Conscious consumerism has been on a steady rise over the years as cruelty-free fashion gradually enters the mainstream. With brands such as Gucci becoming more aware of their environmental impact and an increasing emergence of makeup and skincare products made consciously with ethical ingredients, style today can be both humane and incredibly well designed. For those looking to join the sustainability and ehtical movement while not giving up on impeccable style, we’ve gathered a list of the best bags made using noble materials as alternatives to your leather options. In these progressive times, why not opt for style over skin?
For those looking to buy beautiful handbags while saving animal lives, JW PEI makes luxurious designer bags out of vegan leather and recycled bottles—how neat is that! Sleek, elegant and refined, the bags are produced in the same factory that has worked with various other high-end brands, such as Gucci, Calvin Klein and Prada. Bags from JW PEI are made from a special material called patina, which combines top quality PU and ultra-fine microfiber bundles for a result that is softer than real leather but incredibly durable, giving you beauty and optimum functionality to sling over your shoulder.
Matt & Nat
Avid followers of eco-friendly fashion are probably familiar with Montreal-based Matt & Nat. An abbreviation of the brand’s two key values ‘mat(t)erial’ and ‘nature’, the sustainable accessories brand has been experimenting with recycled materials as alternatives to animal-based products for nearly 20 years, exploring options such as nylons, cardboard, rubber and even cork. Despite using these "unconventional" materials, however, Matt & Nat may surprise you with their incredibly elegant and sophisticated designs. Ranging from clutches to classy totes and even expanding into dog bags and weekenders, there’s something here for everyone. The brand also recently launched a new collection of chic bags made from recycled bicycle tires, which are available on ASOS.
A popular pick among celebrities, PETA-approved vegan brand Melie Bianco brings you high-end designer styles minus the cruelty. Think Celine and Balenciaga vibes but with top-quality faux leather created under fair trade principles. Tailored towards refined tastes, Melie Bianco's up-to-date and refined approach to ethical fashion makes it a familiar name in publications ranging from Vogue and Elle to Marie Claire. If you want to dab into the world of conscientious shopping but are worried about falling behind popular design trends, this label has you covered with their chic totes and classy shoulder bags.
American brand Angela Roi designs luxury vegan bags using EPUL, or Excellent Polyurethane Leather, and gold-plated hardware for that extra upscale touch. Expect chic and elegant creations, made in a way that they are surprisingly soft yet durable. Cruelty and sweatshop free, not only does Angela Roi champion the cause of vegetarianism, the brand also donates a portion of its revenue to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA). Rock on, Angela Roi!
With a collection of high-quality handbags manufactured in Italy, Jill Milan stands out amongst other well-known cruelty-free labels through a strong commitment to classical styles and top-grade materials. The brand is often spotted in red carpet events like Cannes and is also a favourite of many high-profile Hollywood stars, including Anne Hathaway, Jennifer Lawrence, Rashida Jones and Hailee Steinfeld, who have all sported Jill Milan to various industry events. Best of all, not only are the bags from Jill Milan completely free of animal-based materials, the brand also donates a percentage of its revenue towards a range of non-profit anti-cruelty organisations.
If you’re up for something a little more adventurous, check out Cult Gaia. Chances are you’ve seen dupes of the iconic bamboo ark bag on a few Instagram shops that have picked up on the trend, but nothing beats the original. Cult Gaia bags are made from simple yet interesting materials, ranging from bamboo to straw. The organic vibes, coupled with a unique, almost architectural-approach to product design, evokes images of beach getaways and boho-esque escapades. The widely-copied ark bag is considered a fashion blogger phenomenon, with other creations by Cult Gaia having been worn by the likes of Beyonce and Bella Hadid.
Here’s a household name for you. Stella McCartney was one of the first mainstream designer labels to push for an ethical approach in fashion, and the classic Falabella bag was one the first designer products that promoted vegan ethics. Of course, like with any widespread designer brands, Stella McCartney has had her fair share of controversies—namely the use of wool sourced from the brand’s own farm using gentle, ethical methods, according to Stella McCartney—but at the end of the day the sentiment of cruelty-free high fashion rings clear.