Time for Part II of our Handbag FAQs. It's time for the big question - why are some handbags so cheap and some so expensive? I also discuss vegan leather. You can watch the video, or if you prefer to read, I have included a transcript below as well.
Why are some handbags so cheap and why are some handbags so expensive?
To answer this question, we need to discuss what goes into making a handbag, or anything for that matter.
Input 1: Materials
We discussed this a bit in part 1. What is your handbag made from – is it vinyl, synthetic, cloth, leather? And what is the quality of that material? I have seen “Italian leather” bags selling at market stalls for £15. I can tell you that the Italian leather I use costs more than twice that per square metre and each tote bag uses almost one square. Also, check the quality of any hardware on the handbag. One of our lovely customers Susan asked what our hardware is made from. On our larger handbags, the metalwork is made in brass and then coated a few times in gold to prevent excessive scratching. Our unique clutch bags have the frame made in a metal called zamac in order to make this flat hinge on the bag possible. It is then also coated in gold. Unfortunately, it’s not made in solid 14 or 18 karat gold as a customer once asked.
Input 2: Labour
I know that this is a topic that has been discussed at length and ostensibly we all care about human rights and paying a living wage. However, in practice, I know that cute £5 dress is really tempting. Think about how long it would take someone to make your handbag and then think about after materials and shipping, a margin the factory, a margin for the brand and taxes, how much is left for the actual workers. By using small, family run businesses in Italy that I visit often, I know that not only will the quality of my products be top notch, but that they also treat and pay their crafts men and women fairly for their work.
Input 3: Everything Else
Last, there’s everything else. After taking into account the materials and labour, why do some bags cost a couple hundred pounds while others cost over a thousand or more! Large fashion houses have a long amazing tradition and heritage. They also have a massive marketing budget and sales teams and beautiful stores that all need to be paid for. These brands need funds to pay celebrities to carry their bags and even more to take out double full page spreads in magazines so that the editor can tell you this is the “it bag” of the season. And then there’s also a healthy mark-up built in from cost to wholesale to retail as they distribute to department stores around the world.
This last piece is changing though. With small independent brands building trust with customers, working with small factories and going directly to the public, we are able to offer quality pieces paying a fair wage and without astronomical mark-ups.
Can you tell me about vegan leather?
Currently, all our handbags and accessories use Italian leather from cows, which is a by-product of the meat industry. As I am designing and making items that I want to last, I feel that real leather is the most durable material for this. I know there are a lot of fashion articles these days talking about the environmental impacts of leather handbags, but in reality, the majority of this is attributed to the production of food.
However, I know that there are people who would prefer to use non-animal products all together and I have also been researching vegan alternatives the past couple years. In my research, I have found that many imitation leather products are petroleum based, which means they are not great for the environment. There are also some made from fruit or plants like cacti, apple skins or pineapples, which although are possible to make bags from, do not really resemble smooth leather unless they add a significant petroleum component to it. So I think these are the current possibilities for a vegan bag.
I have also found some new companies are growing leather in labs – this seems like it could be promising, but they are not yet to be available on a production scale for independent designers.
So for now, I am speaking with an Italian tannery that produces metal-free tanned leather. Although things have been on hold a bit, I hope to get started with them in the new year for future collections.
That’s it for part II of our handbag FAQs. Please let me know if you have any comments or if there are any questions you want answered in the future. Thanks for watching!
Very informative indeed! I particularly like the clarification you gave on vegan leather.