Handbags are one of the most prominent staples in everyone’s wardrobe. One wears this ever-present companion to a wide range of daily activities – from casual outings to business meetings or quick errands. What has become more important when choosing the right bag is not only the quality and longevity but also how environmentally friendly this must-have accessory is to the planet, as well as to people and animals.

Vegan bags came onto the scene at the dawn of this century and quickly became a worthy opponent to traditional leather pieces – especially with the rise of the vegan lifestyle, increased awareness of leather’s highly polluting processes, as well as the overall phasing out of animal-based materials from the fashion industry altogether. However, many of us quickly realized that not all leather alternatives have been created equal. The quality wildly differs, with high-end options being hard to come by, and rarely can we actually tangibly see how much greener a plant-based option is compared to other alternatives.

That’s why Lisa Marin, a timeless vegan handbag brand based in Amsterdam, decided to put their animal-free handbags to the test – a life cycle analysis to be exact – to find out how the leather alternative products, including the new collection ‘PAM’, perform on the impartial impact scale. Life cycle analysis, also known as LCA, is a methodological tool that measures the environmental impacts of a product or service throughout its full life cycle – from the initial production to the end stage of the specific components in terms of carbon footprint, water usage, and transport.

Lisa Marin’s LCA results

Conducted by the impact analysis partner True Cost Label, the life cycle analysis of Lisa Marin’s bags exceeded any potential expectations. When compared to an average fake ‘leather’ bag as well as an animal leather bag, the impact of Lisa Marin always comes out as a clear winner. 

Taking the newest addition ‘PAM’ as an example, this bag has a significantly smaller impact on the environment compared to ‘faux leather’ and an animal leather bag of the same weight. For instance, a ‘PAM’ model uses only 1.8 CO2 and just 6 liters of water to produce, compared to 4.5 CO2 and 235 liters of water for a plastic ‘faux leather’ bag. The bag made of animal leather takes the cake with a total consumption of 8.5 CO2 and 243 liters of water. Ultimately, Lisa Marin’s bag emits 4.5 times less CO2 and uses 40 times less water than an animal leather bag of the same weight. The LCA results don’t lie: Lisa Marin’s bags are better for the planet.

What makes the biggest difference is the choice of material – ‘PAM’ is made of AppleSkin, an innovative biobased material made from waste from the fruit industry. In this case, apple pulp is collected, washed, and dried. It is then converted into a fine powder that is mixed with water-based polyurethane. This makes the material just as sturdy and beautiful as animal leather – approaching or even exceeding most of the properties, but with much less negative impact on animals, people, and the environment.

The true impact of vegan handbags

If vegan bags are as meticulously crafted and equally durable as their leather counterparts, what else is standing in the way of a total transition to leather alternatives? Lisa Marin has developed the blueprint, proving that sustainability and aesthetics can and should go hand in hand.

There is now no need for compromise in any aspect of fashion production. In the case of Lisa Marin, each handbag is ethically made in Italy, capitalizing on the knowledge and craftsmanship for the production of truly high-end luxury bags while challenging the old narrative that only ‘real’ leather can achieve such a desirable outcome. What if this traditionally “leather country” becomes one of the leading fashion pioneers for plant-based alternatives? Everything is possible when fashion brands keep pushing the needle of sustainability and share their relentless efforts with radical transparency. 

Unequivocally, conducting the life-cycle analysis is one of the needed steps to understand the true impact of fashion. For vegan handbags, Lisa Marin showed how the impact of this fashion piece can be significantly reduced by choosing innovative raw materials, right production partners and a compact supply chain. To learn more, access Lisa Marin’s full LCA report here