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The things we wear show off more than just our individual sense of style. Clothes, shoes, accessories — everything we choose to put on our bodies makes a subtle statement about our values, whether it's an active decision or not.
For many shoppers, it actually is an active decision. A 2015 Nielsen Report found that 66% of consumers were willing to pay extra for products from brands that put sustainability, ethics, and social values at the forefront of their missions. There's power in our pockets — we get to choose how we spend our money, so if we care about a certain issue, we can support brands that align with those same beliefs.
As consumers become more discerning shoppers, brands need to cater to their changing desires. Some brands are capitalizing on the unpopularity of plastics by using recycled plastics in their products and plenty more are making transparent, ethical business practices a major part of their mission. And all of these brands are making some seriously cool stuff while they're at it.
If a vegan lifestyle is what you value most, you actually can find completely cruelty-free, imitation-leather bags that look nothing like the stiff, plastic-y pleather styles of years past.
Vegan leather has become somewhat of a sweeping term to describe any leather-like material that is made without animal products. It encompasses a range of materials, many of which are synthetic, like polyurethane (PU) and polyinyl chloride (PVC). If sustainability is a concern, it's important to note that synthetic materials tend to have a higher environmental impact than their natural counterparts.
If you're reading this though, you're probably trying to avoid animal products, and these synthetic materials are an easy, (typically) more affordable, and still stylish way to do so. When you're looking for vegan leather goods, make sure to look for products that are actually advertised as "vegan" or "cruelty-free". While PU and PVC are used in many vegan leather bags, not all faux leather bags made from those materials are fully vegan. Some brands use PU and PVC to coat leather byproducts to cut corners and get the real leather look for less. This is known as bicast bonded leather, but some brands may just market it as faux leather.
Most brands aren't trying to dupe you, but if avoiding all animal products is your priority, it can only benefit you to double check the brand's practices and materials used.
Nowadays, imitation leathers look so much like the real deal that even if you're not actively searching for vegan leather, you may be pleasantly surprised to see the selection out there. To take out the guesswork, we rounded up nine vegan leather bags that are perfect for work. We already checked to make sure they're really vegan, so all you have to do is pick out the style you like.
A structured satchel with a sturdy top handle and a removable (and adjustable) crossbody strap makes this the perfect bag for toting your laptop to and from the office. It's also equipped with plenty of smaller pockets meant to fit your iPad, smartphone, and other little items. Not only is it functional, but the minimalist style and neutral color gives this a polished look that's office-ready.
Matt & Nat says it uses a variety of vegan leathers, including both PU and PVC. While those may not be the most sustainable materials around, the brand makes a point to use more eco-friendly materials like recycled nylons, rubber, and cork in its designs too. Additionally, the lining of this bag (and every Matt & Nat bag, in fact) is made of 100% recycled plastic bottles.
This structured tote has a laptop slot, water bottle strap, document compartment, and even pen hoops to keep writing utensils at arm's reach. The faux suede detailing on the bottom adds just a bit of fun, making this piece stand out from other similar totes. Go for black or tan if you want to keep it classic, or pick one of Pixie Mood's bold colors, like this lovely lavender.
Pixie Mood uses PU leather, as it's more environmentally friendly and actually more durable than PVC. The brand is always looking for more innovative and sustainable materials to include in its designs.
This sophisticated bucket tote looks as good off-duty as it does on. While structural in shape, the open interior means you can load it with everything you need for the workday. A removable interior pouch, made of the same material, can be used as a card and cash holder on its own or clipped into the bag for easy accessibility. The bag comes in three neutral colors — black, brown, and a brick red — all of which look strikingly similar to a naturally tanned leather bag.
The little leather backpack trend is everywhere, and going faux doesn't mean you have to miss out. This option from Pixie Mood is a personal favorite. I received it as a birthday gift and fell in love with how cute and functional it is. It's too small for a laptop, but if you have a lighter load to carry to work, it's just right. It has some convenient pockets that make storing your essentials easy, and you can even convert it into a crossbody with just a pull of the handle. The small, minimalist "Pixie Mood" logo branded on the top flap makes this look like a much more expensive piece. If you'd rather something a little more colorful, there are seven pretty pastel shades to choose from.
You can't go wrong with a classic leather tote. This faux version has a spacious interior that makes it an ideal carry-all for work, travel, and everything in between. It comes with a detachable zip pouch, which you can tether to the bag or unclip and use on its own. The tote comes in timeless neutrals as well as a pebbled red, if you like your accessories to add a pop of color. Sole Society uses PU, and you can learn more about its take on vegan leather here.
Even if you're not particularly informed about the vegan leather bag offerings out there, you've probably heard about Stella McCartney. The luxury brand made its mark by entering the fashion scene sans leather and fur. Many in the industry doubted a luxury brand without these offerings could be successful, but Stella McCartney has since proven them wrong. All of the bags boast trendy styles and a seriously luxe look that could easily fool you into thinking they're real leather.
If you want to carry a splurge-worthy bag that also is better for animals and the environment, you can't go wrong with Stella McCartney. This beautiful woven leather bag is reversible, with one side a light-brown and one side an off-white faux leather, and trimmed with gold chains. While undeniably pricey, it's a piece that'll last in your wardrobe for years to come.
If you're looking to veer away from the classic work tote, go for this elegant option. It's a sturdy bag with a duffle shape, albeit much smaller. The exterior is made of a smooth PU that looks and feels like soft leather. Hold it by its top handle for a feminine look, or attach on the additional strap when you want it carry it as a crossbody purse. Marsi Bond knows that your purse holds so much your life, so it can get pretty messy inside; that's why the interior lining can be zipped out and thrown in the wash.
A roomy interior with an open top makes this tote easy to stuff to the brim. The exterior is a simple shape, made with PETA-certified vegan leather. The interior is lined with a bright floral pattern, so you can flip the bag inside out and make it a fun beach tote. The interior zip pouch is perfect for carrying small essentials.
If you prefer a vertical tote, which is deeper than it is wide, this is a timeless choice. It offers a structured shape with just a little slouch, so that it can still holds its shape without being too sturdy. The minimalist handles allow for this to be a shoulder bag or a handheld shopper, but you can strap on the adjustable crossbody strap whenever you'd like to wear it as such. While this is not likely to fit your laptop (unless you have a really small laptop), it still can hold a good amount, making it a great bag for those who can pack a little lighter for work and want to look sophisticated while doing so.
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