The Ethical alternative: Handmade handbags

The uproar mid last year, in response to Australian supermarkets phasing out plastic bags, was frankly embarrassing. Are we really incapable of thinking ahead and reusing our bags? According to the Ocean Crusaders, Australians use 6.9 billion plastic bags a year (of which 3.6 billion are plastic shopping bags). To make matters worse? Only 1% of plastic bags in Australia are reused! How can the inconvenience of shopping with the same bag stand in comparison to the pollution of the ocean? Or dying sea creatures? Sadly, it seems that every little step towards an ethical future is met with stubborn resistance.

Nevertheless, our supermarkets have finally transitioned to 15c a bag. It might seem small, but it is undoubtedly a step in the right direction.

It’s time to ask; what can be done on an individual level? At the very least, remembering to bring a couple of tote bags on your weekly supermarket trudge.

But what about your handbag? It’s 2019 and plastic is finally on the way out. But apart from a minority of those who are ethically “switched on”, the leather industry often slithers beyond our radius of concern.

Most of you can probably justify your leather handbags as “by-products” of the meat industry. Not a true source of evil on its own, right? But on its own, the leather industry is worth billions.

The leather industry continues to grow, and even though we’ve all seen an increasing demand for ethically sourced products, there aren’t enough labelling requirements in place to ensure what, where and how animals are being used. In an article by Animals Australia, they have reported China to kill numerous animals for their skins every year. Since they happen to be the largest leather exporters in the world, you might be wise to reconsider your next leather purchase.

Here at Aussie Vibez, we’ve been in pursuit of an affordable alternative to plastic and leather. As reported by ABC news even “vegan” leather alternatives use PVC and PU plastics which, are often manufactured from fossil fuels and take a lot longer to break down. We don’t think about how environmentally intensive the production of a single handbag can be.

Staggeringly, ABC researchers have claimed that by 2030, the climate impact of the apparel industry alone is predicted to nearly match today’s total annual US greenhouse gas emissions (4.9 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide).

Organic fabrics and materials are the obvious alternative to leathers and plastic. After searching high and low, the AV team have found themselves amongst the hill tribes of Northern Thailand. 

The fabric we use in our new, Eco-friendly bags is all sourced in Northern Thailand. The stone washed cotton is woven, and hand dyed by local Thai Artisans. These techniques are of a rich and ancient tradition, used through Asia since the 4th Century. All of these local artists are ensured a fair-trade wage for their delicate craft. After providing a local team with the bag designs, all of our products are produced locally and ethically near.

Not only do these bags have a minimal impact on the environment, we are able to provide jobs and sustainability to a dedicated group of people who would be otherwise without employment.

Thailand’s economy is heavily export dependent, with exports accounting for more than two-thirds of the country’s GDP. In fact, the Thailand textile industry, is one of the strongest in the world. With an abundance of high quality raw materials, the Thai industry is renowned for a high quality of woven and knitted fabrics. We are getting these fabrics right from the source.

These bags are guilt-free (and I forgot to mention, super groovy). We’re now stocking bum bags for your festival wanderings, shoulder sling bags, backpacks and more. And the best part? It’s actually affordable. Our bags range from $24-$40 (AUD), forget about those pretentious leather prices. We want our bags accessible to all.

NOTE: We do custom made bags as per your designs and request so e-mail us at or drop in a message to have a chat.

Link to our shop here.

Mollie Wilson

I’m a 21 year old arts student majoring in art history and creative writing. I spend a lot of my time painting, but as a diehard reader, writing was always my first love. I enjoy writing about practically anything, but my true areas of interest lie in art, philosophy and politics. Melbourne has only recently become my home so I’m super keen to discover the art and literature it has to offer.

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