Do I really need a new handbag? (Said no one ever!) Whether you need a carry-all for the beach, a work tote or one that is just ‘totes adorbs,’ here are eight Canadian cruelty-free ecofriendly handbag lines that will satisfy all your accessory needs this season. Added bonus? Each one of these brands is uniquely leather-free, eye-catching, and are worthy of support for their commitment to the environment and animals.
Founder Claire Carreras was tired of settling for products she did not enjoy or were of a sub-par quality to fulfill her desire for a stylish vegan bag. She tapped her creative and entrepreneurial side and launched White Rhino in September 2018. Her brand uses a combination of cork and vegan leather (adhering to ISO manufacturing standards) and upcycled materials. The majority of gorgeous White Rhino bags are sleek, neutral-toned with unique, eye-catching details like diagonal zippers or mixed materials.
Samara is a Toronto-based handbag line founded in 2017 by Salina Visram, and features simple designs that use minimal materials and produce very little waste. These chic bags are currently created with materials such as PU, water-based PU, and microfiber but Visram is seeking to replace all plastics with ecofriendly apple leather. Before launching Samara, this ethical entrepreneur designed and launched the Soular Backpack. An initiative that produces and provides bags to children in East Africa, which charge during the day, to provide light at night, so that students can do their homework without the need for harmful kerosene, a fossil fuel. Additionally, a portion of sales from Samara sales goes towards funding the Soular Backpack initiative!
Vancouver-based Mihaya is a relatively new addition to the vegan handbag scene, having launched at the end of last year. As a designer, founder Mia Haya was inspired by her travels to Paris, Milan, and Frankfurt. These travels also opened up her mind to incorporating eco-conscious innovations happening within the fashion industry. Grounded in traditional Japanese aesthetics and inspired by European design, the collection offers elegant and feminine purses, practical totes that are both functional and fashionable, as well as attractive, gender-neutral backpacks that can be worn multiple ways.
Toronto-based Espe delivers ethically-sourced and responsibly made vegan products. Their team regularly visit factory partners in China to ensure the employees are working in a safe, inclusive environment and receiving fair wages. They offer a vast array of styles to choose from, many with quirky and whimsical designs featuring plants and animals. For those who want more classic pieces, there are many styles available in neutral tones.
Matt and Nat
Matt and Nat is a household name when it comes to vegan handbags, backpacks, and accessories. Founded in Montreal in 1995, the brand has expanded globally with retail partners and Matt and Nat-branded standalone stores. Bags are available in a wide range of materials, including PU, recycled nylon, cork, and rubber. After 25 years of delivering vegan bags and accessories, fans of the brand’s expansion of offerings that now include apparel and trendy footwear.
Co-Lab is an ethical, cruelty-free brand founded in Montreal way back in 2007. Their vegan bags are manufactured in factories that meet global standards in business ethics, procedures, safety, and provide livable hourly wages. Commendable is their practice of repairing and donating returned products to individuals in need through their relationship with various non-profit organizations. From wallets to crossbodies, Co-Lab has a bag for every moment in a wide colour range and cool textures.
Ela was founded by partners Ela and Martin in Toronto. As a brand, Ela’s handbag aesthetic is rooted in accessible luxury without compromising quality or the environment. The duo actively encourages those who purchase their bags not to throw them out when they no longer suit their wardrobes, instead, they recommend gifting, donating or reselling. Ela designs are contemporary and classic with on-trend finishes like embossing, pebbling, and studding.
Missy May Bags
Ethically handmade in Vancouver, Missy May Bags was founded by local ‘boss babe’ Amie Buttle. Each bag is constructed with the brand’s values in mind: that no matter what, it is what is on the inside that matters. These simple yet stylish bags are handmade with small-batch vegan leather and fabrics, usually in ‘go with everything’ soft-tones and feature a fun patterned lining inside.
Nice Shoes (& Handbags)
If you are getting bored with online shopping, Nice Shoes on Fraser Street has re-opened with restrictions. As Vancouver’s first and only all-vegan shoe retailer, this specialty shop carries not only shoes but bags and accessories. Visit and shop in person Monday to Saturday. While you are there, pick-up a few pamphlets on activism, plantbased eats, and learn about ways you can get involved in a cruelty-free lifestyle.
If you are feeling a touch peckish after shopping at Nice Shoes, wander over to Fairy Cakes for a sugary delight – squares, slices, cupcakes, and more. One of the city’s best-kept secret, Fairy Cakes provides delicious baked treats made with the highest quality ingredients, using as many organic and fair-trade ingredients as possible. Always vegan, peanut and nut-free. Allergen friendly for everyone!
- Mona Butler is a freelance writer based in Vancouver, BC.
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