The Duchess of Cambridge's attachment to her navy Anya Hindmarch Marano bag highlights the growing popularity of neat box clutches for formal occasions. This sophisticated accessory is the perfect complement for cocktail dresses and this season's trend for ladylike looks.
The clutch now in vogue is a direct descendent of the minaudiere, a rectangular box made in precious metals and often set with jewels. The minaudiere was designed at the end of the 1920s for Florence Gould, the modern-minded wife of a wealthy American railroad magnate, who used to toss her comb, lipstick, cigarettes and lighter into a simple Lucky Strike tin box. Arpels designed the elegant box for her, naming it Minaudiere, which means 'coquettish air'. The Minaudiere is still part of Van Cleef & Arpels' collection, its most recent designs appearing in its Midsummer Night's Dream collection.
Hong Kong designer Fiona Kotur's metal and perspex box clutches, Pearce and Seno, are perhaps the closest we have today to those early designs. The emphasis is on architecturally inspired shapes decorated with stripes, or colour blocks of perspex and mother of pearl rather than precious stones. Most designs appearing this season however are fashioned in exotic skins, Swarovski crystals, smooth satins, richly textured fabrics, glitter, or - as at Bottega Veneta - intrecciato woven nappa.
Anya Hindmarch launched the silk-finished Marano design in 2008 and counts Kate Hudson, Emma Watson and Claudia Schiffer amongst its fans. Hindmarch has added new materials and finishes each season, including stingray (the duchess' favourite), metallic, embroidered and glitter.
Alexander McQueen introduced his handmade, skull clasped box clutch in mid-2007 and creative director Sarah Burton added pearls and gold lace filigree metal designs, echoing the watery underworld theme of the latest collection.
The trend has gained momentum in the past few months. Jimmy Choo, Roger Vivier, Bally, Bulgari (an elegant gold python style with a Roman coin clasp in its new Monete collection) and designers Diane von Furstenburg, Roberto Cavalli, Marchesa and Sonia Rykiel are producing tempting designs for spring. The clutch's simple shape makes it a perfect canvas for decoration like Roger Vivier's colourful African-beaded Bakelite bags to accessorise summer's tribal looks. It can also have the edgy glamour of Jimmy Choo's clear perspex clutch with bondage cuff.
There are also more understated styles that look perfect with summer's tailoring and American-style sports chic. The series of elegantly shaped crocodile and alligator box clutches with animal clasps from Singaporean accessories designer Ethan K's Wildlife Odyssey collection, for instance. The clean silhouettes and bold colour add structure and make a statement with the minimum of fuss.