A woman’s bag is crucial to our day-to-day life: a never-leave-the-house-without-it accessory, the handbag is much more than a practicality. Carrying our entire world in our bag, we put research and vision into the choice of our bags. And today’s fashion-conscious consumers do put emphasis on the ‘conscious’ part – no longer caring just about aesthetics, we also pay attention to material, production processes and the story behind the bag. Cue BAREL Ethical Luxury, a brand that experiments with new materials to create a cruelty-free line that’s versatile, chic and functional. Finished in soft, suede-like textures with a subtle metallic sheen, BAREL’s creations are day-to-evening essentials that will add an eye-catching twist to any ensemble. The brand’s latest Day & Night collection focuses on easy-to-wear pieces that will accompany you from desk to cocktails – with a compassionate and conscious twist. We caught up with the label’s founder, Italian Marta Barel, to chat about perceptions, manufacturing processes, and the future.
Oh and yes, the title mentions special treats! Scroll to the end of the piece to find BAREL’s gift to Vilda readers.
Tell us about your first brushes with veganism.
Like many other people, I have always loved animals, but for a long time I wasn’t able to connect a piece of meat or a leather jacket to a living, breathing calf or lamb. One day, while working for a fashion brand, I went to see a leather manufacturer. Standing in front of huge chunks of leather that were actually shaped like the animal that they had been taken from, I came to a realisation: when I was to start my own brand, I would never use animals to create fashion products.
How was your brand born? What were the needs you set out to satisfy and what was your vision for BAREL Ethical Luxury?
In 2012, I had the desire to start a line of bags and accessories that was completely cruelty-free. From our very first collection, our goal was to create styles that encompassed ethics, aesthetics and functionality in classical silhouettes or more on-trend shapes. The unity of style and sustainability through high-quality materials to create well-designed accessories is the challenge of green luxury brands – it’s at the core of our vision.
Tell us about the journey of the brand – what has your progress looked like so far?
We are very happy with the response we’ve had both from our resellers and the customers that shop our brand online. For many people we have been the first cruelty-free brand they’ve come in contact with – encountering their curiosity and interest about cruelty-free materials was very stimulating for us and certainly represents an occasion to get our philosophy out there, to be appreciated for the ethical side of our creations. We focus very much on research into quality materials and artisanal work – our bags are finished with handmade detailing that stays true to our Made in Italy roots and traditions. We go beyond the concept of seasonal wear, offering colours and shapes that can be worn year-round.
What obstacles have you encountered?
The biggest hurdle that comes with not using animal skins in our designs is an initial wariness, on the part of the public, when faced with new materials that aren’t very known yet. Through the years we have all become accustomed to hearing that real leather is synonymous with quality, that it’s a superior natural material. Seeing things labeled with ‘real leather’ is meant to be a guarantee of quality. This is a successful marketing strategy by the leather industry and everything that’s connected to it. Animal skins are, just like our own skin, subject to detriment with age and in order to be used as a material in clothing and accessories, it needs to be treated with highly toxic substances that block its natural decomposition process. How can that be considered natural or high-quality? This is a concept that we carry with us from the days when mankind used what was available for clothing, for lack of possibility to create alternative materials. Today we have the opportunity to create materials that outperform leather in aesthetic appeal, resistance, comfort and durability, using less toxic processes that are also cruelty-free.
What are your favourite styles from the collection?
Each collection has a style that I feel represents me the best – for the Day & Night colelction, this is the Cartella bag. I use it almost daily, both for work and leisure, thanks to its clean silhouette that’s easy to adapt to any outfit or occasion.
How do you see the future of cruelty-free fashion?
I think cruelty-free fashion IS the future. Taking the step into sustainable production is necessary to the fashion industry. Thanks to organisations that inform and promote sustainability, larger brands are starting to gravitate towards cruelty-free processes, which is proved by the growing number of brands that adhere to the Fur-Free Program supported by the Fur Free Alliance or the success of the Animal-Free Fashion project launched in February by Italian animal rights organisation LAV, which rates brands on an ethical scale based on animal-free designs.
Shop BAREL’s newest collection, Day & Night, here. BAREL offers Vilda readers Free Shipping and 10% off with the code VILDABAREL
Header photo from BAREL Ethical Luxury. All other photos by David Camilli.