Thursday 24th September 2020
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Against all odds: stylish vegan bags

brooke hobo

My friend Dolly is a vegan of the most uncompromising variety: she has Tofurky at Thanksgiving, eats cheese made out of cashews, and—in what is perhaps her most heroic sacrifice, for she is a very stylish person—foregoes not just fur (which you would expect) but leather too. This strikes me as both highly admirable, and— is it altogether too Cher Horowitz to admit?—thoroughly unimaginable. Faux leather almost always looks sadly and obviously faux, and the bags in particular are almost inevitably ruined by too much hardware, oversized zippers, ill-placed exterior pockets, or—not infrequently—some bummer combination of all three. Still, a few of you have requested sources in this category, so I keep an eye out for happy exceptions. And fortunately for us, Dolly has totally come through. This hobo is in an excellent shade of cobalt, and one could not ask for a more classic shape.

matt & Nat trench

I love the Hermes-ish orange of this shoulder bag from Matt & Nat so much that I’ve decided not to mind the fact that it’s branded.

aubrey pvc satchel

The satchel is usually a more lady-ish shape than I tend to go for, but they’re cool when they’re all big and roomy like this.

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Posted on July 7th, 2013 8 Comments

8 Responses

  1. Sophie Ann says:

    Wow that orange one is adorable! Now to figure out how to buy it!

  2. Fiona says:

    The problem with vegan bags is that they wear out, and there is no way of restoring or repairing the surface. Once you scratch plastic, boom, that’s it, it’s done. A leather bag can be restored to last and look beautiful for decades; a vegan bag may have two years of daily use before it goes to landfill.

    I realise there’s the animal welfare aspect – but wouldn’t buying vintage leather be a better option?

    All that said, it is years since I bought a vegan bag – have the materials improved in recent years?

  3. joannawnyc says:

    I have a vegan bag this summer from Fred Flare and during this heat wave I have been unable to use it! It’s just too hot and sticky.

    So I found a canvas bag with pleather trim at Target and am much happier. So I would save the “vegan leather” purses for the winter and go for straw or fabric in the warmer months. Or year round if you live in the sunshine belt.

    I am not vegan at all but sometimes I prefer faux materials to leather because leather can be really heavy.

  4. cedar says:

    I think fake leather is like fake meat – usually a disaster. Just like veggies and tofu can be delicious so long as you don’t try to make them into vegan nuggets, I’d just embrace having a great fabric bag.

  5. Kimberly says:

    Interesting post, Kim! My father has worked in the shoe/handbag manufacturing industry for over 40 years and commented to me recently that he’s incredibly impressed with the advances in synthetic leathers. I think it’s just like any product–you have your high-end versions (Matt & Nat, Deux Lux, Stella) and your lower-end versions (my beloved Target). I have a light-colored synthetic hobo from Express of all places (out-of-town emergency purchase) and it’s lasted 2 years with hardly any wear.

  6. c.w. says:

    I have a small black cross body bag by urbanoxide I have no idea what the material is, but it isn’t leather and wears like iron, has great texture and is impervious to weather of any kind. Plus, (an added bonus) I get compliments on it all the time.

  7. I’m consistently impressed by the style and versatility of Matt & Nat bags. Every time I see one in an online store, I catch myself stopping to check it out.

    But, I’m definitely curious about the durability and whether an even “high end” vegan bag still has a plastic look/ feel in real life. I have yet to run into Matt & Nat in the offline stores I regularly visit.

  8. Shirl says:

    I’m vegan and have gone through the gamut of vegan bags. They have improved in quality over the past few years.

    Cornelia Guest handbags are fantastic. Matt & Nat have done a great job as well. There are also tons of smaller producers. Corallei, Angela & Roi, Cri de Coeur.

    I stick mostly with canvas totes in the summer since they are lighter.