Bags of Sustainable Style

Handbags, tote bags, clutch bags, shoulder bags…. all ‘essential’ (or not?) to modern life…..

In addition to editing my clothes, it goes without saying that I am also editing my collection of bags.  Handbags, tote bags, clutch bags, shoulder bags…. all ‘essential’ (or not?) to modern life.

My current favourite is the bag I bought a couple of years ago, from Healing the Wounded Heart in Hue, Vietnam.  The shop is an eco-friendly, fair trade shop and one project of the Spiral Foundation.  It provides work for disabled and disavantaged artists in Vietman and its proceeds fund fair wages and humanitarian aid.  15% of net proceeds help fund heart surgery patients in Hue.


On the same holiday I bought a second bag (I think i have said in a previous blog that there’s something about being away on holiday that enourages the shopping urge? And of course, I love to buy things that are different to what’s available at home).  This other bag is by Valerie Cordier.  She designs and make beautiful bags and purses, from denim, leather, cotton and recycled materials, referencing local culture and using traditional craftsmanship.  The bags are all beautifully lined with patterns and colours.  Mine is made fom recycled grain storage bags. It’s strong and beautiful, and I use all the time.


As for handbags, I inherited a couple of leather handbags from my grandmother. Both framed, I wouldn’t necessariy choose to buy these handbags today, but they come from another era, have huge sentimental value and I love their combination of practicality and  feminine elegance.


Clutch bags can be more about frivolity than practicality.  Animal print is always a favourite and I have a lovely little fabric clutchbag from Other Stories, that I bought a couple of years ago.

Whether or not you choose to wear and carry leather is a personal choice.  I have leather bags, fabric bags, nylons sports bags and a beautiful Stella McCartney bag made from ‘vegetarian leather‘.

You may want to consider the environmental issues before making a decision. The tanning process is incredibly toxic, in particular chrome tanning, which results in carcinogenic chromium (VI) being released into the water table. Most factories in Europe and America no longer use this practice, but in China, for example, it is fairly widespread. Leather can be tanned using non-toxic vegetable dyes, but chrome tanning is faster and produces a more flexible leather that’s preferred for high-end bags and coats.

If you are looking for an alternative, Beyond Skin produce sustainable and leather-free footwear, handbags and accessories and their products are ethically and beautifully handmade in Spain.

Bella Purple Purse Vegan
Bella Purple Purse Vegan, Beyond Skin

Abury is another online company bringing together traditional crafts and avant-garde design to create luxury, sustainable style.  It’s aim is to empower the craftsmen, the communities and the designers, and it brings together traditional crafts knowledge from different cultures around the world.  Every time you buy an ABURY product, you are donating to the Abury Foundation which aims to transform the hours spent in production into hours of Education for the Communities where the product was made. For more about the Abury Foundation and its projects see here.

abury tote bag
Abury Tote Bag
ABury clutch bag
Abury Clutch Bag

Of course, Stella McCartney is a natural go-to for leather alternatives.  In particular this season, I love the star mini shoulder bag.  I also would love the Stella Star Belt Bag in black for a bit of hands-free bopping on the dance floor this summer?!

stella star bag
Stella Star Bag Pink
stella star belt bag
Stella Star Belt Bag, Black

Good quality leather handbags can last for years.  I still have a Mulberry mini Alexa that I’ve had for almost a decade, and if anything I prefer it now that it is somewhat weathered and a little bit battered.

Finally, If you want a designer bag, but either don’t want the price tag or want to contribute to sustainablility, think about looking on Ebay or  in a local clothes agency (Pandora or Vestiaire Collective are a good place to start).   Recycling and reselling bags is a great idea.

In Praise of the Navy Sweater…

Is it possible to have too many navy sweaters in your wardrobe?…

I can trace my love affair with the navy sweater back to my childhood. Long summers spent in rural France, it was worn by anyone and everyone, and seemed to me the epitome of laid back chic, pulled on over a cotton shirt or simply draped around the shoulders.

I recall returning home to Yorkshire after such a holiday and spending  my meagre clothing allowance on a Marks & Spencer navy round neck sweater – absolute classic – and I wore it everywhere, from school (no uniform in the sixth form) to the local pub for our Friday evening ‘socials’!

Twenty five years later, I have seven navy sweaters in my wardrobe.   Continue reading “In Praise of the Navy Sweater…”