Why Does a Vegan Bag Cost $300?
In the leather-driven luxury market, the easiest way to gauge the quality of a bag is to touch it. If the leather feels like plastic, it's a hard pass. If it's buttery soft, you hand over all your money. But how do you judge quality when your bag isn't made from an animal? How do you justify the cost of a luxury, cruelty-free item?
The answer isn't as obvious as buttery soft leather.
Sausalito-resident Bridget Brown spent two years trying to develop Filbert, her luxury vegan bag collection, after seeing a void in the market. "I couldn’t find this luxury bag that was vegan, made in the USA, and mindful," she says. Sure, there were Stella McCartney options for over $1000, but those were over $1000.
For her line, Brown questioned every component: where it was made, how it was made, and what it was made of. Filbert—which launched in March—is produced in an ethical factory in NYC, where employees are paid fairly. The fabrics are 100 percent cruelty-free. The canvas is sourced from Italy. The cotton lining is grown in Texas and woven in South Carolina. The vegan leather is made in Massachusetts. (It's a nylon-fiber matrix, not PVC, so it doesn't contain plasticizers or off-gas dangerous compounds.) The hardware on the bags is solid brass, made in Connecticut.
Those may seem like minor details, but the costs add up. While Brown didn't disclose the markup on her bags (retail $325–$445), she says that her margins are small. And that's the difference between buying a vegan or faux leather tote from a fast fashion chain and buying a Filbert bag: manufacturing in the U.S. and supporting domestic labor is expensive. Brown says, "Chances are, if you're buying something that's cheap, someone wasn't paid fairly."
Beyond the feel-good aspects of Filbert, it's hard to justify a $300 bag unless it actually feels good. Since Filbert is an e-commerce brand, most customers don't have an opportunity to touch the materials before buying, but the brand offers free, domestic returns within 30 days of purchase. (Items must be unused, in their original condition, and include the dustbag.)
For shoppers in the Bay Area, Filbert is hosting a pop-up shop in Sausalito this weekend with jewelry designed Amy Nordstrom and Clover Artisans. Head over to 52 Princess Street May 4–6 from 11am–6pm to shop the Filbert collection in real life.
"At the end of the day, I felt that luxury and ethical didn’t have to be mutually exclusive," Brown says. Check out Filbert this weekend, and find out if she's right.