With an upsurge in people adopting a vegan lifestyle, it’s not just food without animal products that are in greater demand, but also fashion accessories.

Consequently, more and more people are turning away from bags made of traditional leather, and looking for cruelty-free, vegan-friendly alternatives.

“Vegan leather is most commonly made from polyurethane and recycled nylon, while exciting new cruelty-free alternatives include leather made from pineapple leaves, says Juliet Gellatley, founder and director of vegan campaigning charity Viva!

“It's best to shop at a dedicated vegan retailer because although the leather may be vegan, the handbag may include other non-vegan elements such as animal-based adhesives which are much harder to identify.

“But that doesn’t mean vegan bags don’t exist on the high street. Check the label for the leather symbol. If a product is unlabelled, try smelling the material as animal skin smells quite distinctive.

"Lastly, simply ask the manufacturer if the product is vegan. As the demand for vegan handbags increases, retailers are becoming increasingly transparent.”

We’ve tested some of the best vegan bags on the market, sourced from a mixture of large companies to smaller start-ups. The bags vary in size, style and material, and were all tested on the grounds of their appearance, how practical they were and their cost.

You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps to fund journalism across The Independent.

Jane bag, £218.14, Gunas

With the quality and sophistication of a high-end designer handbag, the Jane bag – named he inspirational work and life of Dr Jane Goodall – from Gunas is made from supreme rubberized eco-PU, it’s non-toxic and PVC free. It’s also Peta-approved and animal friendly. 

The bag features an adjustable long shoulder strap meaning that it can be used as a handbag or as a cross-body or shoulder bag, as well as a number of internal pockets, one of which is zipped ensuring safe storage of valuables such as your phone. Our tester loved the added bonus of a removable interior pouch which is made from the same material as the bag itself and works well as a small clutch, make-up bag or purse. The front of the bag is adorned with a small, delicate gold Gunas logo, and there’s a dust bag included too. Measuring just over 34cm by nearly 25cm, and 14cm deep it’s an absolutely perfect size for fitting an iPad and essentials in by day, and not too cumbersome for the evening. Our tester loved the fact you can fit a pair of heels in it for a night out.

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Eden weekend tote, £450, V BY TOWNSLEY

This oversized bag is so incredibly soft that it’s hard to believe it’s not made from leather. It is in fact crafted in Italy from Japanese vegan leather (100 per cent polyurethane) and a soft faux-suede lining in a cotton and polyester blend. Measuring an immense 40cm x 60cm x 20cm it’s ideal for taking on a weekend away or, as our tester discovered, ideal for putting your laptop and change of clothes in for when you’re heading to the gym before work. It features an internal zip pocket which is the size of a small clutch bag – ideal for valuables and more, and a large internal slip pocket too which is great for keeping paperwork organised. 

The simple design makes it look chic, stylish and luxurious. The gold hardware stoppers on the bottom protect it when resting on the floor, and the strong magnetic closing keeps it firmly closed even when it’s full. Our tester liked the versatility of being able to hold it or hook it over the shoulder. Better still it can be cleaned with soap and water and didn’t change in texture or colour when it got wet in the rain. Available in three colours, graphite grey, pecan tan or lagoon blue, this bag looks even better in the flesh and will stop you ever having to lug multiple bags around again.

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Treya Convertible Satchel/Backpack: £219.95, Moshi

What’s ingenious about this premium vegan leather bag is that it’s actually three bags in one. It can be converted into a handbag, messenger bag or backpack as it comes with a strap which can either be removed, so that you carry the bag by the two main handles, or hooked on to create a long strap, or attached in a backpack fashion. Available in two colours, jet black and camel brown, this feels very strong and hard-wearing, it closes easily with concealed magnets, is lined, and includes a large zip-fastening inside pocket, as well as a number of other internal pockets.

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Amazingly Vegan Patent Tote Bag, £119.99, Amazingly Vegan

Make a statement with this super-shiny vegan tote. The red-wine colour and croc-effect looks rich and sumptuous, and the front is adorned with a shiny gold decorative padlock. It’s made of 100 per cent animal-free products, created with PU leather it’s cruelty free and PETA approved. Measuring 31cm long by 24cm high, it includes two internal zipped pockets, and two more pockets – perfect for keeping your phone and valuables safe and easily accessible. As well as the two shorter handles for holding, there’s an additional long strap which can be attached for a hands-free handbag. Our tester loved the way this bag instantly added glamour and style to a plain outfit, and the size was perfect for carrying on from daytime until evening. The gold-stoppers protected the base when it was resting on the train floor, and it wiped clean easily.

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Fiona Bag, £150, JW PEI

Made from pebbled vegan leather, the structured Fiona cross-body bag is constructed of ultra-microfibre vegan leather and the lining is made from 100 per cent recycled bottles – making the bag both ethical, sustainable, and cruelty free. 

Our tester was slightly concerned that the pale colour would mark easily, but it’s easy to wipe clean with a cloth. For a small bag there’s an impressive amount of internal pockets – one of which has a zip making it perfect for loose change or valuables. Measuring  20cm long by 17cm high it’s ideal for the main daytime or evening essentials, and the adjustable strap has five different length settings making it perfect for all heights. The strap can also be worn on the shoulder and the bag comes in a variety of colours and feels strong and durable. It comes delightfully packaged in a dustbag and box.

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Global WAKECup Personalised sustainable vegan rucksack, £35, Global Wakecup from Notonthehighstreet

Lightweight yet durable, this sustainably sourced rucksack has an unusual brown paper bag finish. This is created by spinning poly paper fibres and then bonding them together, creating a durable strong material. It’s waterproof and gains a patina like leather as you use it.  Measuring 42cm by 23cm by 13cm it’s big enough to fit a laptop in as well as other essentials, but doesn’t feel too bulky. For an extra fee there’s an option of personalising it with your initials or name too, which adds a unique stylish twist. It’s affordable and practical.

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Kensington Nude Cross-Body Bag, £89.90, LaBante

If you want the look and feel of a designer handbag without the cost or the guilt, this is it. With a subtle nude colour, quilted design and classy gold hardware, it’s also practical too. The bag is ideal for keeping your phone, wallet and a small bottle of water close at hand. 

Crucially though, while some vegan brands use PVC because it’s cost-effective, LaBante is a British vegan label who don’t as it can’t be broken down by the environment and consequently remains in landfills for many years.

This brand also uses Blue Star Premium Vegan Leather (made from Polyeuthrane which is environmentally friendly), the interior is made from recycled plastic bottles and it only uses recycled and recyclable packaging, too. Secured with a magnetic popper at the front, there’s also a small zipped pocket inside for storing money, phone and lipstick. There’s also a handy discreet zipper exterior pocket on the back which is great for quick access.

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Black Watch Tartan Tote (Medium), £75, Wilby Clutch

This practical tote comes in three sizes, from small to large, and a range of  classic tartan designs. Not only are these bags sustainable, vegan and certified by Petra, they also feel very strong and well-made. Lined with black organic cotton, with a strong black faux leather handle that’s made from PU and the gold WilbyClutch logo chain.  

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Napoli Vegan Backback for her & him, £150, Noah

Handmade in Italy, this chic vegan backback is made from Micronappa (a top-level technology product consisting of polyester fibres interwoven on a structure usually made in cotton or polyurethane) and is stylish, sturdy and unbelievably soft. With metallic zips and an outer pocket, it’s lined in stylish cream fabric with two internal pockets, one of which is zipped.

Measuring 39cm by 33cm by 15cm it’s big enough to fit in everything you’ll need for a day in the office, including a tablet or small laptop, making it perfect for work or leisure. The canvas straps are adjustable, ensuring you can create the perfect carrying position, and it’s waterproof and easy to keep clean with a wet cloth.

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Pacific Heights Clutch, £1,094 Jill Milan

Jill Milan is an all-vegan brand whose bags are regularly carried by celebrities for red carpet events around the globe. And if you recognise this clutch it could be because Elizabeth Hurley carries it on Gossip Girl and Eva Longoria brought it to the Presidential inauguration. Handmade in Florence from Italian faux leather, it’s a really generously sized clutch (measuring 33cm by nearly 18cm) – big enough to carry everything you need on a night out, and our tester found that the size of it meant it was extremely flattering. There’s a thin shoulder chain which can be discreetly tucked inside the bag when it’s not needed, and an easy magnetic closure. With Italian cotton lining and an inside zipped pocket, it’s practical too.

The high-gloss finish of the bag makes it the perfect glamorous addition to any outfit, and the price tag is justifiable by the fact that this timeless classic will be used for year after year.

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Zack Duffel Bag, £165.00, Sandqvist

Made from 100 per cent recycled durable 1680 denier ballistic fabric, this unisex duffel bag includes a padded laptop that fits most 15in laptops in as well as much more. Measuring 30cm by 49cm by 18cm it is perfect for taking your laptop and gym kit and lunch to work, and our tester found that the 26L capacity meant it was great for weekend breaks too. 

There are multiple interior zipped pockets, as well as numerous outside pockets, one of which we found perfect for an easy-access water bottle. The shoulder straps are adjustable and padded so it’s comfortable to carry even when full, and there’s a removable sternum strap for which helps support heavy loads. The large opening at the top allows for easy access and the five padded handles on the exterior made it very easy to get down from train and plain over-heads. Available in three colours.

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Paguro Reina Black Vegan Handbag, £72, Paguro Upcycle

Ingeniously, this bag has been upcycled and handmade from old inner tubes (hence the rubbery smell which our tester quickly got used to and did fade). It can be worn as a handbag or simply extend the strap and wear it across the body. Measuring 18cm by 24cm it’s just the right size for all your daily essentials, and is fabric-lined and includes two compartments. The flap closing features a very secure clasp which will ensure everything stays firmly safe inside, and it looks smart enough for daytime, but stylish enough to be worn into evening.

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Thamon Box Bag in Black Leaf Leather, £43.68, Thamon

Lightweight, small (just 17.5cm by 14.5cm) and minimalist, the unusual thing about this bag is that it’s made from real tree leaves, and the a textile lining and vegan-friendly leather. This eco-design start-up company use reclaimed leaves treated with an environmentally friendly polymer to restore and enhance them and create a vein-like texture and its products are 100 per cent vegan, ethical, sustainable, eco-friendly and cruelty-free.

The adjustable strap on this bag makes it ideal no matter how tall you are, and allows it to be worn on the shoulder or across the body. The soft lining includes a small zipped pocket which was perfect for money, bank cards and lipstick. The strap is also removable so it can be used as a small clutch too.

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The verdict: Vegan bags

For high-end designer quality and style, combined with a durable and extremely versatile bag, the Jane Bag from Gunas is a great choice. It’s an ideal size for everyday use, can be worn in numerous ways, and is perfect from taking you from day into evening.

Or if you’re looking for a larger weekend or day bag then the Eden oversized tote from V BY TOWNSLEY is well worth the investment. Simple, stylish and big enough to carry everything, you’ll quickly question how you ever survived without one.

IndyBest product reviews are unbiased, independent advice you can trust. On some occasions, we earn revenue if you click the links and buy the products, but we never allow this to bias our coverage. The reviews are compiled through a mix of expert opinion and real-world testing.