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My Take On AUPEN’s Cult-Favourite Leather Bags — The Nirvana, Joy, Fearless

Mar 27, 2024 By Amelia Tan

That bejewelled feeling when you walk in the room? It’s the kind of confidence that makes you feel at the top of the world, when it feels like you’re at the epicentre of everything right. We can talk about a healthy self-esteem all day, but as a fashion and beauty girlie in the media industry, I’d default to this holy grail of ego boosts: good hair, a good beat, and an A+ outfit — with the right bag in hand, of course.

Superficial? Think again. As often cited from industry bible The Devil Wears Prada, the scene where Miranda Priestly goes on about Andy’s cerulean sweater enlightens how fashion — and by extension, design, taste and aesthetics — is deeper than we think. That’s, at least, my justification when it comes to shopping for brands, and why AUPEN, with their minimalist designs, ended up on my radar. If you’re all for looking sharp and sleek, with as little effort as possible, then just have a look at some of their most famous silhouettes such as the Nirvana and Fearless, both versatile bags with asymmetric twists.

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Emily Blunt, Taylor Swift, Lucy Hale.

And if you’re wondering why we happen to be quoting Taylor Swift, that’s simply because of how strongly associated she, and other major celebrities, are with AUPEN. Seen on the arms of fashionable It-girls Selena Gomez, Kylie Jenner, Hailey Bieber, Blue Ivy, and more, the bag brand’s appeal, in our opinion at least, lies in how they appeal as much to the A-list stars as well as the everyday girl who’s looking for a little elevated luxury in our wardrobes.

I’ve talked about and reviewed some of their bestselling bags here, but was lately enticed by new colourways and a couple of new designs. This includes the Joy, famously worn by “deja vu” singer Olivia Rodrigo, and the Nirvana Ash, recently seen on actress Emily Blunt. Gabrielle Union was spotted with the new Purpose Deluxe as well!

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Olivia Rodrigo, Blue Ivy, Selena Gomez.

What further piqued my interest was also hearing about AUPEN’s transition to using genuine leather across all their bags. Where previously the use of European calfskin leather was limited to the Nirvana, while most of the other bags sported vegan leather, AUPEN is committed towards European calfskin leather that’s been responsibly-sourced and certified by the Leather Working Group; this not only ensures top form and durability, but also a more luxurious feel that’s quite unmistakable.

I noticed this right away when holding the new Fearless Re-Edition bag in my hands — it felt more refined, soft and buttery, worthy of the brand’s elevated luxury status, and yet, at under $1,000 for their designs, still relatively affordable.

So of course I was happy to review, even revisit, some beloved bags from the Brooklyn and Singapore-based brand. Ahead, we talk about three flirty, cool-girl silhouettes — the Nirvana, Joy, and Fearless.

NIRVANA

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Nirvana Noir & Nirvana Ash, $340 each.

What’s a girl gotta do but shine? That idea permeates every design element of the Nirvana, who’s, obviously, that girl. AUPEN’s most famous style is alluring in its asymmetry, that when combined with its slouchy yet structured silhouette, makes it a frontrunner in contemporary bag styles. It’s elegant yet fun, and endlessly versatile, which was what had initially drew me to the bag as well. Other keen details include the braided handle, and a bean-like gold charm, which I recently found out, was a thoughtfully-considered accent that alluded to the organic charms of the bag.

While black is often everyone’s go-to, including a certain Miss Americana, the Nirvana in Ash, a soft grey, adds a different dimension to outfits. If you’re less an “I live and breathe black” kinda person, and more used to lighter or pastel shades in your wardrobe, I find that grey can be a suitable neutral shade. Then again, if you’re into grungy styles, the smokey grey then stands out rather than blends in; as you can tell, it’s easy enough to suit a spectrum of personal styles.

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Selena Gomez, Kylie Jenner, Hailey Bieber.

JOY

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Joy Noir & Joy Snow, $324 each.

Not a bad idea at all. Seen on Olivia Rodrigo, Gabrielle Union and more, the Joy is one of AUPEN’s latest new styles, and has a distinct rounded, bean-like shape that, in my opinion, makes it a slightly more casual, everyday style. Then again, just like the Nirvana, there’s a lot of minimalism to love too, with just the right amount of hardware against responsibly-sourced leather that makes it an elevated design.

Instantly, I loved the flexibility of this design as well, particularly how it comes with a shoulder strap, as well as a longer crossbody strap for those times when you’d want to go fuss-free and hands-free. It is on the slightly smaller side, though surprisingly roomy, which just means it won’t overwhelm one’s frame when carrying it across the shoulder. The Joy in Noir and Snow are the most easy-to-wear shades too if you’re looking for an all-occasion design, though you may opt for Earth, Scarlet, Ash, Cobalt, and even Metallica.

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Ashley Park, Gabrielle Union, Olivia Rodrigo.

FEARLESS RE-EDITION

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Fearless Noir & Fearless Olive, $458 each.

And then there’s the Fearless, in its improved version called the Fearless Re-Edition. Since first trying out the bag at the start of the year, I’ve since grown to love its sleek shoulder bag design, and how it’s able to add just the right touch of lowkey sophistication to an outfit, thanks to its clean curves and lack of visible hardware; a win in my books, as this means I’m able to pair it with my girly-girl dresses as well as my straight-cut jeans and off-duty cap, t-shirt and baggy jeans looks. It’s one of the bags I reach out for the most too!

The Olive shade is the perfect accent when I’m going for denim or dark-coloured fits, not as pop-of-colour as the cherry-red design I had picked out earlier, but enough of a difference that the bag stands out in a palette of moody tones, or a sea of black bags (guilty!). Right away, I noticed certain new updates to the Fearless design too since it’s previous edition — the leather on the Fearless, since it’s now genuine leather, felt more buttery to the touch, and gave the bag a more refined look. I noticed updates on the zipper detail as well, which now reflects AUPEN’s brand name, and is in a rounded shape with a touch more weight for added measure.

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Gabrielle Union, Fan Bing Bing, Jennifer Lawrence.

FINAL THOUGHTS ON AUPEN’S NEW STYLES

After two rounds of reviews with AUPEN bags, here’s one major thing I’ve loved — that I get to toss them around as much as I like. Don’t get me wrong, we still ought to take care of our bags, especially if they’re leather, though it helps to know that calfskin leather styles are typically more durable and tough than their other counterparts, which then brings me great peace of mind when carrying these bags out. I won’t have to think so hard about the weather — rain is a big deterrent, for instance — or whether I’ll be going somewhere where I might expose my bag to spills, or worry about whether I can leave it on the floor. Whether it’s a bar, cafe, work event, outdoor picnic, or other places I’ve brought along my AUPEN bags, it makes my decision-making process much easier.

Then again, I might’ve felt that way too because of the accessible price points of the bags. Similar to contemporary luxury brands such as The Row and Khaite, I like that their bags are even more affordable, at around the $300 – $400 price range, which doesn’t put as much pressure on one’s monthly budget, and, let’s be real, gives us more #GirlMath opportunities to get more than one style too. The Joy, for instance, feels like a crossover between CELINE’s Ava and The Row’s Half Moon bag — at a fraction of the price.

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Me, carrying the AUPEN Nirvana, Fearless Re-Edition, and Joy.

If I were to compare across the styles, I’d still recommend the Nirvana to those new to the brand, as I find its versatility unmatchable. That it’s Taylor Swift’s bag of choice, naturally, has some sway to this argument, but I do think that its soft structure adds to its effortless vibes. The Joy is a close second as well, mostly due to its crossbody appeal, and you know we all love a girl who can do both!

This does mean that Fearless Re-Edition has kinda moved down the ranks a little, but by no means is it less formidable — I really like the fact that it has no visible hardware, which makes it an easy reach every time, no matter what I happened to be wearing that day. However, given its more rigid structure, and depending on how many items you’d like to carry around with you throughout the day, those who may be used to bigger totes might not be as comfortable with its size. There’s always the case for a sleek number in your bag collection though, and this should be of prime consideration!

If you’re not further convinced, here are some ways prominent fashion influencers have styled their AUPEN bags too, so we can hopefully gain some styling inspiration the next time we carry these It-girl designs.

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AUPEN Nirvana — seen on @janyjaane and @ariannabaq.

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AUPEN Fearless Re-Edition, seen on @emilia_squillance and @claire_most.

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AUPEN Purpose — seen on @elisagilieri and @yasminvnz.

AUPEN, available online at aupen.com.

This article was sincerely referred from NYLON
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