Backstage at Lanvin's fall/winter 2013-14 runway show during Paris Fashion Week Backstage at Lanvin's fall/winter 2013-14 runway show during Paris Fashion Week Mark Leibowitz

Skin deep

A riot of colour and pattern in the bags for this season

This is a great season for bags. You can be conservative, cool or crazy, and, wherever your comfort zone is, there's loads of opportunity to move outside it – which is where things start getting trendy. Let's take a look at some of the principal style themes in the fall/winter 2013 crop of handbags, starting from the ever-popular reptile prints right through to steampunk.

Animal magic
There are a lot of snake, reptile and animalier prints, often enhanced by deep, rich, shaded colour. This season you can mix and mis-match wildly different colours and patterns, stripes with polka dots, and animalier with anything, and the latter pieces are great for adding texture. Gucci's Lady Lock in python has a bamboo handle, several pockets inside, and loads of style in its trend colours. Max Mara's range includes zebra stripes and ostrich. Loewe's Amazona dates back to 1975, but it is now available with the Amazona Atelier service by means of which you can customize corner patches, handles and body, in a total of 131,265 versions that include ostrich and crocodile in 19 different shades. But just about all brands have at least a few bags featuring animal textures. You just can't go wrong.

  x1 bags

Getting a crush
There are lots of bags that are soft and supple enough to be folded and carried just the way you like. Burberry's Little Crush clutch bag has become an instant icon with its bag-in-bag design, the drawcord closure, and the animal print calfskin. Etro's drawstring bag features the maison's classic paisley-inspired pattern in colours that match with just about everything. Noé by Louis Vuitton is a classic, running back to 1932 when a French champagne producer asked Gaston-Louis Vuitton to design a bag that could hold a few bottles of champagne. Today the family has been extended with BB Noé, smaller than the original, with a handle that can double as a shoulder strap.

Pure leather pleasure
A bag is the classic leather accessory, and in many of this season's pieces, it's the leather, brilliantly crafted, that gives the bag its stand-out quality. Bally's Papillon series made its debut last season, and this fall/winter it's back, this time in black and white, a brilliant combination of a hard basket shell in smooth calf leather and a soft pouch lining, which can be detached for use on its own. The bag can be enlarged by means of the clip buttons on either side of the top opening. Mulberry's Willow tote in silky calf is available in a colour range that includes some fiery-bright hues, enhancing the signature postman's lock closure. The Willow is convertible, like the Bally Papillon: the front envelope can be unzipped and used separately as a clutch. Valentino's Rockstud tote combines classic Valentino design with a modern edge provided by the studs and hardware, providing a contrast with the soft vitello leather. Lanvin's Beyond bag is a new version of an evening bag created by Jeanne Lanvin in the 1950s, and it has an Art Deco feel created by the geometric styling applied to the luxurious shell-grained calfskin.

  x3 bags

Sparkling pattern
You can carry around a piece of Byzantine sophistication with Dolce & Gabbana's Miss Sicily Queen Regina satchel, in which the staggeringly beautiful mosaics of the Monreale cathedral are brought to life with a piece of superb craftsmanship. Chanel's popular Lego Clutch is in a lovely combination of black plexiglas with multicoloured tweed. Fractal geometry makes a powerful appearance in bags by Etro this season, adding colour in addition to striking graphic design and colourful paisley prints. Missoni presents the first collection to be entirely manufactured in-house, with design by Margherita Maccapani Missoni.

Steampunk fantasy
Versace's bags for the season combine the luxury of leather with the layers of fetishistic suggestions provided by the patent gleam, baroque patterning, Medusa buckle and mink fur tail that make it into an instant talking piece. Chain makes an appearance on bags by Lanvin, but it is Chanel that goes all the way and blends luxury with pure punk in some of its pieces this season. The Boy bag in particular has gained chains galore that make it a tough piece.