The world of fashion is changing, as more and more brands look to sustainable ways of producing their items, including which materials and fabrics they use - and that includes vegan leather handbags.
Major labels such as Chanel, Gucci, Burberry and Tom Ford have already pledged to stop using fur and exotic skins in their collections, while others are only using leather if it is a by-product of the food industry.
However, more and more people are now going one step further and turning to products that don't use leather altogether, which means if you're in the market for a vegan handbag, there are plenty of chic designer and affordable options out there.
Vegan designer handbags
It's impossible to talk about vegan designer bags without mentioning Stella McCartney, the designer who's been pioneering ethical fashion her whole career. She is one of the only designers who solely uses vegan leather throughout her collections, for example, utilising materials made from recycled plastic instead.
You can buy fabric and faux leather bags from most designer brands which aren't exclusively vegan across the board, though they sometimes use non-vegan products such as animal-based adhesives. Some other great designer options include Nanushka, Jill Milan, Poppy Lissiman, Mashu and Arran Frances.
Vegan leather handbags
According to PETA, 'most vegan leather is made of polyurethane, a polymer that can be made to order. It can sparkle, have a nice glossy sheen, or be saturated in all kinds of shades.' Other materials used for vegan leather handbags include apple peel skin, recycled plastic bottles and vegetable by-products.
In recent years, there have been strides made in the vegan material department. Stella McCartney even now makes bags from a fabric called Mylo™️, which is derived from mushrooms. Elsewhere sustainable brands, like Mashu, are creating bags from pineapple and grape leather.
Affordable vegan handbags
Because real leather is expensive, vegan leather tends to be a little more affordable, especially if you look at high-street brands. Matt & Nat and Fenella Smith have great sub-£100 clutch bags, backpacks, tote bags and more.
To shop our edit of the best designer and affordable vegan handbags keep scrolling.
Shop the best vegan handbag brands:
Designer Stella McCartney has always advocated for cruelty-free designs, this bag in particular is made from Mylo which is a fabric derived from mycelium (the root of a fungi). The material is sustainably and renewably grown in a lab by Stella McCartney's partners, Bolt Threads.
MARICI is a plant-based luxury accessories brand and uses Pinatex, an alternative to leather. The plant-based material is derived directly from the off-cuts of the existing pineapple industry. These materials are then upcycled into a luxury fabric with a distinct finish, which is then handcrafted into bags by a team of artisans in Venice.
This asymmetrical shoulder bag has taken over Instagram and for good reason, it's beautiful and animal-friendly, made of premium vegan Italian Apple Peel Skin.
Made from an alt-nappa leather polyurethane fabric, this Nanushka bag is big enough to hold all your daily essentials. Its shape bends in the middle, to create a unique silhouette.
THEMOIRè have created a collection of luxurious handbags made from vegan leather, paper, cork, recycled organic cotton and raffia.
This Mashu bag is made from vegan leather, which is comprised of a mixture of recycled polyester and discarded non-GMO corn crops. The fabric is made in Italy and then shipped to Greece where the bags are created, meaning the item is 100% manufactured in Europe.
This faux leather handbag is buttery soft and has been created from 100% recycled post-consumer plastic. In a cute pouch shape, you can either use it as a top handle bag or attach a longer strap and make it cross-body.
Specialising in vegan leather, the brand has a certification from the Vegetarian Society and aims to support the environment, becoming a climate-positive workforce, through Offset Earth.
Labante London makes bags that are 100% Vegan and Cruelty-free, with animal-based glues or dyes. All bags are made from recycled materials, while the interiors are created from reclaimed plastic bottles and the outer is made from vegetable by-products and polyurethane, making the bags fully biodegradable.
This Matt & Nat bag is made from vegan fabrics while the interior lining is created from 100% recycled plastic bottles.
The Milan-based luxury brand is a hit with celebrities on the red carpet, thanks to its sleek designs made from vegan materials and its commitment to animal welfare charities.
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Penny Goldstone is the Digital Fashion Editor at Marie Claire, covering everything from catwalk trends to royal fashion and the latest high street and Instagram must-haves.
Penny grew up in France and studied languages and law at the Sorbonne Nouvelle University in Paris before moving to the UK for her MA in multimedia journalism at Bournemouth University. She moved to the UK permanently and has never looked back (though she does go back regularly to stock up on cheese and wine).
Although she's always loved fashion - she used to create scrapbooks of her favourite trends and looks, including Sienna Miller and Kate Moss' boho phase - her first job was at MoneySavingExpert.com, sourcing the best deals for everything from restaurants to designer sales.
However she quit after two years to follow her true passion, fashion journalism, and after many years of internships and freelance stints at magazines including Red, Cosmopolitan, Stylist and Good Housekeeping, landed her dream job as the Digital Fashion Editor at Marie Claire UK.
Her favourite part of the job is discovering new brands and meeting designers, and travelling the world to attend events and fashion shows. Seeing her first Chanel runway IRL at Paris Fashion Week was a true pinch-me moment.
- Zoe AnastasiouFashion Editor
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