Luxe Vegan Bags You'll Love

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.

Stella McCartney Knot Bag and Sans Beast pouch
Stella McCartney Knot Bag and Sans Beast pouch

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.