Thought that luxury bags could only be leather? Think again. Here are 7 brands that dispel misconceptions about vegan bags, using quality, cruelty-free materials and chic, minimalist design.
Every year, millions upon millions of animals are slaughtered by the global leather industry for their skins and hides. In fact, it is estimated that in order to produce just our wallets, handbags and shoes alone, the leather industry will need to slaughter 430m cows annually by 2025 to keep up with demand.
Using animal-based materials for food and fashion is environmentally devastating and unsustainable. Environmentalists point to the greenhouse gas emissions associated with raising livestock— of which leather is a profitable derivative—and of deforested land on which those animals often graze, and water pollution. Agriculture, according to the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, is responsible for between 14.5% -18% of the total release of greenhouse gases worldwide, more than all transport combined (13%). In a 2009 report, Greenpeace points out that livestock is responsible for about 80% of deforestation in the Amazon region and 14% of global deforestation.
It is often argued that leather is a natural material and therefore biodegradable and better for the environment, but that's not true. In order to prevent their decomposition in your wardrobe, the skins undergo a chemical treatment—often with chromium, a recognized carcinogen. Due to a lack of regulation in India, Bangladesh, Pakistan or China, where the majority of tanned leather comes from, toxic waste from tanning is often discharged into the groundwater polluting water and soil. It can also make its way into the air and food, and can pose serious risks to human health. In fact, the leather tanning industry is one of the most polluting in the world. There is nothing natural or eco-friendly about leather.
Although alternative faux leathers—mainly derived from polyurethane, a plastic-based material— aren’t perfect, they still have significantly less environmental impact than leather. A study published by The Global Fashion Agenda in collaboration with The Boston Consulting Group Pulse of the Fashion Industry, concludes that the net environmental impact of leather is still double that of PU. Today, numerous companies are developing more sustainable bio-based and bio-fabricated materials that will eventually eliminate the need for PU altogether. Brands like Stella McCartney are exploring the use of a new fungi-based lab-grown leather for use in their bags and accessories.
You don't have to compromise on ethics, or sacrifice quality or style for a chic bag. These 7 brands dispel the misconception that vegan leather bags are inferior, and prove that you can carry your cruelty-free and eco-friendly credentials with you in a slick tote. Not only do these bags come at no cost to animal lives, but the following brands are also dedicated to social impact giving back through a variety of charities and community organisations.
Fashion you can feel good about.
Stella McCartney’s iconic best selling chain-embellished Falabella bag is rock’n’roll and cool af, much like its rock royalty creator. Her faux leather has eco-credentials: the alter-nappa coating is made with 60 per cent vegetable oil; her polyurethanes are water-borne and solvent-free, meaning they’re less energy and water-intensive, and made without toxic solvents. Her website cites a statistic from Environmental Profit and Loss (EP&L) that “using recycled polyester instead of Brazilian calf leather, for example, creates 24 times less of an environmental impact”. The brand has also invested in textile innovation to come up with better, more sustainable materials and is currently exploring lab-grown leather as an alternative.
In only three years Melbourne-based Sans Beast has already racked up a cult following, and it’s no surprise—they have some of the coolest designs around. Founded by a seasoned accessories designer, Cathryn Wills, Sans Beast deliver a range of minimalist chic bags and accessories in mock croc and faux leather in a variety of colours, finished off by slick high-quality hardware and manufactured to ethical standards. The brand has also partnered up with animal sanctuary Edgar’s Mission with their recycled poly-fabric Everything Pouch—all gross proceeds from the sale of their Everything Pouch go to Edgar's Mission.
This New York-based vegan bag brand launched in 2016 and has wooed vegan fashionistas with its elegant and modern designs with a luxury hand-feel. The lining of their bags is made from 100% recycled plastic bottles, and they have an ethical supply chain, working only with factories that are certified by GRS (Global Recycling Standards) and the Oeko-Tex Standard, which means all their partners have been audited by the authorities and all the materials used can be traced. Furthermore, 10% of every bag purchase is donated to animal sanctuaries across the world. How fabulous are these moon shaped bags, right?
Launched just last year, FERRON creates ethically-made, sustainably-sourced, cruelty-free and PETA approved bags, with a small percentage of profits going to the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust elephant orphanage in Kenya (thus the elephant logo on each bag). The box bags, made from bio-based polyurethane (PU) and microfiber, are of the same quality as you would expect of luxury bag brands. And they're so cute too! You can wear them with a shoulder strap or handle for a polished look.
This female-founded Canadian brand creates cruelty-free and minimalist bags and accessories from water-based PU and microfiber and Appleskin leather, including the chicest vegan laptop sleeves that double as clutches, and cute jewellery pouches. Committed to posi social impact a portion of SAMARA’s profits go towards supporting The Soular Backpack, which also employs women in Kenya to create sustainable change.
Launched in 2015 by Vicki von Holzhausen—who previously worked with Audi and Mercedes Benz—this bag and accessories brand really gets luxury ecological manufacturing. Von Holzhausen's animal-free and sustainable Technik 'leather' is a polyurethane-based material made through a Green-Guard, LEED-certified sustainable process where the water, resins, and solvents are recycled and used again, "so it’s 99 percent waste-free", von Holzhausen states. The collection includes bags and small vegan accessories that are both stylish and eco-friendly, ethically-made, and socially responsible. The brand gives back through a variety of charities that support their local homeless community in Los Angeles, oceans, and animal welfare.
Founded by a Parisian couple, this French luxury vegan leather brand is named after an ancient Indian Emperor who is known as the father of vegetarianism in India. They use high quality materials like Eco Nappa (an environmentally friendly polyurethane) and bio-based Appleskin (produced from apple waste) while the lining of their bags and wallets are made from recycled plastic bottles. The structured Paname shoulder bags are roomy and great as a day to day or work bag. Ashoka Paris donates part of its profits to animal rights groups.