WORDS BY LUCY HARDY
Faux leather, with its many names, including imitation leather, PU and pleather, has been around for decades. One of the earliest iterations was layered and treated paper pulp invented in Germany and used widely as a leather alternative during the rationed conditions of the Second World War.
Ever since, polyurethane faux leather has been used throughout the fashion industry, championed for its durable and malleable properties by designers, and for it’s animal-free composition by animal rights campaigners. However, as global environmental consciousness has increased and innovation into eco-materials has expanded, the high plastic content of faux leather has become a concern.
This is where vegan leather comes in. Whilst some designers still use polyurethane for their vegan bags, research and creativity around natural alternatives that replicate the real thing is thriving. Vegan leather is made from everything including cork, cactus, mushroom, apple and other fruit peel, even pineapple.
As well as being cruelty-free, vegan leather has a number of environmental benefits, including water and CO2 savings and with many designs made from organic compositions, it means discarded bags will biodegrade.
Many designers, including Stella McCartney, Telfar and THEMOIRè are leading the way with vegan leather. Whether you’re a dedicated vegan who doesn’t want to miss out or simply trying to make more conscious wardrobe choices, read on to discover our pick of the very best vegan designer bags and how to look after them.
Cast your mind back to 2009, a time well before vegan lifestyles were mainstream and the now endless options for plant-based milks were a distant dream. This was the year when Stella McCartney launched the iconic Falabella. A longstanding cruelty-free champion and pioneer of animal-free fabrics, the brand’s Falabella was the first of its kind. The original chain-detail tote is now available in cross-body and mini versions, becoming legendary in the vegan designer bag market.
Established in 2006, Nanushka is part of a new wave of designers offering cruelty-free options for contemporary classics. The angular Valerie bag is crafted from the brand’s signature vegan leather, seen across everything from sleek wrap dresses to blazers and the Hide puffer jacket. This ruched mini style embodies the brand’s cool ethos and is available in a variety of neutral tones and bright hues that add a pop of color to a minimalist look.
A brand born with the aim of having the lowest possible environmental impact, THEMOIRè gets serious with its ethical and eco-friendly fabrics. The label uses a range of plant-based materials to craft its bags, including the Nopal Cactus plant, apple industry waste, cork, raffia, recycled cotton and Eco Fur. The Bios clutch is made from vegan leather that looks and feels just like the real thing and features lining made from 100% recycled materials too. In the spirit of giving back to the enivironment, THEMOIRè plants one tree for every bag sold.
Another vegan leather creation from Nanushka is the Jen. With its elegant soft structure and top-handle knot, this tote is both timeless and of the moment. Discover the buttery soft design in the label’s classic caramel and chocolate brown hues, as well as mint green for some extra flavor.
Over a decade since the Falabella was released, Stella McCartney introduced the Frayme. Part of the same bag family, the design is an updated version of the Falabella, this time with a more dramatic, oversized chain, made from recyclable aluminum. This vegan leather style comes in trendy sand and dark brown. Debuting at Paris Fashion Week SS22, keep your eyes peeled for the Frayme Mylo too — taking its name from the innovative Mylo™️ fabric made from mushrooms.
How to care for your vegan leather bag
- Wipe the outside of your vegan leather bags with a damp cotton cloth, however, be mindful not to use too much water as it will take a while to dry.
- Apply a cleaner made specifically for vegan leather two to three times per year.
- Avoid getting your bag wet as best as possible, but in the event this does happen, resist using a hairdryer on it, as it will cause the vegan leather to crinkle and crack. Let it air dry instead.
- Like your other designer bags, keep away from direct sunlight, store in a dust bag and stuff with tissue paper when not using to retain its shape.