15 ideas for your perfect sustainable work bag
It’s been a while! I hope your 2022 has NOT been the terrible whirlwind it has been for a lot of people (myself included), and sending you virtual hugs if it has (because if it hasn’t, you my friend are a rare breed).
I was inspired to write this blog post when it came time, REALLY came time to replace my Mary Poppins fit-all work bag that I got at Zara years ago (before I knew better). This is what it currently looks like:
Yea, I know. It was time. And that’s how those cheap bags look after years of wear unfortunately, which motivated me to get more of a high-quality investment piece to see for myself if it’ll hold up better. When it came time to look at options, I was so suprised at how hard it was to find sustainable ones. I spent over 20 hours searching before I found the right one, and thought I’d make a shortlist for you in hopes of saving you some time in your own search. Enjoy ♥
1. Ashoka Paris – Jolly Kromatik Apple Skin Tote (€195,00)
This is the one I ended up getting. Yes, before you come at me for not shopping local, a really important part of being sustainable is absolutely loving what you get! And I just wasn’t getting that with the local brands or anything on Poshmark or Ebay, there was always something that was a bit off for me personally. Of course, ZERO shade on the other options mentioned in this article, on the contrary I’m hoping they will be a perfect fit for someone else ♥
Ashoka Paris’s Jolly Kromatik Apple Skin Tote is made out of sustainable materials (apple leather and recycled plastic bottles for the lining) by a Parisian brand that’s very attached to vegan values. I like that it was spacious enough to fit everything, minimalistic but still interesting, and available in black (but they have lots of other fun colours like pink, caramel, silver, red and navy blue). This bag also comes in a recycled nylon version that’s cute also (€170,00):
Giving me Longchamp vibes but sustainable ♥
2. Aiya Aiya – VOLTA tall tote ($635 USD)
Aiya Aiya is a Montreal-based startup that won first place at YES Montreal’s 2022 Ellevate Pre-Accelarator Demo Day (which is how I found them). They’re on the pricier side, but pretty much EVERY sustainability angle is covered. Their designs are made in North America with zero waste in mind – excess materials are repurposed into other products and designs are modified to make sure that no materials are wasted. Their main material is plant leather made from materials such as coconut water, banana, hemp, and sisal fibers, and they use no toxic chemicals or plastics. Their Volta tall tote comes with several strap options and the version in black can be available via preorder. They also have their KIVU tote, pictured below ($635-645 USD, black available via preorder only):
I love to see a brand that’s pushing the limits of sustainability in fashion, and I’m so excited to follow along and see what’s next for them!
3. Sanana – Bolso Vegan Gray Tote Bag ($315 CAD)
“Sanana” is “ananas” (pineapple in French) spelt backwards. I kept misremembering the brand’s name so you’re welcome. I met the founders at an artisans’ fair last summer and they seemed great. Most of their products are smaller than the average fits-everything bag but they do have one option that would work as a work bag, the Bolso Vegan Gray Tote Bag. It’s made in Quebec (the brand is based in Quebec City), the materials are pineapple leather (Piñatex) and they use deadstock fabric from Quebec designers for the lining. I’ve seen the bag in person and liked the materials and size but I was absolutely looking for a black bag. Hopefully they’ll stock more colours in the future!
4. Elisa C-Rossow’s Apple Leather Tote ($195 CAD, on sale at the time of publishing)
I really enjoyed discovering this brand. The founder is a French expat who studied Fashion Design in Paris and has strong slow fashion values. Each tote is made-to-order in her zero waste studio – scraps are repurposed into key chains. The only thing about this one was that it was a bit too narrow for my needs (I’m the type to have 2 bulky notebooks + a laptop + a water bottle + more with me most times). She also has two higher-end, more complex totes, also made-to-order in Montreal from apple leather ($690 and $890 CAD, on sale at the time of publishing, while quantities last!):
The clothes from this brand are cute too but I digress.
5. Nae – Saya Apple Leather Tote Frame Hand Bag (£130,00)
This one could be for you if you don’t need to fit a laptop in your work bag and would like something cute, ethical and sustainable. Nae is mostly a shoe brand, rated “Good” (4/5) by Good on You, but they do have some handbag options like this one. The only thing about this one for me is that the lining is made out of organic cotton – yes, I’m counting that as a bad thing for now because my most recent scientific sources tell me that even in its organic version, cotton is one of the worst fabrics for the planet. Until I’m fully un-confused about this, I’ll leave it up because this bag is seriously cute and the exterior is made out of apple leather.
6. Rive-Claire – Nomad Tote Bag in Appleskin (€380,00)
Like Ashoka (first option, the one I bought), Rive-Claire is a PETA-certified European brand that uses apple leather in its products. This bag is cute and spacious and ethically made in Italy. Once again the lining is made out of recycled and organic cotton, the jury’s still out on that one, but I know different people have different standards for their sustainability habits so I’ll leave it up for you to decide. The Nomad tote is also available in black and beige:
6. Alernore – Mimosa Sac Noire (€295)
And last but not least, Alernore’s Mimosa Sac Noire. Ethically handmade in France out of apple leather for the exterior, this bag is PETA-certified and available in black, white and bordeaux. Their production studio is so true to French craftsmanship they’re recognized by the French government as an “Entreprise du Patrimoine Vivant”, which loosely translates to “Living Heritage Company”.
There you have it! Hopefully this list will give you some shortcuts in your search and maybe even lead you to your next slow fashion find!
As always, I’m just an email away,
P.S. A watchful eye may wonder why Samara’s Apple Leather Tote ($295 CAD) isn’t on this list – after all, it’s spacious, available in black and from a Toronto brand. I actually almost bought it until I read the mixed reviews on Trustpilot – some say the bags are great, some say there are serious quality and customer service issues? I’d say this one is a buy-at-your-own-risk, it’s hard to know which review camp you’re going to end up in just from what’s available online, so if you live in Toronto and are curious you can check them out in person (and let me know if you do!).