Is Wicker Sustainable? Handbags with a Conscience
If you understand the benefit of investing in your style, and are an avid fan of slow fashion, then you may be asking yourself: “Is wicker sustainable?”
And I love that you are asking that question. Because even though I would love each and every one of you to be able to sport Flamingo Montoya on your arm, it’s important to me that doing so doesn’t add more waste or harm to our beautiful blue marble of a home.
In fact, many an admirer of Wicker Darling figural handbags has become so smitten with my cute little kittens and birds because they are an animal lover themselves. And we wouldn’t want purchasing Bubbles the Fish to harm all the twee little sea critters now would we?
We love irony, but not of that variety.
Now, that’s not to say I’m perfect (trust me darling, I’m vocally expressive of my flaws) but I do try my best to really think through the creation process of each of my designer handbags from start to finish to ensure I’m reducing my waste and carbon footprint wherever I can.
Are our wicker bags vegan?
I’m delighted to say that some of our wicker bags are made without leather handles and are vegan.
Therefore, my vintage vegans, you can shop in peace - although they sell out fast, so when one is announced you’d better jump on it!
But I also want to point out that even the handmade handbags I’ve created with sublime-quality, sturdy leather handles are a much, MUCH more sustainable option than the majority of the man-made, mass-produced products out there.
What about vegan leather or vegan leather alternatives, you ask?
I had the same question.
Plastic was absolutely out of the question, but I did talk to my ateliers about pineapple leather and mushroom leather. Bizarrely, pineapple leather is made in the Philippines but owned by a European company. And that means it's all transported to Europe.
For us to use it, we'd have to import it BACK to the Philippines where all our handmade handbags are crafted. And that produces a significant carbon footprint we just aren’t okay with.
After checking that off the list of possible materials for our designer wicker handbags, I turned my eye to mushroom leather. Yes, mushrooms.
Unfortunately though, it has a similar story. Made in South America, the cost and carbon footprint of shipping it to our ateliers does more harm than good. And so, while real leather isn't vegan-friendly, the environmental footprint is significantly smaller than the vegan leather alternatives.
And so, I chose to use leather. And only choose to work with ateliers who are ruthless about using all scraps to eliminate waste, sourcing high-quality rattan, paying fair wages to their artisans and creating our limited-supply handbags on a made to order basis.
With that, let’s look into the other parts of our wicker bags - the wicker itself.
Is wicker sustainable?
I have great news for you, my glorious sugar noodles. Wicker is sustainable. It’s a fantastic slow fashion choice for the consciously quirky shopper.
For those who didn’t know, wicker is actually the name of a weaving style, not a type of material.
Wicker is traditionally made from plants like bamboo, rattan and seagrass. These plants are swiftly renewing materials. Not only do they grow quickly, they require very little fuss or intervention in the growing process.
In fact, the lack of resources needed to grow and harvest these materials is one of the main reasons wicker is sustainable!
But it’s not the only reason why.
Just how is our rattan and wicker sustainable? Well, my dears, let’s count the reasons together!
1. Wicker is rapidly renewable
Bamboo, seagrass and rattan are all fabulous, sustainable materials for fashioning wicker handbags.
If you’re looking for a slow fashion alternative to mass produced materials, then bamboo is a wonder. Believe it or not, hard and hollow bamboo is actually a grass - and the fastest growing grass in the world to boot.
In just 24 hours, bamboo can grow by an astounding 910 mm!
When you consider how many sticks of bamboo there are in the world, that means wicker is sustainable when made from it. Bamboo will continue to grow faster than we could possibly harvest it to make gorgeously crafted handmade wicker bags.
Not only that, but growing bamboo is actually good for the Earth. It can prevent soil erosion, soak up carbon, and even produce more oxygen than full-grown trees!
But bamboo isn’t the only wonder plant for creating sustainable wicker bags. Wicker is sustainable when made from seagrasses too. Seagrass grows super fast as well, and can pull even more carbon out of the atmosphere than bamboo.
Just a square kilometre of seagrasses can pull an incredible 83,000 metric tons of carbon out of the air. Talk about reducing a carbon footprint!
Last but certainly not least is rattan, the spectacular material we have chosen to make our figural animal purses out of here at Wicker Darling. What is rattan exactly? It’s a collection of 600 types of vines found in tropical regions in Asia, Australia, and Africa and is one of the fastest growing materials in the world.
In fact, rattan grows 7 times faster than trees, and each vine can grow 200 meters in one year’s time. Not only that, but rattan is easy to replant. During harvest, all you need to do is plant the tip of the vine at the base of a tree and it will continue to grow!
Rattan is structurally quite similar to bamboo, except that it isn’t hollow, which means you have more material to work with in a single rattan pole.
Rattan wicker is sustainable, and even helps to reduce stress on forests from logging.
2. Wicker uses very few resources
Because rattan vines need a tree to climb for health growth, rattan provides an incentive to protect and conserve forests. Rattan keeps its growing trees protected, and provides an alternative resource to tropical wood.
In addition, bamboo and rattan require very little water to grow, and are almost always grown free of pesticides, because these materials are naturally resistant to insects.
That means growing materials for wicker bags are a triple win for the environment.
3. Cleaning wicker is easy on the environment
Say so long to man-made cleaning products in plastic packaging. One reason wicker is sustainable is that all you need to clean and care for your wicker basket or bag is water.
If your Wicker Darling handbag happens to get disastrously dirty, you can deep clean it by getting a cotton cloth damp with water and gently wiping your purse. A normal cleaning doesn’t even require water. You can just dust it with a feather duster - no cleaning products required.
4. Our designer bags are handmade by local artisans
Wicker weaving is a traditional artisan craft passed down from generation to generation. At Wicker Darling, we work with two small, family-owned ateliers in the Philippines. They both are headed by women and focus on employing local artisans - a majority of which are also women.
We absolutely love empowering women to take their career into their own hands, and supporting traditional craftsmanship, but those aren’t the reasons why wicker is sustainable.
Wicker is sustainable because the materials are sourced, processed, and woven locally and by hand.
We don’t transport the rattan over long distances, or use machine processing. We take great care in sourcing the rattan right where the bags are made, so that we can minimise the carbon footprint of shipping and maximise the benefits for the local communities.
5. Wicker handbags are biodegradable
Bamboo, rattan and seagrass are incredibly durable and flexible fibers - and they are also biodegradable. Our handmade designer purses are made from the highest quality of rattan available, so they last a lot longer than fast-fashion items that can end up in the garbage.
While your wicker friend should last a lifetime, should you ever need to part ways, your cute little cat or flamboyant flamingo purse will retire gracefully into a nice, natural dirt.
This means your irreverent wicker handbag will not only save space in landfills, it will also help to grow new plants - and maybe give the gift of life to new wicker creations!
6. We cut down on waste at Wicker Darling
I didn’t wake up one day and decide to use pre-orders at Wicker Darling for the heck of it. Oh no, there’s a reason why we love pre-order for our unique bags. Our pre-order system is deeply thought out, just like the design and creation of your one-of-a-kind handbag.
When you place your pre-orders for a sassy new wicker companion, it takes all the guesswork out for me. That means I will only make as many bags as are needed, and won’t waste any materials in unsold stock.
That’s just another reason wicker is sustainable at Wicker Darling - we don’t have unsold stock taking up space in a landfill like some fashion giants out there. We also would never want to shred unsold designs to “maintain scarcity” like a few luxury brands I can think of.
Each and every bag we create is intentional and is going to a loving home.
I hope it’s yours!
I also hope that you understand the purpose behind the pre-order process. It not only protects the environment, but it means you won’t have to wait with bated breath for a bag to go on sale in fears it will sell out. I want wicker admirers in Australia and world-wide to stop stressing about time zones and breathe a sigh of relief.
Now, this also means you will wait longer for your designer handbag - but I think the wait is well worth it. You will know you are receiving a lovingly handcrafted piece, and are contributing to grass-roots artisan communities and the slow fashion movement.
Now my daring darlings, I’ve been throwing the phrase “slow fashion” around quite a bit here. If you have absolutely no notion what I’m talking about, have no fret! I’m absolutely obsessed with the slow approach to fashion, and will delightly gab your ear off about it.
What is slow fashion?
Slow fashion is a fashion approach which closely considers the processes used, and the environmental resources required, to produce a garment (or whimsical accessory).
In particular, slow fashion focuses on sustainability, so you’d better believe I asked myself “Is wicker sustainable?” before even starting out on the Wicker Darling entrepreneurial adventure.
Slow fashion involves buying garments that are better quality and will last longer. And, even more than that, it’s about investing in fashion items that don’t involve the poor treatment of the planet or its people.
I don’t know if you remember the slow food movement, but it’s actually what sparked the idea for slow fashion. It’s about rejecting the fast fashion method of sweat shops, child labor, and tons upon tons of waste.
It’s about re-examining our pre-industrial revolution methods of locally sourced and produced products, and adding our modern wisdom to them. To protect our planet, and current and future generations, it’s important for us to focus less on the quantity of garments and more on the quality. To promote sustainable processes and practices.
And, to also celebrate the skills of the local craftspeople who can do by hand what we have so often relied on machines for.
Wicker Darling is a celebration of all those things, and that’s why I am so proud to say our wicker is sustainable.
Ready to invest in a designer wicker handbag?
When you invest in a Wicker Darling handmade handbag, you are not only investing in you a quirky conversation starter and jolly jet-setting companion, you are also investing in local communities, traditional craftsmanship, the empowerment of women, the protection of trees, and so much more.
You can pre-order our artisan wicker bags to adopt them into your home and cut back on waste in the process. There is always a fun wicker wonder to celebrate here, so pop on over to Wicker Darling to check out this month’s featured wicker bag.
Slow fashion never looked so good.