When most people think of leather bags, they tend to think of luxury, value, and social status (or status-signaling). But for vegans, leather bags underscore the disturbing fact that our culture considers style to be more important than the suffering and lives of animals.
To be fair to the people who buy leather, our consumer culture is not set up in a way that allows for contemplation of matters such as supply chains and how the products that we see in stores got to be there. Paul McCartney said that “if slaughterhouses had glass walls, we’d all be vegetarian.” I believe that the same is true for our clothes which come from animals. If everyone saw exactly how animals are exploited and abused for our fashion whims, then they would be more likely refrain from buying products that involve animal suffering.
For many people, embracing a plant-based diet often opens the door for them to a whole new world of delicious foods. Similarly, becoming vegan in our fashion choices also introduces us to a different realm of possibilities that we hadn’t even realized existed.
Personally, I find my REI day pack to be sufficient for most outings and on fancy occasions, I break out my nylon Kate Spade bag from when I was in eighth grade. But for those fashionistas out there, here are some great companies selling stylish vegan bags.
Founded in L.A. in 2005 by two conscious entrepreneurs who “wanted to revolutionize the industry with chic animal-friendly handbags that meet the needs of the everyday woman,” Urban Expressions has a beautiful line of luxury vegan bags.
Jean & jaxe has a collection of attractive vegan bags and wallets from designer Silvia Gallo.
Beautiful bags made in Portugal out of cork!
Sleek, lightweight, and practical bags that are great for travel and the gym.
Sophisticated collection of bags and wallets, with linings made from recycled water bottles.
High fashion vegan brand based in New York with a mission statement that I love: “Animals are NOT meant to be a part of fashion. We can look and feel good without harming other living beings.”
Features quality vegan leather and recycled material linings.
Luxury vegan bags, with 10% proceeds going to charity.
Also be sure to check out these vegan online retailers:
Vegan Chic – One of the best online resources for vegan shoes and accessories.
What’s the problem with leather?
Want to take the red pill? Here’s a brief overview of how leather gets to stores and our closets and why we should care:
- Most leather comes from India and China, where there are no laws regulating the treatment of animals
- Animals confined in overcrowded, unsanitary factory farms where they are reduced to economic units
- They are mutilated – dehorned and castrated – without anesthetization, and otherwise roughly manhandled by workers
- On the trip to the slaughterhouse, they are crowded into trucks where they go without food or water, and are often subjected to extremely hot or cold weather. Many die of either heat exhaustion or being frozen to death in transit
- At the slaughterhouse, they are strung upside down and have their throats slit. Due to the inefficiency of stunning practices, many of them will be skinned and dismembered alive
- When animals are killed, their corpses immediately begin to decompose and rot
- To arrest the decomposition of flesh, 225 chemicals – many of which are highly toxic – are used in a process known as tanning
- Some of these noxious chemicals include formaldehyde, chromium, lead, cyanid, arsenic, aniline, and chlorophenols
- The tanning process creates a massive amount of industrial waste runoff that find their way into the air, land, and water
- Exposure to chemicals causes many workers to develop cancer, jaundice, musculosketal disorders, and leukemia
As if the toxicity resulting from tanning process wasn’t bad enough, it takes 20x more energy to produce a fashion item made from leather than one made from synthetic materials.
Suffice it to say, there are plenty of reasons to opt out of buying leather!