We are regularly asked why we do not have Vegan bags in our collection. I don't have a monopoly on wisdom, but I have been working on this question for about 10 years.
Why we don't have vegan bags yet
There is no simple, clear answer, but I would like to explain a few things here. Please know that, above all, I am mainly concerned with all facets involved in designing, producing, selling and displaying our accessories. I am not a 'Sustainable Expert', but I believe that we make the most sustainable choices in everything we do, in good faith and in good consultation with our producer.
My 'learning adventure' started in 2010 with LouLou. From the very first moment, my goal has been to put a good, honest, healthy brand on the market. A product that really adds to what was already there and, above all, 'does good' in the entire process. With fair production processes, fair materials and a fair price.
Over the years we have had a set of 'vegan bags'. Especially because the material we wanted to use was not available in leather. But it didn't feel good. We are happy to explain why.
Is a leather bag a sustainable choice?
Our bags are made from leather that is 'by-catch' from the food industry. Nothing special, because I don't know of cattle that are bred for their skin alone and cowhide leather best suits our product in terms of quality and price; beautiful strong durable bags and accessories. But the realization that cowhide is a by-product of the food industry may help someone who would prefer to choose a vegan product to make the choice for leather.
Tanned as sustainably as possible
What we find distinctive is that the leather we use is tanned in a good, caring manner. We select our leather from tanners affiliated with the LWG. LWG stands for Leather Working Group. A global network of stakeholders that strives to ensure tanning is done according to sustainable guidelines.
Leather is extremely durable and can last for years with proper care. Decades even. With good care and any repairs carried out on time, you can use your bag endlessly. Possibly even longer than what the average user would like 'fashion wise'...
A Vegan bag is a lot less durable, while it is less biodegradable. So shorter fun and possibly the microplastics.
Vegan is not necessarily good
In recent years, the concept of vegan has also been a way to market cheaply produced products, including vegan bags with a sustainable smile. But this vegan claim does not mean that the manufacturing process was sustainable or human-friendly. There is no certainty that chemicals were collected and did not end up in groundwater. It certainly does not mean that vegan bags or other vegan accessories are necessarily good for the environment. Hopefully it means that no materials of animal origin were used in its production. Many accessories use glue, which often contains animal components. Let's assume that is not the case in any case.
There are certainly great new vegan materials and brands on the market that are already being made a lot more sustainably. Think of 'vegan leather' made from cactus, pineapple, mango, citrus or apple. In recent years we have regularly (also for my other accessories brand FMME) been in contact with suppliers of these alternatives. For the time being, we have encountered one or more of the following objections to date.
The first objection is that petroleum-based materials are still added to the natural fibers. Which means that the bag is then a lot less biodegradable. There are developments in which, for example, recycled (and actually used *1) plastic bottles will take over. Something we would feel a little more comfortable with. But as far as we know, things haven't gotten that far yet.
There are progressive brands that have already put products on the market that are vegan and friendly to the environment (and let's assume good working conditions), but they are still running into the lifespan of the products. It is a lot shorter than the learning alternative.
For us, the next objection is that we have not yet found a leather-like material that remains beautiful long enough to do justice to the entire production process and the costs involved. As far as we are concerned, a bag is something you can really attach yourself to. And especially a work bag. This is used intensively and has to carry a lot of weight. We believe that a laptop bag made of vegan material should also last for years. At the moment we have not yet spoken to a producer who dares to guarantee this.
Our right to exist
In terms of material, our vegan flirts are therefore not cheaper than the fair-tanned leather we currently use. We try to maintain a fair price point with our sustainable accessories. To honor a fair production process. So a recommended sales price that is in balance with the materials used, the labor costs and the sales costs. We do not spend any amounts on advertisements and promotions, in order to be able to charge a fair price for the ultimate consumer. With our hand on our heart we can say that our accessories are well put together and have a good price.
But beware: If our basic material, because it is not leather, lasts less long and yet becomes more expensive, then the willingness to pay at least the same amount for a vegan laptop bag becomes a lot smaller. And without enough enthusiastic women, we cannot reach our minimum production numbers, the material becomes even more expensive, and the production process even more expensive. We applaud the fact that there are beautiful brands that can make beautiful accessories with a heart for people and animals that are completely vegan and made fairly. We cannot yet achieve this in terms of price and sustainability.
So we don't have vegan bags yet, but as you can read, we are permanently curious about this. We are not experts, but we try to stay well informed about developments between companies. It is important that every bag that is purchased from us will be used for as long as possible, with great pleasure.
Do you have an idea that we could use to take sustainable steps? Do you know more about vegan bags than we do? We would love to hear from you!
Floor of the Water
*1; We understand from a vegan leather intermediary that unused PET bottles are driven from one factory to another in Asia, so that the 'recycled' claim can be applied...