Ahimsa is a word often muttered in yoga or mediation studios. Coming from the Buddhist or Hindu tradition, it means to have ‘respect for all living things and avoidance of violence towards others’.
For Buddhists it’s a way of life, a peacefulness reflected in everything they do. It’s also the reason why those who practise Buddhism take on a vegetarian diet. Respect for all living things means animals are friends, not food.
For the founders of Sydney bag label A_C Official (formerly Ahimsa Collective), this Buddhist way of thinking was missing from the fashion industry and, in particular, handbag production.
They had searched for products that met their ethical standards (free from harm) and their quality standards (well made and durable) but were unable to find anything that fit the bill.
Wanting to avoid use of leather and fur, and also the cheap ‘pleather’ alternative that was harmful to the planet, they sought to create an ethical alternative the A_C Official could represent.
That alternative turned out to be a range of sustainable materials – from upcycled pineapple waste (Pinatex) and cactus-based fibres to deadstock vinyl and even washable paper.
These fabrics feature across a range of womens handbags in the A_C range, coming in clutches, messenger bags, totes and more.
A_C started out by keeping its production local, with all of the handbags and accessories made in Australia. However, with growth and requirement for special skillsets, the brand has moved its production to China where the brand visits often and ensures ethical and transparent operations are upheld.
To reduce waste throughout the supply chain the A_C crew work with materials that otherwise would have ended in landfill. This includes pineapple leaves from pineapple farming, leftover vinyl samples and washable paper fabrics, which they ensure involves no clearing of the Amazon or natural ecosystems, and is also as strong as any leather option.
The A_C team say they’re different because they aim to not only bring transparency to the fashion industry by trying to reduce its environmental footprint, but also attempting to reverse that footprint all together. By using would-be-waste materials the brand is stopping waste at the very beginning, before their products are even drawn up or produced.
Another way the brand is reducing waste is in the packaging they use and their mailers. All printed cards are on recycled cardboard and use toxic-free inks, and the mailer bags themselves are decomposable.
In the future, A_C hopes to bring in even more sustainable materials including mushroom and apple leather, and hope to see this trend become the norm throughout the industry.
The founders say their bags are for shoppers looking for high-end luxury accessories that offer something to the environment, rather than taking from it.