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.
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.
“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 as (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.