Sadly, many vegan bags are just made of nasty materials. Luckily, some eco friendly vegan handbag brands DO exist!
By Noa Ben Moche
It’s a sad reality that most vegan handbags are not all that kind to the planet. Don’t get me wrong: there’s nothing at all eco-friendly about leather itself, and of course, it’s a cruel material to make fashion from! But sometimes, I get a bit frustrated at the lack of eco-friendly vegan handbags out there.
Most are made from PU ‘leather’, which is comprised of polyurethane, a.k.a. one type of a large family of elastic polymers with a rubbery texture. But unlike conventional rubber, polyurethanes start out as liquids which can then be cast in low-pressure molds to form anything you like, from insulation to shoes to a flat leather-like material.
It sounds chemical and nasty, and you may be tempted to think that animal leather is better for the environment, but consider this: even animal leather is sometimes split and combined with polyurethane for extra durability, to add a smoother effect or to simply save money for the brand making it.
And as any sustainable fashionista worth her salt knows, leather is no better than PU leather – in fact, if you factor in the environmental impact of raising animals, it’s worse.
So, what’s an eco-conscious vegan to do when it comes to making accessories choices?
The answer is easy: stick with one of the newly emerging totally eco-friendly handbag brands!
I’ve found a few below – do you know of any others?
7 Eco Friendly Vegan Handbag Brands
What do banana trees, lotus flowers, rain trees, and bamboo all have in common? Their leaves, sap and bark are all used by Thailand based brand Bark and Leaf to make gorgeous vegan bags! In fact, together with with a collective of 40 Thai women, Avani have created a material called Leaftex® that has a very small ecological footprint indeed, but has all the strength and durability of animal leather.
All Avani bags contain only 100% recyclable or natural materials that are dyed with plant based colours. Each accessory is crafted by skilled indigenous Thai artisans using techniques handed down over generations, and the brand prides itself on donating part of their profits back into their workers’ communities to help improve their standard of living.
Made from: Leaves Prices from: Around $69
From pineapples to handbags! Maniwala uses Piñatex – a durable vegan leather alternative made from pineapple bush leaves – to create their luxurious, timeless and practical bags. And the best part? Unlike most other brands that use Pinatex, they make their accessories without any added plasticisers whatsoever! The result is a more organic fabric that resembles ‘rawhide’ a bit.
The brand is also extremely transparent regarding their entire production chain, which ensures the people and planet are treated with the utmost respect.
Made from: Pure, unplasticised Piñatex Prices from: Around $380
Selected by Net a Porter to be part of their Net Sustain edit, Kayu is a well known accessories brand that uses mainly raffia and straw to create adorable clutches, totes and purses.
The label was founded by California based Jamie Lim, but the bags are made entirely by hand in limited quantities by artisans in the Philippines and Malaysia, as one of Lim’s goals was to help support the preservation of local craftsmanship in these communities.
Kayu uses traditional loom and hand weaving techniques to create most of their range, but we love the newest collection, which features a sustainable batik printing technique on organic cotton and hexagonal handles made from recycled wood.
Made from: Straw, raffia, recycled wood Prices: From around $80
Natural cork and innovative, raw Piñatex® are just two of the sustainable fabrics this eco friendly vegan handbag brand uses to make its chic totes, wallets and backpacks. The linings are all made from recycled plastic bottles and/or organic cotton. Our favourite style has to be the Gemma Backpack (below), which does double duty as a shoulder bag – just change the straps!
Made from: Cork, Pinatex, recycled plastic and organic cotton Prices: From $145
Bobobark by Laflore is a bit like Svala in that it’s crafted from organic cork. The other similarity is the design. So far, there’s only one, but frankly, one is all you need! The black hue matches everything, and the innovative style means that this bag is actually THREE in one! It’s a backpack, of course, but it’s also a briefcase and a purse – just change the straps to change the function.
The bags are also waterproof, soften with age, and are as durable as leather – but three times lighter. What’s not to love?
Made from: Cork and recycled materials Prices: $179 if you buy now here (price will go up to $279 when the bags hit retailers on September 15 2019)
Ah, if only handbags grew on trees….
Well, with OOD, they kind of do!
This Italian brand was started by a father and daughter team (just like Bobobark, above) and creates its vegan accessories from wood pulp. The result isn’t at all what you’d think: the bags are light, smooth, and easy to carry.
All OOD’s handbags are characterised by simple, futuristic and elegant lines that highlight the unique features and specifications of the many types of wood used, ranging from from the satin effect typical of birch, to the simplicity and classicism of the walnut tree. OOD also stands out from other brands as it combines the most traditional aspects – such as its Made in Italy production and craftsmanship – with the most innovative and sustainable data from the use of advanced vegan friendly materials.
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