Though an overnight transformation may not be possible, small steps can make a difference, and purchasing vegan leather helps support ethical businesses. Caroline Brown, founder of the sustainable, luxury retailer VOKE, shared a 2018 study, in which researchers explain that the eco-footprint of non-animal leathers is just one-third that of animal leather.
By eliminating reliance upon corporate-run “factory farms” (where animals are raised, bred, and harvested by big business for slaughter), minimizing transportation costs, and reducing the chemical waste from leather tanning, the manufacturing and use of non-animal leather has the potential to make fashion a significantly cleaner industry.
Vegan leather bags are officially trending, and it’s not hard to see why. Sustainable fashion’s shift away from animal products can be traced back to two separate causes: animal welfare and environmental sustainability. The resulting shift in the fashion industry is one that supporters of both causes can rally around; hence the rise of animal-friendly trends in fashion, like faux fur and leather, as well as eco-friendly textiles. In fact, Vogue Business estimates that the global synthetic leather market will continue to grow, reaching $45 billion by the year 2025.
“There is a spectrum of how sustainable vegan leathers are,” Brown explains. Synthetic leathers, like PVC and PU, for example, are not ideal, as they still rely upon petroleum. But biodegradable substitutes made from pineapple leaves, apples, and other organic fiber composites offer some of our best options yet. As haute couture designer Stella McCartney proves, vegan leather can be just as luxe (and often indistinguishable from) its animal-derived counterparts.
You don’t even have to swear off leather 100 percent to help make a difference for the environment either. For instance, purchasing vintage or second-hand handbags from the resale market (think: The RealReal or Poshmark) significantly extends the life-cycle of your purse. The key here lies in stepping away from the endless cycle of fast fashion – and investing, rather, in durable, high-quality garments that you will keep for years.
But, of course, as people become increasingly conscious of the impact of their decisions, the market expands to meet their demands. So, nowadays, opting for vegan leather bags doesn’t mean sacrificing killer style. It’s a win-win. Read on for some of the most stylish (and sustainable) brands on the market right now.
1 Matt Nat Dov Bag ($135; amourvert.com)
This cylindrical shape is totally trend-forward – and from a brand that never scrimps on sustainability. The detachable shoulder strap makes it wearable in countless situations.
2 Angela Roi Eloise Vegan Leather Crossbody ($209; shopvoke.com)
Your wardrobe needs a structured crossbody in a seasonal hue like burgundy. This one features detachable straps, an interior pocket for your phone, and vegan suede interior lining.
3 Topshop Theo Acrylic Handle Faux Leather Bag ($24; nordstrom.com)
Olive green is having a moment – and we are here for it. The acrylic top handles add texture and tone. Even better: It’s on sale!
4 Stella McCartney Mini Falabella Shoulder Bag ($495; nordstrom.com)
Stella McCartney’s classic, chain-trimmed Falabella handbag gets a modern update. This itty-bitty shoulder bag, in party-ready metallic pink, is the most splurge-worthy pick of the season.
5 Friday by JW Pei The Fae Top Handle Bag ($39; fridaybyjwpei.com)
The affordable fashion gods smiled upon us when designer JW Pei created its affordable sister brand, Friday by JW Pei. The handbags feature clean, minimalist angles that look especially sophisticated in crocodile and snakeskin-embossed prints.
6 Nanushka Lynne Mini Croc-Effect Faux Leather Tote ($365; netaporter.com)
The only thing better than the crocodile trend? You guessed it – faux crocodile. Coupled with the cool shape, this bag has earned a top spot on our wishlists.
7 GUNAS The Brand Naomi ($155; gunasthebrand.com)
Meet the PETA-approved carryall that you’d never guess isn’t leather. This ostrich skin lookalike fits all your daily essentials – and more – so expect it to become your new go-to.
8 BP x Claudia Sulewski Faux Patent Leather Mini Backpack ($41; nordstrom.com)
If you haven’t scored yourself a mini backpack yet, now is the time to do so. The design’s straps and pockets make it easy to use, while the faux patent leather lends cool-girl edge.
9 Glamchop LA Orbit Fanny Pack ($125; glamchop.la)
Want to add a pop to any look? This Los Angeles-made fanny pack is for you. Wear it cross-body to get the look just right.
10 Comme des Garcons Logo Print Shopper Tote ($490; farfetch.com)
Our favorite part of this fashion girl-approved shopper? The separate interior pouch can be detached and used solo as a wristlet.
11 Levi Jones Monroe Vegan Leather Waist Bag ($88; shopvoke.com)
This bag is timeless thanks to its classic black hue, but its details take it up a notch to a trendy must-have. The coolest one? You can actually remove the bag and wear the belt by itself, too. Talk about double duty.