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Each Noiranca vegan leather handbag is crafted in a very beautiful way. While the designs- a visual treat of modernist shapes that bring classic baguettes and totes into the future- it’s the care that’s put into each stage of the design and production that makes each bag truly alluring. As a vegan handbag brand, Noiranca has chosen to step outside the confines of traditional materials (generally plastic-based) to craft the most responsible handbags they could- free from toxic chemicals while still being durable enough to last longer to help each wearer embrace slow fashion. For those who may not know, traditional vegan handbags are made from plastic-based materials that can contain a wealth of chemicals that pose harm to our planet and our own health. Noiranca, has consciously ensured that their handbags have none of that.
Embracing innovative materials that are better for the planet has become de riguer in the fashion industry. Recycled plastic water bottles are replacing virgin plastic and our dependence on oil. Even recycled cotton is being used instead of new cotton as a way to embrace circular design. Noiranca, while shying away from bio-based materials like apple leather chooses to focus on using 58% recycled materials and plastic-based leathers that are water, not oil-based. These ensure that each of their vegan handbags is durable while still being sustainably crafted. As a woman who has a collection of handbags from all materials like leather, wool, apple leather and of course my vegan Noiranca, I was pleased to see how well my bag could withstand the day-to-day of life in the city while still maintaining its delicate beauty.
When it comes to understanding what it takes to craft the perfect vegan leather handbag, we wanted to hear first hand from the brand, by way of the brand manager Rono Zhang, to learn how they’ve minimized their impact. So, we took a minute to learn about the conscious choices they make to make their vegan handbags.
Why are traditional vegan leathers so harmful to the environment and our health?
Few fashion labels have already begun the switch from traditional animal leather to “vegan leather,” an umbrella term for non-animal materials, which includes synthetic materials and biomaterials such as cork, pineapple, and even reishi.
Despite its name, not all vegan leathers are environmentally friendly. Traditional synthetic leather is mainly made from plastic-based polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and oil-based polyurethane (PU). In producing these, hazardous toxins that are not fully biodegradable are released into our ecosystem, which in turn harms our health and the environment due to the tremendous climate crisis. The material is also easily worn out, usually within 36 months – meaning the products that are made of traditional vegan leathers have short product life cycles which make customers replace one after another in a short time. This again poses a threat to our planet earth.
What steps do you take to ensure that your vegan leather has a low environmental and health impact?
We asked ourselves when we first started screening different materials: “How do we take less from the earth with every NOIRANCA bag we make?” We don’t want to simply use a new synthetic material to replace animal leather, instead, we want to focus on materials that consist of recycled elements.
Fortunately, we have found a producer that can create NOIRANCA’s signature vegan leather without compromising on texture and quality. Made from DMF-free ( N,N-Dimethylformamide is an organic solvent that is considered a potent liver toxin), water-based PU, which replaces organic solvents with water, our special vegan leather contains zero volatile organic compounds and consists of around 58% recycled elements.
Our vegan leather has also reached both US CA65 and EU REACH standards, which validates that during its production process, our vegan leather has improved the protection of human health and the protection of the environment from the risks that can be posed by chemicals.
To reach full sustainability, we also employ materials with recycled elements as much as possible, including our dust bag which is made from GRS-certified (Global Recycled Standard) recycled cotton. The lining is also made from recycled micro suede and our packing paper is made from FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) paper. All elements are meticulously considered to ensure we are on track towards a greener production.
Since the beginning, we have opted for an “In House First” approach when producing our prototypes. We prioritize surplus materials that we already have on hand to avoid wastage and unnecessary shipping whenever possible. In addition, as part of our commitment to reaching circularity, the majority of these surplus materials that we use and reuse have a viable recycling solution.
We also produce handbags in limited quantities and carry out thorough pre-production assessments for every design. To further limit waste, we offer pre-orders to better predict the demand of NOIRANCA bags. It may mean a bit of waiting time for customers, but we promise it is well worth it.
What are the benefits of your vegan leather?
Unlike animal leather and traditional synthetic leather, NOIRANCA’s signature vegan leather is the lightest, thus lowering carbon emission during shipping. It also creates the lowest level of toxic pollution during production and is over 40% and 300% more durable than animal leather and traditional leather respectively, and matches it in texture and quality.
No doubt, our vegan leather is on par with traditional leather in terms of tactility and quality, and even outperforms traditional synthetic leather. Compared to animal leather, traditional synthetic leather and biomaterial leather, our vegan leather is smooth, sophisticated, and the lightest in weight, among all.
What are the environmental benefits of using recycled polyester and other materials?
We all know that fashion is one of the most wasteful industries on earth, but it does not have to stay that way. We want to make our NOIRANCA bags differently to limit what we take from the earth and leave behind.
Other ecological performance elements of our signature vegan leather, using recycled polyester includes:
- 90% reduction of effluent discharge
- 80% reduction of energy consumption
- 75% reduction of carbon emissions
What is product traceability?
Traceability is the ability to track every part and product throughout the manufacturing process, from the moment when raw materials enter the factory to the moment when final products are shipped. To further offset our ecological footprint, we adopt different sustainability measures behind the scenes — from the supply chains to packaging, we strive to take less and give more.
As a matter of fact, we screen our suppliers according to a strict set of standards. Through conducting the Sedex Member Ethical Trade Audit Report on our suppliers, we have garnered in-depth information about their social and ethical performance in July 2021. By working exclusively with reliable suppliers which provide product traceability and transparency, every step in our production process aligns to our eco-standards. Energy conservation, for example, is one of the areas we focus on, where our suppliers take into consideration water input, energy input, land use, eco-toxicity, greenhouse gas emissions and human toxicity.
How do you offer this (product traceability) to consumers?
Every NOIRANCA product has a unique code in their product card. Each set of numbers corresponds to a different meaning that can be traced back to the origin of each product. It refers to style number, material provider, material type, and the makers of the product so customers know what they are paying for.
We like to give customers the option to know exactly what they are buying by breaking down every product to its raw materials and trace back to their origin. Traceability also means we can provide real quality at a much lower price. We want to let our customers know how much effort goes into making each of our products and make sure our family atelier and supply chain partners get full recognition for their devotion and skill.
How should we consciously care for our Noiranca bags to make them last?
1. Avoid water. Our bags are made for all occasions, but not all weather conditions. However, if your bag is really exposed to rain, gently dab water away with a dry cloth and leave to dry at room temperature. Do not use electric heat as it may cause deformation and color fading.
2. Avoid overfilling or carrying overly heavy items as your bag may lose its shape, unless you are filling it with your charisma.
3. Put your bag back into the dust bag every time after use and place it somewhere dry and away from direct sunlight. You may stuff it appropriately to prevent loss of shape.
4. Avoid wearing dark jeans if you plan to use our bags in light colors as they are susceptible to color transfer. While we celebrate diversity of colors, we do not wish for your bags to become stained.
What’s the most sustainable way to dispose of packaging?
Packaging is often the sustainability blind spot in fashion, so it is our goal to handle it delicately and differently. When designing the packaging, we try to make it eco-friendly and use more steady cardboard which makes it easier for people to repurpose it for storage. We encourage our customers to share how they reuse it on Instagram with #MyNoirancaBox to inspire others.
We use FSC-certified recycled cardboard and paper as our packaging material, printed in 100% soy ink which degrades more than 4 times as completely as standard inks, making it much easier to recycle at the end.
What are Noiranca’s sustainable goals for the new year?
For our upcoming goals in 2023 and onwards, we aim to continuously refine and upgrade our eco-friendly approach on all production as well as corporate social responsibility aspects. As the fashion world switches to a more sustainable path, better leather alternatives will exist in the future. We look forward to experimenting with these materials and investing in other more eco-friendly, recycled, or recyclable materials in order to move closer to our carbon-neutral vision.
Our work does not end here. We are also exploring different sustainability measures behind the scenes, from packaging to printing, to further offset our ecological footprint.