Brights Are the New Neutral: Starring Coach & Chicago’s Finest

Carnelian, cobalt, emerald, and sunflower-hued leathers continue to invade the shelves where black and cognac handbags once reigned as rulers. Any standard about only needing a brown tote for the work week and a black clutch for evenings out has been replaced by designers’ new credo: the more color, the better! And beloved American leather goods designer, Coach, illustrated this when they unveiled the relaunch of their Legacy collection last month. A dozen of their classic styles have been recreated in a bevy of saturated shades, turning Coach stores worldwide into a sort of hands-on color wheel.

We realize a brightly colored handbag might scare off more conservative dressers or Everygirls on a budget looking to make practical purchases (especially when it’s an investment piece like a quality, leather Coach bag). So we thought it would be helpful to partner with the brand to show readers how to style these colorful statement bags practically. Exemplify how they work in day-to-day looks.

And to make this even more fun, we reached out to seven of Chicago’s (stylish) leading ladies who we personally look to for inspiration to see which of the playful pocketbooks they’d choose and how they’d style it for their everyday use. The ladies took us out of their work places and on a tour around the Windy City to show us where they spend their time when they’re not kicking butt behind their desks. No surprise, they all hit this one out of the park and have us itching to grow our candy-colored collection of clutches and carryalls.

Tell us, which color would be your neutral?

THE PR GURU: Lynne Bredfeldt, Park Hyatt Hotel

I grew up in the suburbs of Chicago and studied broadcast journalism at Columbia College. My family has since moved to Pennsylvania, but I stayed in Chicago after I graduated to work in a city I love. I am currently the Director of Public Relations for Park Hyatt Chicago where I handle PR and communications on a local, national and global level for the hotel, restaurant, and spa (NoMI Kitchen & NoMI Spa). I get excited every morning to create something that is fresh and innovative, but that also drives business for the hotel. The passion I feel for my work is a daily confirmation that this is what I am meant to do.

I selected the large Legacy Duffle in emerald. Emphasis on large. Always an essential for my handbag. You will never find me without my yearly datebook, notepad, two phones, and the odds and ends that keep me moving when I’m on the go. My workday bag is my weekend bag, so it needs to be versatile. Functional but sharp, in any circumstance. You can never go wrong with a classic.

My style is cohesive, but playful. I am very comfortable with mixing prints with florals, navy and black, or polka dots with stripes. Don’t even get me started on incorporating sequins. My style personifies who I am—lively, out-of-the-box, but always put together.

I just returned from a trip to Paris, so the J. Crew French Hen sweater seemed fitting and is très chic! For some extra layering and dimension, I added their classic blue and white striped button up. I paired it with a wool polka dot Opening Ceremony skirt, and patterned t-strap Mary Jane’s from J. Crew. My go-to accessory is a classic Hermes enamel bracelet that I wear every day and then incorporate in different bangles from Topshop or Zara. For jewelry and accessories, I tend to lean towards classic. If the outfit tells a story, the rest should complement.

When I’m not traveling, I’m enjoying Chicago’s incredible art, culture and great food. The Museum of Contemporary Art always adds color to a weekend afternoon—a place to let my mind wander and spark inspiration. It’s important to find a place in your city you can connect with and be inspired.

THE MEDIA: Val Warner and Jessie, Windy City Live

VAL: I am fun. I am hip (at least I like to think so). I am a fashionista. I am a mom, and I love style. I am from L.A. but my roots are all Chicago, and now I’m firmly planted here. I love the swag people have in Chicago in how they dress, and I totally relate! Work brought me here and I am so glad it did! I host Windy City LIVE, a live local talk show that celebrates everything Chicago and then some.

JESSIE: I grew up in Minnetonka, Minnesota and graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a degree in Journalism and Strategic Communications. I love the Midwest but wanted a bigger city than Minneapolis, so Chicago was a no-brainer for me after college! I am now an Associate Producer at Windy City LIVE on ABC 7 and absolutely love it. It’s definitely something new every day!

I chose the Legacy Universal Clutch in red because it is versatile. You can dress it up or down, it is an amazing color, and I believe every woman should have a clutch. This bag takes any outfit to the next level! I would use it day or night.

This Mini Mini Black Crossbody bag goes with anything! The straps are the perfect length to throw on as a cross body or just wear to the side on one shoulder. It’s a great purse to bring out when you just want to carry the essentials. It’s so light you almost forget you’re wearing it!

I wore this bag with a great pair of Seven black trouser jeans and a caramel faux leather jacket from Target. I definitely needed the purse to give the outfit that pop of color. It was convenient throwing my Old Navy butterfly scarf in the pocket of my purse for an accessory that I could always layer with on a cool fall day.

I paired this Ann Taylor drape jacket with a tank from H&M (only $9.95!) and Rag & Bone gray pants. If you’re layering a few looser items on top, I would go for a tighter skirt or pant to balance it out. I love the fall colors of the outfit but felt like it needed a pop of color, so I added in the blue suede J. Crew heels.  The earrings are from Topshop, and the necklace is from the Randolph Street Market.

Our Windy City LIVE studio is in the perfect location right along State Street. Whenever we need a quick break from work, H&M, Anthropologie, Target, Nordstrom Rack, and Magnolia Bakery are just a couple blocks away. It’s a great alternative to Michigan Avenue!

THE FASHION BLOGGER: Dana Weiss, Possessionista

I’m a Midwestern girl by way of Washington DC. I moved to Chicago after college (I swore to my parents that I’d live in the Midwest when I was old enough to make my own decisions). I run the blog, which helps regular people find the clothes they see on TV, and I’m a stay-at-home mom.

I love the Legacy Mini Saddle Bag in cobalt because it’s a crossbody. As a mom, I always need an extra pair of hands.

I love transitional clothes, so I paired my rose colored summer shorts from Aritzia with a Free People sweater and Frye boots. Mixing textures like chunky sweaters with streamlined bottoms is a way to transition a warm weather piece (think a gauze maxi skirt or lace shorts) into something for fall.

I’m at a coffee shop, Cafe Selmarie, in Lincoln Square. Because I write about TV fashion in the context of the everygirl, I like to go places to see how women are actually living and dressing. It gives me insight into the pieces that I think my readers are going to be asking about.

THE FASHION DESIGNER: Marie Whitney, Two Penny Blue

I’m the Founder & Creative Director of Two Penny Blue, a line of luxury jackets and blazers, and for every jacket we sell we donate a school uniform to a girl in need in Africa.  I relocated from Boston to Chicago this summer for my husband’s job, and fell madly in love with this amazing city.

I chose the Candace Carryall in Colorblock because navy, red, and tan is such a great color combination.  The bag is so classic, but the color blocking and tassels give it a modern twist that I love.   The color and size make it a versatile piece that transitions easily from work to weekend.

I paired the bag with GAP distressed skinny jeans, a GAP navy and red striped bateau top, J.Crew vest, Ann Taylor leopard heels,  a navy wool hat from Club Monaco and vintage yellow belt.  A great way to work around a brightly colored statement bag is to incorporate interesting neutrals such as distressed denim and leopard print (yes, I consider leopard a modern neutral!) to make the look feel fun and fresh.  And the yellow belt adds an unexpected dash of color against the army green vest.

This photo was taken near the Lincoln Park Zoo. I love the gardens, the conservatory, the fabulous Green City Market, and the zoo is one of my son’s favorite spots in the city.

THE INTERIOR DESIGNERS: Lauren Buxbaum and Sasha Adler, Nate Berkus Associates

LAUREN: I grew up in Highland Park, IL and never questioned whether or not I’d move back to Chicago after college.  I love this city, and I work as a Design Director at Nate Berkus Associates.

SASHA: I am originally from Chicago, and after living in New York for a few years after college, I ended up back home. I am a Design Director for Nate Berkus Associates.

I chose the Candace Carryall in Cobalt.  I love its classic shape and the fact that it’s slightly oversized, but still very manageable. I can see myself wearing it every day.

Yellow is one of my very favorite colors, so the Candace Carryall in Sunflower instantly caught my eye. I also love oversized totes to carry everything I need from snacks for my two-year old to my notebook and camera. It has a classic and timeless structure, so I know it is something I will reach for again and again.

I paired a polka dotted J.Crew sweater with printed Club Monaco pants and a black BOY by Band of Outsiders blazer and Brian Atwood leopard calf hide heels.  I am really into the idea of mixing and matching patterns which is a big trend this fall, and it’s also something we do when pulling together fabric swatches for clients.  I made sure to keep my colors relatively neutral so that the cobalt bag could be my “pop” of color and nothing else would compete with it.

I paired my high-waisted, 70s-style, J Brand jeans with a classic blue, shrunken, oxford shirt by BOY by Band of Oustiders, a vintage jacket I borrowed from a friend, and my go-to leopard shoes. Yellow goes with almost anything in my world, but it totally brightened up this outfit and worked with the colors.

We love eating lunch outside at Le Colonial during the summer. It’s our escape when we’re not terribly busy at work. We love the food, service, occasional glass of wine, and the great people watching.

photos by Jennifer Kathryn Photography

*This feature was sponsored by Coach.

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