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.
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.
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.
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.
Eco 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.
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?