Cuyana Leather Tote – Caramel

This year’s Christmas was a fruitful one. I got a ton of gifts I love, including a bag I’ve longed after for months — the Madewell Transport Tote in English Saddle. If you somehow haven’t heard of or seen this tote, just Google it and you’ll see an endless number of fashion bloggers modeling & loving it. Lucky Magazine even referred to it as “the Madewell tote that’s taking over the world.” 197 4.5 star reviews on Madewell and only $168 — definitely seemed like a no-brainer.

Madewell Transport Tote

However, when I opened the box and pulled out this bag, I wish I had read these reviews sorted from lowest to highest rating and seen all the complaints. The leather was light and seemed chalky, super stiff, and thin. There were a ton of stress marks on it that, combined with the light color of the bag, actually reminded me of human stretch marks. Gross, I know. I couldn’t get over it. Back it went.

Knowing my continued, lifelong obsession with finding the perfect cognac, chewy leather bag, my awesome fiance helped me on my renewed hunt to find the perfect cognac tote. Luckily, that same day, I discovered Cuyana from another fashion blogger. The second I hit the homepage, I saw this and felt I hit the jackpot —

Cuyana Leather Tote

I mean, seriously. I thought to myself, whatever price I have to pay for this exact bag, I will pay it. To my great surprise, I clicked through to the product page and saw it was only $150! I also read Cuyana’s story and mission, and thought to myself, this is what I need — hand-crafted quality from a boutique seller, not mass-produced bags from a big chain like Madewell. I was slightly concerned that the product page image of this bag didn’t look like it was the same leather, but I convinced myself it was just the photo.

Cuyana Leather Tote

Cuyana Leather Tote

Well, when I pulled the bag out of the box, I was immediately hit with two things: 1) the leather is incredibly, incredibly soft and pebbly. It was puddly and smelled amazing. Very different from the Madewell bag, which could stand on its own. This one definitely couldn’t. 2) The color was nothing like the product page image, and definitely nothing like the homepage photo I first posted. In fact, the leather was completely different — it wasn’t textured and thick, it was consistently pebbly smooth across the entire bag. I was disappointed. It’s a nice, minimalist bag that’d be perfect for someone, but I bought it for the color & leather combo and it wasn’t there. I tried to capture it in my photos, but essentially, it was a light brown — almost like Hermes Etoupe but slightly more brown without many orange undertones if at all.

Cuyana Leather Tote

Cuyana Leather Tote

This is a great bag with great leather, and super practical. This is even a great color for someone who’s looking for brown or light brown, or light saddle colors, but unfortunately just not exactly what I was looking for. If this is your cup of tea, buy it here from Cuyana for $150.

7 thoughts on “Cuyana Leather Tote – Caramel

  1. Hi I have a quick question.
    I am considering the Cuyana bag, but I’m concerned it won’t hold up quality-wise. Many of the beautiful, simple, raw-cut leather bags I have seen in person feel like the handles would ripp off if I put too much weight inside. Did you get that vibe with the cuyana or do you think it would last?

  2. Hi Ashley — the bag itself is very soft and floppy, and the handles are on the soft side and attached to the bag via some stitching, so it didn’t really feel like it could hold a lot of weight w/o concern. i can imagine heavy stuff in it would stretch out or poke out of the leather. It’s a beautiful bag but probably not very heavy duty. Hope that helped.

  3. Hi There!
    I have a question since I’m looking for the perfect leather bag as well. I know this post is old but I am dying to find a nice leather tote and I cannot seem to find the perfect one either! I tried the Madewell tote and I 100% agree on the stretch mark thing it looks gross and low quality. For some reason this type of leather is in style for bags and boots and I HATE it. Did you see the same type of leather on the Cuyana bag? did you try to lightly scratch it and did the marks come up?
    Thanks!

  4. Hey Isabel! Apologies for the delayed response. The perfect leather tote is so hard to find it feels like I’m perpetually on the lookout for “the one,” so I feel you. I think though if you like the Madewell tote style, it’s worth it to go to a store and ask them to bring out a few for you to choose from. Or order multiple from the site. The different batches look SO different — not only can the leather be completely different, but I’ve seen ones where even the handle colors are different. The Cuyana bag leather seemed much more fragile and not as hardy, it was very soft and flat in color, no stretch marks as it seems more like a processed leather rather than a raw-ish one with natural grains. I didn’t try to scratch it as I knew as soon as I saw it that it was going back. The color seemed kind of dull to me, and didn’t have the character a more natural grained leather would have. I hope this helps! And thanks for visiting!

  5. So glad that I read your post before taking the Cuyana OR Madewell plunge! These were exactly my concerns!

  6. Hi there! I am looking to purchase the Cuyana bag. I found the Madewell tote to be quite heavy without anything in it. Was the Cuyana similar in weight or did you find it to be heavier or lighter? Any help would be appreciated! Thanks!

  7. Hi Emma — it’s been a while since I held the Cuyana bag but I remember thinking it was very light, so light that it didn’t feel like a substantial quality bag. But that’s just me. My impression is that it is indeed lighter than the Madewell tote, so worth a shot if that’s what you’re looking for. Thanks for visiting!

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