When it comes time for me to get a new bag for the season (or if I spilled make up candy in yet another purse) it seems like more and more I am drawn to leather bags. Of course I still choose a beautiful fabric bag from time to time, but my daily go to has always been a sleek leather crossbody or tote.
This of course is the trend nowadays so naturally the market is flooded with options. As I try to bypass the mass produced target bag, I tend to use my production savvy to literally sniff out the best bags. To me, the best bag will not only have a positive impact on the artisan who have created the piece, but the material inputs will have a minimal impact on the environment.
Luckily, I have a few tricks up my sleeve to share with how I look for the best leather bags on the market. Please note that some of the tips below are more for traditional in store shopping, but I’m sure the comments section of specific products could help out in this regard. 🙂
1. Check the tag.
This may seem like an obvious first step, but it is the quickest way to tell if a leather bag is in fact eco friendly. Since companies know that consumers are becoming more and more educated on how production of handbags impacts the environment, it is in their best interest to make it as easy as possible for you to tell that your potential purchase is exactly what you are looking for. This does not meant that if the tag does NOT say eco-friendly you should immediately dump it from your virtual shopping cart, it just means you may have to do a little more snooping to ensure there has been little to no negative impact on the environment.
2. If it smells like a leather then it probably is.
The next most crucial step in finding a leather bag, is to make sure it is ACTUAL leather. The easiest way to tell this is to smell the bag. Of course there is processing that can be done on certain types of leather that will reduce that natural pungent scent. However, this will also mean that the bag has gone through more processing and thus the “eco friendliness” has decreased a bit. There are still some great companies producing bags that may be without this telltale indicator, but is definitely a great first start to your sleuthing. If this bag does smell more like a plastic,
3. Imperfections in the leather.
While no one actually seeks out to buy a product that has noticeable imperfections, you will see that is is certainly a running character trait of all ethically and artisan made products. I see this as less of an imperfection and more of a ‘beauty mark’ of sorts. There are a number of reasons leather would have these beauty marks on the final product and the could have occurred during any part of the production process. One of the most surprising facts I learned when I met a leather craftsman I have worked with for years was that small scratches in the leather can sometimes come from local cats and dogs using the leather as a scratch post while its being dried in the open air! It was a shock to hear that the leather was THAT natural, but i was reminded that the leather is also cleaned a number of times in the process before the finished product is sold. (whew!)
4. Variance of color
This goes in hand hand with the point above. Some methods of leather processing involve a tanning of the leather by only the sun in an open air environment with only an oil finish to keep the leather moist. This means that any beauty marks that were obtained by the animal when it was alive and will continue to be present through processing. It also means that if any eco dyes are added to the leather, the color could fast in what appears to be an uneven coat. Once again I enjoy seeing how different bags can look when these types of practices are used because it just another reminder of all the hard work that went into the product and how special my bag is.
I hope these quick tips will help you to spot the perfect eco friendly bag this fall so you can proudly show your on trend catch-all while also supporting an artisan community.
How about you? Is there anything I missed in my run down of how to tell if a bag is eco friendly or not? Do you have a brand that is your go-to when looking for a new eco friendly bag? Let me know in the comments!