“It’s In The Bag”
When I was a teen, I was always envious of the labels that my peers had. Better jeans, more expensive shoes and brand names that immediately communicated your stature in the fashion hierarchy. Many of these brands were not in the cards for me at the time, my Guess clothes coming from my cousin and my only association to Benetton was walking through the store. Sure, these childhood “struggles” help us build character but then again, what kid is looking to build character?
As I got older, I started having the means to acquire the more popular brands. My jobs at retail stores came with store discounts that made getting the new Calvin Klein sweater or a Tommy Girl dress no longer a dream but a reality. I came to love my upgraded items not just for their labels but because they did fit and feel better. They were the right lengths and sat in the right way. My designer tastes expanded from clothing to accessories. You can’t have a great outfit without a great bag, right? My purses received upgrades from Nine West to Coach and Kate Spade until late in my twenties I found myself in the big leagues when I got my first Prada bag. A gift from a boyfriend and the turning point for my future handbags. Once you reach that level it’s hard to go back. The designs were gorgeous, the styles were classic, the logos were, well not subtle. They screamed not only the designer’s name but also, “I’m worth it!” I learned that the right handbag could upgrade any outfit whether you’re in your workout clothes or heading to the office. And so, my collection grew. Louis Vuitton, Gucci, and Chanel all proudly hung from my shoulder. I loved the compliments and the excitement a new purse would invite among friends and women sitting next to me at the bar. I was no longer on the outside looking in, I had arrived.
And then, I went vegan.
Stella McCartney’s bags are bathed in luxury fabrics and hardware and are both vegan and eco-conscious.
To be honest, when I went vegan my initial thought process was around food and changing how I ate. I was more concerned with how I would give up cheese (remember this was before Violife, Kite Hill or the great vegan cheese boom) than changing my wardrobe. But eventually, as I got a hold of my diet, I began to think bigger. My purses, once such a source of pride, felt like a glaring “I’m a hypocrite!” sign sitting next to me as I ordered a veggie burger. The logos emblazoned onto leather were no longer making me feel proud, they made me feel sad. I knew what they really were. And so, I began phasing them out. I began searching for high end vegan purses, favoring brands like Matt & Nat that come in beautiful colors and fun styles. I felt far less inclined to have to have designer bag as I, thankfully, reached a place in life where I felt secure enough to not need an outward display of my accomplishments every time I left the house. And yet, now and then I would find myself walking down Fifth Avenue or meandering through Bergdorf’s and I’d see handbags from my ex-favorite designers and would stare wistfully and wish for that excitement that touching and buying and wearing a luxury handbag could bring. Judge me but that’s the truth.
And then there was Stella. I stumbled onto Stella McCartney’s handbags during a google search for a premium-over-the-top vegan bag. I didn’t need it, I just wanted it! Once I saw her collection, I immediately made plans to visit some stores where they were sold. They looked gorgeous online but at these costs I was going to have to see for myself. It can be hard at times to wrap your head around heavy price tags for vegan items. Pricing ranges from $390 for a wallet to $2100 for purses. But like premium vegan foods, the ingredients that go into these items aren’t as easily mass sourced as the traditional materials we usually see.
It turns out it was worth the trip. Stella McCartney’s bags are bathed in luxury fabrics and hardware and are both vegan and eco-conscious. They convey a sexy, sophisticated style that I had not been able to find previously. Long known for her fashion line which does not feature any fur or leather, Stella McCartney has had a very impressive career in fashion starting with an internship for Christian Lacroix to being named the Creative Director at Chloé to launching her own fashion house in 2001. I had been just fine with the purses I had until I picked up a Falabella Maxi Tote. The feeling of the soft fabric while I ran my palm over the purse reminded me of suede yet even more refined to the touch, possibly due to the lack of guilt I felt admiring it. Once on my shoulder everything else I was wearing was elevated. And my passion for luxury bags was re-ignited.
The line features an oversized recyclable chain strap which is a mix of silver and gold making it easy to pair with any accessories you’re wearing.
Last Autumn Stella debuted a mushroom leather material known as Mylo during Paris Fashion Week. Mylo is infinitely renewable and made by producing mycelium, a network of fungal threads, in a lab. She was the first person to use this material at the show but brands like Adidas and Lululemon have followed. The Frayme Mylo handbag takes its inspiration from her iconic Falabella style and gives it a fresh upgrade. The material looks like leather, feels like Miyoko’s butter and IS sumptuous. The line features an oversized recyclable chain strap which is a mix of silver and gold making it easy to pair with any accessories you’re wearing. It’s also the kind of bag that people comment on as soon as they see it. Obviously, I had to go see it in person. I hadn’t even been in the department store for 10 minutes before two different women stopped in the aisle to enthusiastically comment on the Frayme Small Zipit Shoulder Bag I was holding and admiring. “You’re right,” I said. “It’s fabulous.”
Photo credit: Stella McCartney
Jessica has been working in the food and beverage industry for over 15 years and has worked with global brands inside of some of New York’s most iconic establishments. Along with a passion for growing brands, Jessica works with both individuals and businesses to incorporate a vegan lifestyle through food choices, education and coaching.