesn't have to cost you an arm and a leg. Case in point: this under-$100 bag from Mali + Lili. The brand takes steps to produce their bags more sustainably by sourcing recycled materials and reducing packaging, plus most of their products are under $100. That's what I call a win-win. The Estie leather tote is ideal for work or traveling thanks to its many pockets. There's so many pockets, in fact, you can keep your laptop, phone, pens, and notebook all in their own spot. To make this bag even more handy, it comes with a removable matching wallet plus a trolly strap for easy traveling.
Pros: Zip-top closure; Includes a zip-top wallet; Has trolley pass-through; Has padded laptop sleeve; Vegan; Has multiple interior pockets; Has zippered exterior pocket; Comes in four colors.
Cons: Straps are a bit thin.
Customer review: "Very stylish purse, sturdy with great compartments. I even tied a purse scarf on it to add dimension. Great experience!!" — Nordstrom
"This slouch tote has been the missing piece in my wardrobe. I’ve been a fan of Insta-famous brand Melie Bianco for a while, and when the time finally came to get one of their vegan bags for myself, I wanted something a bit different from my regular (structured) totes. This woven option is a perfect contrast to my chunky wool coats, but it’s also going to be a great pick to go with lighter, summery outfits. And it’s not a flimsy vegan leather—it’s heavy and luxurious." — Katherine J. Igoe, Contributing Editor
Pros: Under $200; Vegan; Made from recycled materials; Comes with smaller pouch.
Cons: May not fit laptops.
Customer review: "I love this bag. It is beautiful and spacious. It looks expensive and so well made." — Melie Bianco
Best Vegan Leather Tote
Matt & Nat is a brand with sustainability at the forefront of their ethos. The brand is completely vegan and cruelty-free and prioritizes recycled materials in the design process. For instance, the outer body of this tote is 100 percent VB (polyvinyl butyral), which is made of recycled windshield glass resin. Meanwhile, the inner lining is made of 100 recycled plastic bottles. To put it plainly, this is a bag you can feel good about buying and wearing. This classic bag
Pros: Under $200; Zip-top closure; Has multiple and exterior interior pockets; Made from recycled materials; Vegan; Fits a 13-inch laptop.
Cons: Only available in one color.
Faux vs. Genuine Leather Totes
Nowadays, you may pick up what you think is a leather tote bag and quickly realize it’s not made from real leather at all. Alternative leather tote bags are becoming increasingly popular, as they're often cheaper and more environmentally friendly. Faux leather is made from synthetic and/or natural materials to mimic the look and feel of genuine leather. “Vegan” leather also fits into this category and is made from materials such as pineapple leaves, cactus, cork, and fruit waste. Genuine leather, however, is made using the skin of animals.
It’s a matter of personal preference whether you opt for a faux, vegan, or genuine leather tote. If eco-friendly materials are an important factor for you, you may want to consider a vegan leather bag. On the other hand, Gallardo says, “Genuine leather is unmatched in its quality, beauty, and natural finish,” adding that genuine leather bags are investment pieces.
According to Lei, though, genuine leather and faux leather can run the spectrum of low to high-quality, so it’s a topic that should be approached with nuance. She adds, “The durability, look, and feel of vegan leather has come very far in the past few years so there’s really no compromise there.”
If faux or vegan leather sound like the best option for you, Lei recommends avoiding totes made primarily with PVC and to look for products made with recycled plastics and natural resources like cork and apple.
Meet the Experts
Jenny Lei is the founder and designer of Freja New York. After taking a detour from her original plans to pursue UX design, she decided to take a chance on herself and launch Freja to create functional foundation pieces for people to support their big life moments—something made ethically and responsibly with a story behind it. Functional, but still elegant. Jenny holds a Bachelors and Masters from Cornell University and currently resides in New York City where she has personally shipped every Freja package to date, adding a personal touch to every order.
Along with Co-founder Shilpa Shah, Karla Gallardo created Cuyana in 2011 to create high-quality and sustainably sourced accessories. Starting her career in investment banking, Karla holds a Bachelors in Applied Mathematics and Economics from Brown University and later added business expertise to her background with a Masters of Business from Stanford. After meeting Shilpa in late 2009, she then decided to combine her creativity and analytical brain to create Cuyana. The brand was inspired by Karla's childhood in Ecuador where she was taught to invest in quality pieces and saw traditional artisanry firsthand. Alongside her duties as Cuyana's CEO and Co-founder, Karla spends time mentoring other women who can relate to her story.