Review: Cuyana Classic Leather Tote

I thought I’d start off BAG WATCH with a recent purchase. Although I typically try to push myself to diversify my collection, I somehow always find myself gravitating towards totes. As of right now, I already have three totes (of varying materials, sizes, and colors) but when my friend raved to me about this wonderfully smooshy tote, I stalked the Cuyana website for hours and imagined myself with each color.
The Cuyana Classic Leather Tote is an unstructured, floppy bag made primarily for functionality – which makes sense since their motto is “fewer, better things”. As a person who likes to dump a bunch of miscellaneous stuff into their bag last minute in the morning, this tote is perfect for holding anything from a work laptop to yogurt cups and bananas. Before taking the plunge though, I did do some extra research on similar leather totes and I think this tote edged out the competition in a few areas.
  • SIZE: I was looking for a bag that wasn’t too large – I find that with loose, unstructured bags, there is a much higher chance of looking like you’re drowning in leather. I did, however, need it to be big enough for my work laptop (13″) to not fit too snug. Everlane’s Petra Market was a little too large at the mouth of the bag, although the bottom was a decent length.
  • STRUCTURE: I wanted something less structured so that I could carry it casually or to work. This ruled out quite a few – like Madewell’s transport tote. I’ve heard rave reviews on this bag, but an analysis for a structured tote is for another day!
  • PRICE: Most of these simple totes are priced in a similar range (<$500) but given my recent holiday spending on bags, I, of course, thought: the cheaper the better. Cuyana’s tote starts at $150 (with options to customize for an extra $10!) – which is undoubtedly a great deal.
  • COLOR: The Petra Casual was another contender, but I found that the color selection was restrictive to black, navy, and dark brown. Wanting to diversify, I thought it would be nice to find a slightly different neutral – maybe something more beige or grey that would work with any outfit. Cuyana’s tote fit the bill – they have twelve regular colors (and a shimmery one as well)!


I tested this baby out for a week before writing this review in order to provide more accurate details and impressions. All categories are rated out of 5 stars – I deducted half/whole stars based on whether or not the bag fulfilled all my needs in that category.
Like most totes, functionality is highly valued and the prime reason why they are a staple in every woman’s closet. This Cuyana tote is no different – it held up extremely well when I threw in my drawing tablet, laptop, chargers (multiple!), cosmetic pouches, cold weather gear, notebook, and pens. One thing I was a little concerned about was the bulging – when it was packed full, certain items look like they bulged outward from the leather. However, this didn’t leave a permanent dent or mark in the leather, which relieved my concerns. I personally also don’t mind the lack of zippers on my totes – I don’t think it detracts from the functionality of the bag.
  • AESTHETICS: ☆☆☆☆1/2
I ended up picking the tote in the cool grey color and it was just as beautiful in person as it was online. The leather was smooth and buttery and the pebbled leather was both soft yet sturdy. I liked the gold zippers on the inside pocket (there are two pockets on the interior!) and the solid gold lettering of the Cuyana name. The same gold stamping process was used on the exterior for my personalized initials on the front of the bag – a wonderful little extra add-on for $10! The straps were also thick enough to give me peace of mind when hauling my junk around, but also thin enough to look sleek and chic for everyday usage. The tote is so simple that it is definitely a classic – but if you’re looking for something special, then this bag is definitely lacking that oomph! factor.
  • BUILD: ☆☆☆☆1/2
From what I can see so far, the tote is constructed out of one large piece of leather with the edges tucked in on the inside.  I do like the unlined/’raw’ feeling of the tote, but I think I would also appreciate some sort of lining to the interior given the amount of ‘oops’ moments I have with water bottles and ink pens…
The stitches and lines are even, meticulous, and reinforced – a plus, especially with the amount of pressure I’ve put on this bag with my laptop. On the first night of carrying this bag, I also accidentally ran into a heavy commercial door that closed too quickly on me (well, not really on me, but rather on this tote) and I freaked out because I thought it was going to leave a disgusting mark or heavy dent on my brand new bag. To my surprise and relief, this light grey leather saw no stains or indentions of any kind. The sturdiness of the leather really surprised me, which is always a good thing.
  • VALUE: ☆☆☆☆☆
At $150 (+$10 if you choose to customize with your initials), this tote is hard to beat. It is the cheapest of all the totes I researched. And in terms of lasting power, I think the fine construction of this bag will extend its lifeline by many years (even with my accidental mishandlings). It’s also inexpensive enough to purchase a few different colors for, you know, all the seasons… and holiday outfits… Caramel for the fall & Blush for spring! Do I have a problem? Maybe…


If you have a Cuyana tote or one that you think outshines this particular bag, please leave a comment and let me know your thoughts! Questions welcome.
Details: the Classic Leather Tote measures 13″ x 18″ x 5″ (height x length x depth) and is available here. Other mentioned bags in the above posts are here: Madewell Transport, Everlane Petra Market, Everlane Casual Petra.

15 thoughts on “Review: Cuyana Classic Leather Tote

  1. Love this review! So thorough and addresses all the concerns I had. Thanks for the feedback and I’m looking forward to getting my first cuyana tote!


  2. Does the raw lining leave any leather flakes on your items? Say if you put a black scarf in your bag, would there be any leather flakes from the raw lining go on your scarf? I hope that make sense. thanks!


    1. Hi! There are no leather flakes to my knowledge. The interior is pretty smooth (as smooth as unlined/raw leather can get) and I haven’t seen anything flake off since I started using it. On the flip side, I have seen items with color transfer (like a dyed indigo folder) rub off on the interior. But it was decently easy to remove once I saw that there were blue streaks on the interior. Hope that helps!


  3. Hi! I have a quick question about this bag. I got the Madewell tote in this similar grey color and I’ve noticed that it picks up dye from my jeans and dark clothing, leaving the sides of the bag that hit my hips with slight blue/black stains 😦
    Does this happen with the Cuyana bag in your experience?


    1. Hi! I haven’t seen any color transfer on my tote so far – but as a disclaimer, the only dark articles of clothing I tend to wear are leggings or dresses. The chances of my bag picking up color from those fabrics are much slimmer than from jeans since denim sets color dyes differently. The only color transfer I’ve seen so far was from a dyed indigo folder that I kept inside my bag and that was pretty easy to remove off the interior pocket with a wet wipe. I hope that helps!


  4. I’ve been stalking this bag (in pearl grey) for a while and my biggest concern is the leather getting stained or damaged when I set the bag on the floor or put it through a x-ray at the airport, etc., etc…have you found the light leather to continue to be stain-free with prolonged use?


    1. Hi! Great question, I’ve had it for 1.5 years now and it has no visible staining or damage from putting it on the ground or general wear and tear. However I did wear a brand new pair of dark jeans and some of that ink did rub off. Hope that helps!


    2. The light leather isn’t bad in terms of wear, and I don’t really baby this bag at all. You shouldn’t get stains that hold if you set it on the ground. However, that being said, in really bad conditions like on a rainy day, wearing denim jeans will transfer the dye to the bag.


  5. Hi there! How is your bag holding up now (with laptop, chargers, tablets, etc)? I recently purchased a cuyana classic tote and am wondering how durable it is if I used it for school. Thanks!


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