With the fashion industry finally being held to account for both the sustainable footprint it’s leaving on this earth, as well as the ethical questions that many of its practices throw up, several moves have been made by brands to ensure that their product complies with the ever-growing demands of their customer.

And one of the most innovative areas of the industry is in the realm of faux leather, with dupes being created from apple, pineapple, wine, mushrooms and even kombucha. Who’d have thought it?

We caught up with vegan leather handbag brand, Mashu, to discover what it really takes to create these ethical alternatives…

Q What are your own personal reasons for deciding to make a vegan leather bag brand?

A For me it started when I decided to stop eating meat. I quickly realised that it’s not just what I choose to put on my plate but what I choose to wear. At the time there wasn’t a great deal of options when it came to vegan and sustainable accessories so I decided to do something about that! Avoiding meat and leather is the single best way to reduce impact on our planet. By not using conventional leather that has a heavy use of resources including land, water, food and fuel and contains toxic chemicals such as Chromium, we don’t contribute to its unsustainable practices.

Q We know sustainability is at the core of your work – what do you think about the current rise in its awareness? Is it just a fad or do you think it’s a pivotal moment?

A I think we are at a pressing time where we need to re think the whole system because we are at a climate crisis, it’s not a passing trend. I think sustainability will be the new norm and all types of businesses will have to adhere to new regulations in order to keep their position in the industry.

Q What, if obviously not leather, are your bags typically made from? Can you briefly talk us through these incredible materials?

A We use a variety of materials and in every new collection we keep introducing new, innovative, and of course sustainable materials. At the moment we are using a material called Piñatex made from cellulose fibres extracted from pineapple leaves. The use of pineapple leaf fibre is an agricultural waste product that doesn’t require additional farming. We also use water based and toxic free PU, and recycled polyester in our linings. These materials all avoid the use of antimicrobials, formaldehyde, polyvinyl chloride (PVC). In our most recent collections we are also introducing organic cotton, hemp and Tencel. We are always on the lookout for new sustainable materials that we can use and thanks to the technological developments our options are constantly increasing.

Q How difficult is it – compared to non-vegan bag making – to create pieces from these vegan materials?

A It’s harder designing and crafting bags not made from leather, especially when the designs are more complex. Leather can have so many different types of thicknesses. Our issue is that a lot of our materials don’t have the same variety of thicknesses so we’ve had to get creative in designing and crafting our bags. We had to find appropriate backers and glues that don’t contain animal derivatives and that are also sustainable. But I think finding solutions to problems can be exciting, as new ideas will develop that you may not have thought of otherwise.
Also, at first, persuading leather artisans to work with non-leather wasn’t the easiest thing to do. Our production factory thought I was crazy: why go through all this trouble when I can use real leather? However, after plenty of trial and error and many conversations and samples later, we were happy with the outcome and my production team seemed to understand more about Mashu and our materials.

Q What are the processes in creating these vegan leather pieces that people might not be aware of?

A Sourcing materials is one of the main focuses each season. We work a lot on research and development to decide the materials we will use. We make our bags with exceptional leather artisans all handcrafted in a small family run factory in Athens, Greece. Our handles are all made by wooden artisans hand turned on a lathe using only wooden offcuts sourced from a furniture factory in Athens. Each bag is made with attention to detail and we focus on the longevity of each product created.

Scroll down to shop our edit of the chicest vegan bags to snap up right now…

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