People Stop Me on the Street to Ask About This $45 Handbag (It Looks Way More Expensive, BTW)

Let me set the scene for you: It’s 11 p.m. and I’m scrolling through Instagram even though I really should be powering down for the night, when *bam* I see an ad for the faux-croc-embossed purse from JW Pei that I’ve been thinking about since August. It’s pretty cheap, I tell myself and then glance at the price again, but maybe too cheap? Reader, I didn’t buy the bag. 

A few weeks later, I spotted one of those cooler-than-thou girls on the subway with her mustard-colored mini-flap bag ($54) flung across her chest. I couldn’t stop staring at the petite rectangular purse. I was able to ID that it was, indeed, from JW Pei thanks to the brand name being delicately stamped in gold, plus the discreet hardware peeking out from under the top flap. And I was shocked that the vegan leather looked so fancy (yes, even under fluorescent lights).

It was at that point that I knew it was time to spring for one of my own.

The JW Pei purse I ended up with is the Fae Top Handle in light brown croc. It’s ladylike, it’s prim, it has an interior zipper and it’s made of vegan leather. Oh, and it was also on sale for just $45. That’s how much it costs to get a gel mani (with tip) in NYC, so it’s not a major investment.

But it has caused a few people on the city streets (and the nurses in my doctor’s office) to stop me in my tracks and ask, “Oh my God, is that a JW Pei bag?” Every time I’ve been stopped by a purse admirer, they’ve admitted that they, too, had spotted the bag on IG and wondered if it was worth it. So here’s my encouragement: Yes, it is! Buy the JW Pei bag.

jw pei bag in brown croc
JW Pei

Sure, there’s a top handle on my JW Pei number, but it also comes with a crossbody strap for those days when I need access to both hands. It’s also slightly wider on the bottom, giving it a sturdy, won’t-tip-over kind of feel. Admittedly, I’m not the biggest fan of the caramel hue. Something about the coloring of the faux croc feels a bit off. But the black one? Yeah, that looks like it could be from The Row or maybe even Hermès (if you’re 50 feet away and squinting, but still). I could also see myself rocking the off-white color with a chain handle or the spring-friendly ice blue iteration.

jw pei bag in blue
JW Pei

If you’re not a fan of ladylike, boxy bags, JW Pei has plenty of other trendy options. Consider the sculptural hobo in embossed snakeskin or the ’90s-inspired pleated leather bag that comes with a scrunchie-esque handle.

Oh, one more thing: None of the purses mentioned in this story cost more than $79, but they all look far more expensive.

BUY IT ($79; $45)

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Fashion Editor

From 2019-2021 Dena Silver held the role of Fashion Editor covering product recommendations, trends, and what you should be shopping this season.