Friday, April 10

Australia’s animal-free handbag makers have a real task on their hands. The go-to substitute for leather in the decades past has been an oil-based material and a form of plastic – far from sustainable in an environmental sense. Quick to innovate, the industry’s found durable, ethical and environmentally friendly fabrics to take the place of both leather and pleather.

These brands are using a range of sustainable and vegan materials for their handbags, from cork to pineapple leather and even inner car tyre tubes.

1. Ahimsa Collective

A model with an ahimsa collective bag

Ahimsa means to do no harm, and this brand takes its name seriously. Making quality handbags and accessories, Ahimsa Collective ops for animal-free fabrics including the Pinatex pineapple leather alternative, washable paper and vinyl offcuts. The result is a beautiful range of ethically made handbags in many shapes and sizes. The brand says its bag are ethically made by a supplier they visit regularly in China. Find out more about Ahimsa Collective’s suppliers and its commitment to social responsibility on the website.

2. Clive Street

Duffle bag

Queensland-based brand Clive Street makes handbags, wallets and accessories by upcycling car tyre inner tubes to create a leather-like material. The brand’s range includes backpacks, duffle bags, totes, handbags and accessories. The unique material is works as a sustainable replacement for leather by reducing and repurpose waste. It’s all ethically made here in Australia.

3. Duffle & Co

New Zealand’s Duffle & Co opts for a vegan alternative to leather, using a Pinatex product made from pineapple leaves for their clutches, bags and accessories. Their products are ethically made in India, Nepal and Bali, and when you buy a Duffle & Co bag, the brand “plants 10 mangrove trees in Indonesia to protect wildlife populations and provide subsistence to local communities”. Duffle & Co is a certified B-Corp.

4. Eco Luxe

Cork HandbagsEco Luxe is doing things a little differently from its base on the Sunshine Coast. The accessories brand uses cork to make its alternative handbags. The brand explains that the material is made from the bark of the cork oak tree, one of the only trees in existence that benefits from having its bark removed periodically. ​To produce cork fabric, the bark is boiled and shaved (no chemicals are used) and then adhered to fabric backing with non-toxic glues. It’s an eco friendly, vegan & PETA approved green alternative to leather. Eco Luxe bags are handcrafted in Noosa, Australia.

5. Sans Beast (also in header)

Sans Beast pink handbags

Sans Beast means without beast, so you can be confident that there’s no creatures great or small to be found here. The handbag label was founded by Cathryn Wills, formerly Managing and Creative Director at Australian accessories brand, MIMCO. She says, she believes “there is a need for more choice in the quality fashion space – an alternative to products derived from animals – well made pieces…collectible, functional, affordable and designed with love.” The Sans Beast bags are made from Eco PU. Polyurethane (PU) – a form of PU that is made without using toxic levels of chemicals to produce.

6. Velvet Heartbeat 

Black vegan handbag with zip

Also on the animal-free train is Velvet Heartbeat – maker of vegan handbags and accessories. The bags themselves are no-frills and reasonably priced – the perfect ethical option for a classic bag or clutch to add to your collection. To reduce its environmental impact, Velvet Heartbeat uses deadstock fabrics, Pinatex and re-purposed and vintage fabrics. What’s better – the bags are all ethically made in New Zealand. How could you not have a soft spot for the brand?

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About Author

Brittanie Dreghorn is the founder and editor of Britt's List, and an advocate for sustainable and Australian fashion.

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