By Lora O’Brien
We all love a good handbag. They’re the perfect accessory to the perfect outfit, and no matter how bloated you feel, they never lose their fit!
But if you’re not a fan of parading animal skin around your arm, never fear–cruelty-free fashion has never been so chic. Whether you’ve got a wedding scheduled this summer, are planning a big girls night out, or if you’re just looking to upgrade your work bag, then you’ll love these vegan bag brands we’ve found to complement your summer wardrobe.
1. Matt & Nat
Living by the simplistic motto, “Live beautifully” Matt & Nat determine this to mean appreciating the humanity, creativity and positivity found it all of us. The brand is strongly inspired by the textures and hues found in nature, and it was a natural progression to stay committed to not using leather or any other animal-based materials in any of their designs. Over the years, Matt & Nat have experimented with different forms of recycled material, including nylons, cardboard, rubber and cork, and since 2007, the company have been committed to using linings only made out of 100% recycled plastic bottles. Recently, even recycled bicycle tires have found their way into their collection.
Matt & Nat is very slowly expanding around the world and can now be found in boutiques across Canada, the United States, the UK, Japan, Germany and Australia, as well as online, of course.
Kayu is a Californian based label founded by Jamie Lim, who grew up in South East Asia surrounded by artisanal crafts. Lim began to notice that the traditional arts she was surrounded by as a child were slowly disappearing, and through a desire to preserve and cultivate these traditional techniques, Kayu was born.
Today, Kayu works with artisans in Thailand, the Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia, and provides jobs to those that need them the most. Kayu products aren’t created in soulless factories where items are mass-produced, but instead works in smaller groups with mothers, grandmothers, sisters and daughters, giving a real family vibe to the brand.
Of course, Kayu is entirely sustainable and vegan friendly, two words we love to hear. All of their creations are made with natural materials like straw, shell and wood. As Kayu’s creations are rendered entirely by hand, you’ll find their products come in limited batches, making them all the more rare and unique.
Paguro’s team all share the same vision: they see the greater possibilities for materials which the majority of us would no longer consider functional, or even consider usable in the first place. For example, while we may discard inner tubes, old tyres, mosquito netting and plastic bags without a second thought, those who work with Paguro upcycle these into wonderful backpacks, totes and clutches.
Paguro is defined by a very laid back, effortless style. And this spacious yet incredibly light crocheted handbag is one of our top picks. Whether you wear it as an oversized tote or use it as an overnight bag, it’s seriously cool. Beautifully styled by Italian designers and produced ethically by a social enterprises in Cambodia, this is a bag made to stand out from the crowd.
Stella McCartney is probably a name that you’ve all heard of before, and with good reason. Thanks to her mother, the late Linda McCartney, Stella has been a lifelong vegetarian and works to bring fashionable style to the industry without any use of leather or fur in her designs. Stella’s collections are always innovative and fresh, and we love her unique ability to create luxury that remains fashion conscious.
5. CMPLT UNKNWN
Their edgy name spills over into their designs: CMPLT UNKNWN is earning recognition for its array of fashionable goods that juxtapose a rock and roll modern aesthetic with traditional craftsmanship. These bad girl designs may look tough, but they’re actually created from 100% cruelty free materials–their only connection to animals is the way their fantastic bead work and embroidery gives a nod to the fierce beauty of both animals and insects.
6. Jay Sales
They may be the new kids on the block, but Jay Sales are going all out to bring us a fab collection of vibrant, bohemian style bags. Think of being in India, walking along the market stalls and spotting an array of beautiful material, full of colour and exquisite embroidery. Now imagine bags being made from exactly that fabric, by a designer with an eye for Western trends. According to Jay Sales the brand is always “exploring the vast and vivid culture of India to bring exquisite crafts that echo of a glorious heritage, reviving traditional folk crafts to suit contemporary lifestyles, which in turn are helping the craftsmen to keep their art alive and ensuring the joy of a decent livelihood”.
Whether your style is more bohemian babe than city girl, or if you’re just looking for a funky new festival bag, then we think these banjara bags are going to be right up your street.
In a world where we’re surrounded by same-ish corporate shops, it’s great to know that those looking for leather alternatives are being given lots of options. Brought to life by a mother and daughter’s shared dream, LuLu’s is an online vegan fashion shop that is always switching up its style with various different designers, and they only buy limited stock. We love knowing that if you buy a bag from Lulu’s, chances are you won’t bump into someone carrying the same tote, ever.
Hooray! Wilby designs are not only certified as being free of animal products, but they’re also eco sensitive and environmentally aware. The aim of Wilby was, and more importantly still is, to create a fashion brand that is ethical whilst being fashionable for the consumer, who can be safe in the knowledge when shopping at Wilby that every purchase helps the environment in some way. And the brand has gotten off to a powerful start, having all of their bags approved by animal rights group, PETA.
Organic cotton, recycled textiles and cork leather are just some of the non-animal based materials they use. If we’re totally honest, the bags are so well made that you really wouldn’t ever guess they weren’t made from real leather, though. When vegan fashion looks this good, it’s hard to shop elsewhere.
Our fave? The Citibag is a design that will carry you from the day into night. With a detachable alloy chain, you can jazz up this bag and either carry it, or let it hang stylishly from your shoulder. Either way, the colours are beautiful, and it just happens to be the perfect work bag that you can take along with you for a few after work cocktails. Perfection!
Way back in 2008, designer Sugandh G. Agrawal quit her seven year corporate career and launched her own high fashion label. And as a fellow animal lover, Sugandh wanted to bring a range of fully cruelty-free fashion to New York. The result is Gunas, a pioneering brand in vegan fashion.
Sugandh spent a year researching the best fabrics, the best leather alternatives, and the most ethical manufacturing processes before creating her products. Whether you’re a glamorous diva, an angel at heart, have a rebellious attitude or consider yourself an explorer, Gunas has a style for you. With these beautiful designs packed full of beautiful materials and bursting with colour, there really is reason to opt out of vegan fashion.
The earthy tones in the Melrose design are perfect for someone not that keen on standing out. This bag is perfect for commuting back and forth to work, and is big enough to hold all those essential handbag items.
10. Jill Milan
After years of fruitlessly searching for luxury handbags that were also cruelty free, Jill Fraser decided to found her own company with a partner, Milan Lazich, to fill a gap she knew needed to be filled in the fashion market. Today, each bag that Jill Milan makes has been created with the assistance of master Italian artisans coming from a strong cultural heritage of creating the best luxury accessories in the world. This may result in a rather hefty price tag, but every bag is a work of art based not on canvas but in velvet, ultrasuede, and buttery-soft faux leather.