Making conscious fashion choices doesn't just apply to our clothing, shoes, and jewelry picks. Sustainable bag selections are an essential piece of the puzzle, too— and we're not just talking about swapping plastic grocery bags for canvas totes. With a growing number of alternative materials and plant-based leathers available, which both look and feel like the real deal, you don't have to give up on style to make conscious bag choices.
When educating yourself on how to choose and support sustainable brands that specialize in accessories, consider a few things: Does the brand consciously source materials? Ensure fair labor practices? Take a stand against overproduction (which often leads to landfill waste)? These are the eco-friendly bag brands championing sustainability and style, from roomy totes you can take anywhere to compact clutches for your evenings out.
Santos By Mónica
Puerto Rican designer Mónica Santos Gil launched her namesake label, Santos By Mónica, in 2020, which offers a timeless and versatile collection of cactus leather handbags, a plant-based leather alternative. Ethically made in New York, each bag is made to order by her small network of Brooklyn and Manhattan-based artisans.
Stella McCartney's vegan handbag collections have become unanimous with sustainable luxury. The brand is committed to using zero animal by-products in their handbags, relying on green alternatives, like mushroom-based leather, recycled polyesters, and recycled brass for hardware.
MARIAS By Alida Boer
Centered around social change, Alida Boer started her handbag collection to showcase traditional Guatemalan textiles while supporting female artisans who struggle with job security and fair wages. Each bag is crafted from natural leather and incorporates traditional Mayan techniques. Boer currently works with a network of over 500 female artisans across the country.
Cuyana's timeless and functional handbags utilize leather certified by the Leather Working Group, recycled plastics, and uncoated GOTS-certified Turkish canvas. The brand has a transparent supply chain and close relationships with family-run factories throughout Vietnam, Italy, Turkey, and Argentina. Consumers can track suppliers through an interactive map on the Cuyana website.
Petit Kouraj, which means "little courage" in Haitian Creole, was founded by Brooklyn-based stylist Nasrin Jean-Baptiste. Each bag is handmade in Haiti in partnership with the women-led organization D.O.T Haiti, and takes anywhere between eight to 12 carefully crafted hours to complete, using sustainably-minded materials and practices.
As a recently certified B Corporation, Chloé has committed to transforming its operations to comply with evolving social and environmental standards while offering greater transparency and accountability for each of its collections. The brand also introduced a Chloé Craft category, expanding the number of products handmade by independent artisans.
With sustainability top of mind and the firm belief that they could approach the handbag world more responsibly, A_C, an Australian-based brand, sought to provide more circular bag options for consumers. They utilize alternative materials like dead stock and plant-based leathers in their bags, have a buy-back program for pre-loved pieces, offer repair services for general wear and tear on bags, and recently launched an in-house rental program.
Piper & Skye
Piper & Skye meticulously source materials to ensure sustainability is at the forefront of their brand. Their sustainability development goals are available on their website, alongside mandated standards for any brands they partner with.
House of MĀRĪCĪ
Handbag brand House of MĀRĪCĪ merges a circular design philosophy with a luxury aesthetic, using upcycled plant by-products to create handmade bags in Venice, Italy. MĀRĪCĪ bags are only available in a limited run of styles and colors to avoid overproduction.
Inspired by art deco interiors and Bronze age architecture, Greek-based brand Mashu uses ethical practices to craft their fashion-forward bags entirely from vegan materials. Handbags are crafted locally in Athens, Greece, positively impacting the community and keeping a low carbon footprint. To encourage longevity and circularity, MASHU offers customers free lifelong bag repairs.
New York City-based brand Advene offers elevated essentials made using 100% traceable Italian cow leather certified by the Leather Working Group. As of last year, all Advene bags are hand-crafted in a carbon-neutral facility in Italy.
Behno's primary mission is to redefine what it means to be sustainable in fashion. The brand supports fair wages and champions social mobility through leadership opportunities and educational resources, proving bags can look great without compromising the well-being of the people or the planet.
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Rachael is a sustainability-focused fashion writer and creator. She works full-time as the Brand and PR coordinator for Mara Hoffman whilst focusing her writing efforts on covering sustainable fashion for Marie Claire and EcoCult. As an Aussie living in Brooklyn, you'll catch her splitting her time between Sydney & NYC.
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