The Best Vegan Handbags

In Fashion by Gemma Tomlinson17 Comments

AW16Lookbook.pdf-4We are all aware of the cruelty that occurs within the fur industry – I feel like a week doesn’t go by without me watching something shared on Facebook, seeing another celebrity go naked for PETA or reading posts by people denouncing Canada Goose for continuing to use coyote fur. Their official line? “We do not use fake or faux fur because it simply does not protect as well as real fur. Faux fur is only a fashion statement.” You can’t see me right now but let’s just say my eyes are rolling. Hard.

Leather has become such a normal part of our marketplace that people will happily denounce fur as unnecessarily cruel, yet sling a handbag over their shoulder which is essentially fur without the hair. It’s become so synonymous with ‘luxury’ that we don’t stop to think about how it was made, what it once was, and what or who was sacrificed to produce it. Turning a blind eye to something because it’s just ‘the done thing’ is nothing new, I have been gifted leather bags myself even when I was a vegetarian, but over the past few years and especially since I went vegan, I have searched hard to find beautiful, high quality bags that mean I don’t have to put my essentials inside dead flesh. That might sound dramatic, but hey, its true, leather is pretty nasty.

AW16Lookbook.pdf-11So why is leather such a problem? Many people believe leather is a by-product of the meat industry but this is often false, animals are killed for meat and leather, so millions of animals are being slaughtered specifically for all the ‘luxury’ goods we are buying. It was discovered recently in China that many dogs were slaughtered and passed off as sheepskin in products shipped around the world, so you could well be wearing dog skin whilst walking your very own canine friend. Animal cruelty aside, the leather industry is also incredibly damaging to the environment and dumps tonnes of toxic chemicals which often end up in water supplies. It also harms workers – 90% of Bangladeshi leather tanners (many of whom are children trying to earn enough money to support their families) die before the age of 50 and work miserable and dangerous jobs to process the leather that ends up in our hands. Is the allure of a leather bag really worth it?

It’s true that nowadays it’s hard to know what you can really do to have much of an impact on the world, it sometimes feels like everything comes at a cost, but at a time when there are so many amazing high end vegan fashion lines thriving and producing excellent quality items, it’s no longer necessary to support such a cruel and damaging trade. Non-leather items have never been more accessible, you can walk into any high street store and find low cost synthetic products (Zara, Forever 21, H&M are just a few) but I also wanted to highlight some designer vegan brands producing sustainable, responsible designs with a slightly higher price tag. Vegan fashion doesn’t have to mean cheap, ugly, poor quality or old fashioned, so I’ve rounded up some amazing brands making beautiful, luxurious pieces…
vegan handbagsMatt & Nat were the first vegan handbag brand (Stella McCartney aside, my budget doesn’t quite stretch that far!) on my radar, and I now own two bags from their line, both of which I’ve used on a near-daily basis for over a year. They are incredibly well made, with classic, clean lines and I always adore their colour scheme. The Montreal-based label are dedicated to finding sustainable and eco-friendly ways to make their products, and use different recycled materials such as recycled nylons, cardboard, rubber and cork. The lining of their bags is made from recycled plastic bottles and they sell their beautiful bags on their own site and also on ASOS.

vegan handbagsRotterdam based Denise Roobol studied for four years at the Willem de Koonig Design Academy, and left wanting to produce high fashion, functional pieces that were minimalist and vegan friendly. Using durable high tech vegan leather from Hong Kong, Denise makes beautiful pieces, my favourite of which is the Cruise bag, featured in baby blue above. She also sells key holders and wallets in her online store, and I am definitely adding some of her pieces to my wishlist!

vegan handbags

LaBante London (whose motto is Fashion with Respect) are new on my vegan radar, and I actually found them accidentally whilst searching for non leather bags on the Debenhams website, where they retail. Their bags are so pretty, and I think they would especially suit fans of brands like Kate Spade, with their chic, clean lines that have a touch of grown up girly interest to them. Their price point is the most accessible of all these brands and I love that they are stocked in such a mainstream British retail store. I find it hard to pick my favourite design – I could find place for all of these in my wardrobe.

vegan handbagsWilby Clutch have a real heritage brand feel. Founded in Chelsea, London, their designs are luxurious, chic and all made in the UK. They use eco friendly materials such as recyclable cloth, organic cotton and cork leather, showing that you can have beautiful designs without sacrificing the planet or the animals. I’m a huge fan of their chain tote and clutch bags, and I can’t wait to see more from them in the future.

It’s time we stopped looking at leather as a sign of luxury and prestige, and ask ourselves why we are so horrified by fur yet covet designer goods that openly label their items ‘calfskin’ or ‘lambskin’ – are we so entranced by the branding that we forget what we are paying through the nose for? So many of us (my past self included) lust over designer goods with thousand pound price tags, we buy into the prestige and feelings of elitism but there is nothing sexy or luxurious about dead skin, environmental damage and exploitation. I truly hope this post shows that you can love fashion and also put your money behind ethical brands, and that vegan leather can be durable, covetable, high quality and on trend. All I ask is that upon reading this you consider your stance and know where the bags and shoes you buy really come from, knowledge is power after all.

AW16Lookbook.pdf-5If you know any other awesome vegan bag brands do let me know, hell knows I’m always adding more to my mental wishlist! If you’d like to see a similar post on where to find beautiful vegan shoes, let me know.

The images in this post are from the LaBante London AW15/16 Lookbook.

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  • I’ve often wondered why people think leather is okay but they won’t wear fur. Both are equally cruel, and there are sooo many great vegan alternatives! I already love Matt & Nat but now I need to check out those other brands 🙂

  • That salmon Labante London bag is sooo pretty. That said, you are so right. I don’t own any leather bags (I think) but that’s just because I haven’t spent a good amount of money on a bag (real leather is a lot pricier than say, Zara bags) and not out of “ideology” .. because I actually never really thought about it. It’s just so “normal” to have leather bags, and also shoes. I feel like shoes are an even larger amount of leather and I do own a few pair that are real leather. I must say that for shoes, the quality of leather is so much better than synthetics, as far as sweating and keeping them warm, but I do understand the issues .. I don’t really know yet where I stand on that front but for handbags I think it’s pretty easy to look for non-leather but durable alternatives.

    Thank you for sharing this, although it might be controversial, there’s no need to be unsure to publish this. I love reading your in depth posts like this and getting educated on these topics! Some might not agree with your point of view but it’s good to have a conversation about it.

    I’d love to know, what do you think about leather shoes? Do you wear them or do you find (good quality) alternatives? (I think I know the answer, but humor me, I’d love to know!)


  • Marcus Aliaga

    Check out Alexandra K. A handmade luxe vegan handbag line. or for the US and Canada.
    Mid luxury, quality craftsmanship is of true luxury inside and out.

  • Great post! Will look into some of these bags.
    I don’t own a Canada Goose jacket, however I have been living in Canada for over a year now and after experiencing MINUS FORTY temperatures I can understand why some people would wear their jackets.


  • Loved this post! I always roll my eyes when people openly criticise fur but don’t even think about where their leather shoes and bags come from! I have to admit that I was not always aware of that. I never had much leather because I never liked spending too much on fashion but still, I had a few things, some of whom I still have. But since a few years now, I avoid leather for all the reasons you just gave. All of the brands you listed above are new to me and I will definitely check them out next time I want to buy a handbag. I would also love to have posts about vegan shoes!
    Patti Shifting Tales

  • Laura Torninoja

    Thank you so much for this post, so informative! 🙂 As some people have already mentioned, it would be great to hear your tips on good, durable AND stylish shoe options if you know any! I’ve only recently started reading about all of these issues – I still own a pair of leather shoes and a leather jacket but I definitely don’t want to be buying any more in the future so all tips and posts like these are so welcome.

    Laura // Middle of Adventure

  • Love all of these! I have been eyeing free peoples vegan bags and they are great to. The styles you chose though are all so tempting. In this day and age the quality of vegan bags are so good that it is silly to not try and find something. It makes me roll my eyes when people disregard the idea.

    Chelsey |

  • Odylique US

    Thanks for this post, it’s great! Particularly like the look of the Denise Roobol ones. So nice that cruelty-free accessories are becoming more readily available now 🙂

  • Thanks for sharing. It’s difficult to find good, vegan handbags!

  • Really great post! Nice to see what’s out there and cruelty free. All of my handbags bar one are synthetic, however where I struggle more is shoes/boots! Comfort is so important and generally the more comfy boots I own and gravitate towards are made of leather and I do notice a big difference to my cheaper, non-leather ones 🙁 So I’d love to see the shoe post! More for any comfortable/practical recommendations though as there are plenty of beautiful synthetic high heels all over the place!
    Nicole | ..What Nikki Did…

  • Kelsey Christou

    These bags are gorgeous! I agree, people are far too quick to jump on fur shaming yet will still wear leather.

  • ha, I’m glad you wrote this post! I really need a new handbag and this time I wanted to invest in something that will last me more than just a few months. Bookmarked!

  • I recently emailed The Cambridge Satchel Company as I have been using my satchel from them for the last five years but am now starting to transition to veganism. They said that they have considered making a vegan satchel but it’s never got past the drawing board and that he’d forward my email to the production team in the hope that it’ll spark the discussion again. I feel that if a number of people emailed then they might start considering it more seriously. It’s something I’d love to support as their bags are hand crafted in the UK and of beautiful quality.
    I’d love it if some other people would consider emailing them requesting a vegan bag to help encourage them to do this 🙂

  • wayaiu

    Thank you so much for all this information, Gemma. I’m looking for some non leather design bags and you are so helpfull. Gracias!

  • Lily Cobbler

    Thanks Gemma! Really nice classic options. For a shopper I personally use the Issey Miake BaoBao bag and for work I go with the Mulaya bag of Fruitenveg. Their bags are vegan, super cute and full of little surprises. I feel that being vegan doesn’t mean we have to compromise on our accessories quality and I always manage to find those high end vegan brands.

  • linda janson

    Vegan handbags this is inspiring step towards not killing animals although saves planet earth
    Revolutionary i would love to accessorise with this