The Truth About Vegan Leather

The Truth About Vegan Leather

A handbag is a staple piece to every woman’s outfit. Whether it’s the handbag we rely on for work, the school run, or a night on the town, modern life always requires us to have one (or two or three or four…)! But where do our handbags really come from? And are vegan handbags always as good as they seem?

Almost all of us grew up eating meat and wearing leather but a new era of consumer awareness is dawning as people start to consider the impact of these actions on the animals involved. Unlike fur, leather is often overlooked as being a by-product of the meat industry. Unfortunately, this is not the case and is often a common misconception – in actual fact most of the leather that we might own is sold from animals that have been killed primarily for their skins, meaning it is a co-product, not a by-product. It is not produced to reduce waste, but to meet consumer demands and is part of a highly profitable business.

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The good news is that there are now plenty of alternatives to chose from if this concerns you. If you aren’t ready to stop wearing leather altogether, you’ll be pleased to know that eco-friendly brands providing 100% recycled leather are available. By using recycled leather made from the off-cuts, trimmings, and shavings from industrial waste, it ultimately reduces the amount of waste going to landfill sites. Brands such as Paperthinks are inspired by using 100% recycled leather, that has been carefully selected from industrial wastage. They offer a range of colourful accessories whilst not comprising on sustainability, and inform you on exactly how the products are made, preventing chemicals that are harmful to us and the environment. Shop here for Paperthinks.

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To make such decisions even harder, you may also want to pay close attention to what your vegan leather is made of, as some vegan alternatives are not always eco-friendly. In most cases, it will be made from some form of plastic, which is likely to have been derived from petroleum. For years, Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) was the popular choice when producing imitation leather, but has since been under scrutiny. The plastic polymer has been found to contain worrying substances such as phthalates, and release dioxins which are potentially hazardous chemicals if burnt. Greenhouse gases and pollution are not usually at the forefront of our minds when we think we are buying cruelty-free products, but it’s worth thinking about before you make your next purchase.

Naturisimo have been on the look-out for vegan leather brands who offer high quality, stylish & ethical vegan leather, without costing the Earth. Denise RoobolLa Bante, Votch & Angela Roi are now gracing our store & make wearing vegan leather easier and even more stylish than ever before. This week we’ve caught up with Denise Roobol founder of the eponymous brand…
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Why are handbags so important to the modern day woman?

Today’s modern independent women manage to pack many things into one day…work, gym, shopping. Every bag in the collection has a story card inside which tells the story of why the bag was developed and what type of woman I had in mind when creating it. Each one is inspired by a different type of woman and her lifestyle, of which there are so many!

What made you want to create vegan handbags?

Like many of us I have always loved handbags! But as a vegan it was almost impossible to find a vegan leather handbag in Holland, so when I started at Art School creating a small collection of my own seemed like a great idea. I was also inspired by Stella McCartney but wanted to make a collection that was accessible to everyone.

How important was it for you to be PETA approved?

It was very important to me to be recognised as a vegan leather brand and so to get PETA approval seemed logical as I love what they stand for.

Where are your bags made and how long is the process? Can you describe your favourite part of the making process?

The bags are made in Guangzhou a city on the outskirts of Hong Kong. I start the process of each model by creating rough pencil sketches, I then start to finalise the designs by considering sizes and details like what kind of clips, rings, stitching etc. to use. These sketches are then used to make the base of the model which will be brought to the sample-developer. In the mean time I make mood boards with the colours and structures of the new collection and we will then search for the perfect swatches and colours. It may take 3-4 samples to get the bag exactly like the design or even better. When all the samples in the collection are finished, the exact colour, structure and material will be chosen for each model. This can take some time and I always discuss this part with my mom, before making the final selection myself! Once this is done, the materials and hardware will be ordered. The last step is the making process in the atelier, and once everything is finished the bags will be shipped by boat to Rotterdam and brought to our warehouse. The total process will take about 3-4 months.

My favourite part is the first part: creating the design ideas & sketching as this is what I love to do. Although the whole process is totally amazing…. to see a sketch/design come ‘alive’ and become an actual product is so cool.

Do you work mainly alone or in a small team?

I do a lot myself, I have an agent who takes care of the actual making process and new developments in the material market. All the designing I do myself from the bags to the labels, the story cards inside the bags, the shopping bags, note cards and the website.

I work with a company that converts my website designs into the technical programming. I can’t build or rebuild a website unfortunately! There is also a freelance financial person, but basically that’s it!

Many vegan handbags are made using PVC, which is harmful to our environment. What assurances can you give that your bags are not only vegan-friendly but eco-friendly?

We use 2 materials; one is made of a fabric with a rubber coating and the other is made of pressed fibres called micro-fibre. These materials feel a lot more natural and are a lot softer than PVC, which we don’t use anywhere in the collection.

Shop here for Denise Roobol