10 Ethical Handbag Brands I've Tried and Love

When I began the transition to ethical shopping, finding fairly made handbags felt like the simplest “gateway” into the new lifestyle. They were pricier than running to Target for a new purse, but I knew that with the higher price would come a higher quality and it felt easier than revamping my wardrobe overnight (which definitely didn’t happen). As I blogged about my lifestyle journey, I started to collaborate with brands more and more frequently and, not surprisingly, handbags were often their medium for introducing sustainability, fair wages, and ethical style into the world.

I’ve worked with a handful of amazing brands creating beautiful purses, totes, wallets, and more and thought a little round up of them all would be helpful for anyone looking to upgrade their bag game. These brands offer many different styles for many different value-systems, lifestyles, preferences and budgets, but all of them are made by people treated fairly and with respect for the planet.

1. ABLE

One of the forerunners in the ethical fashion movement, ABLE has gone above and beyond time and time again in terms of transparency, quality, and durability. I own several of their pieces and this Mamuye Classic Tote in Cognac has been my go-to for the past 6 months or more. It’s classic, wears well (even when my toddlers “color” on it with a screwdriver), and goes with everything.

2. Malia Designs

Malia Designs was one of the first brands I ever partnered with and years later, I’m still excited to support the beautiful work they’re doing reducing waste, creating jobs, and fighting human trafficking. Their newly released Ikat bags merge traditional pattern and craftsmanship with affordability.

3. Filbert

Filbert creates 100% vegan and cruelty free bags that are extremely versatile and perfect for real life. They sent me their Steiner bag in grey and it’s elevated and classy, perfect for work, the market or anywhere your day takes you.

4. D. Franca Designs 

I had the honor of meeting the founder and designer of D. Franca Designs, Diana, a few weeks ago which only furthered my love for this beautiful brand. All completely handmade with ethically sourced fabrics celebrating the rich heritage of their “birthplace”, Diana designs her bags to be functional works of art. This gorgeous clutch/crossbody has been my go-to for quick outings when I don’t need a “mom bag”.

4. Vele

My Vele Simple Wallet has been such a help for downsizing the pieces I keep in my bag. I used to carry a giant clutch wallet stuffed full of receipts, cards I didn’t need, and other non-essentials. Now, I’m forced to simplify, carrying only my debit card, license, and maybe a bit of cash. Vele also sells gorgeously crafted handbags, all supporting victims of human trafficking.

5. Mother Erth

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Mother Erth creates eclectic and unique pieces from plastic waste collected and woven into something beautiful. I’ve used my tote mostly for travel and beach days - it’s perfect when you need to carry a lot of things, pack a lunch, and add a fun pop of color while you’re at it.

6. Lionheart Collective

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Handwoven with naturally dyed agave and vegetable-tanned leather, Lionheart Collective creates the most beautiful bags that are natural conversation pieces. Mine has been a favorite all summer long.

7. Sseko Designs

Although Sseko sells much more than handbags, their leather bags deserve an honorable mention because of the quality and beauty of the designs.

8. MAIKA Goods

Functional, fun, and perfect for dreamers with big to-do lists, MAIKA’s pieces are all made with ethically sourced recycled canvas printed with eco-friendly inks. As one of my clients, I’ve gotten to test their products and photograph them in addition to writing for their blog and social media.

9. ENAT

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Another brand I worked with several years ago who I still admire and love to support is ENAT. A two-woman show designing vegetable-tanned leather bags made by artisans in Ethiopia, their pieces are classics and sold at a more affordable price-point than some of the others I’ve found.

10. My Fight

With proceeds donated to support victims of trafficking, My Fight sells the most beautiful handmade leather bags supporting the mission that “her fight is my fight”.


*This post isn’t sponsored by any particular brand, however I have partnered with each of these brands at some point in time and am currently working with several of them to create new content. This piece is just a round up of brands I genuinely love.*

Phillip Adam || Organic Bathtime

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Bath time has always been my girls' most cherished rituals. They'd stay in the bath for hours if I let them, pretending to be fish or dinosaurs or puppies. Now that they're older and are starting to take charge of their "self-care" more often, the products I trust in their care are even more important. 

They love washing their own hair, making bubbles, and letting the conditioner "rest for a few minutes" in their hair just like mama does, and usually, splashing most of the contents of the bathtub onto the floor. 

In my quest for ethically made, organic, and kid-approved shampoo brands, I stumbled across Phillip Adam and they were sweet enough to send over some products for us all to enjoy. 

Although I originally intended to use Phillip Adam's apple cider vinegar shampoo and conditioner on myself, I was excited to find out that it's perfect for kids and has had amazing results on both of my girls' (very different) hair. 

Phillip Adam is a Canadian brand that uses only natural ingredients. Their products are all vegan, cruelty free, gluten free and free of parabens, SLS's and GMO's. Their apple cider vinegar products are their best selling and it's not surprising - they smell incredible, work amazing on all types of hair, and give your hair/scalp all of the benefits of ACV with a few added ingredients for a boost.

I've never been one to splurge on body products - even when my kids were younger I had a hard time justifying buying pricey, ultra-healthy shampoos and body products. Although they're definitely a bit more than your drugstore or supermarket products, Phillip Adam is a brand making high quality, ethical and healthy products at an approachable price-point. Safe and ethical isn't the case for the majority of products on the shelves, so finding brands I can trust for my whole family is something worth sharing about. 

What ethical skincare brands do you love for your family (or yourself)? I'm always on the hunt for more!


*This post is in partnership with Phillip Adam. All photos and opinions are my own.* 

Cultivating Lagom with Lakeshore Dry Goods

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More than anything, savoring is about gratitude...It’s about keeping in mind that you live right now, allowing yourself to focus on the moment and appreciate the life you lead, to focus on all that you do have, not what you don’t. Cliche? Totally.
— Meik Wiking, "The Little Book of Hygge"

I've been known to obsess over "atmosphere". I can never sit down to work until the room feels cozy enough. I've purposefully gone to cafe's that are a bit more expensive, just because I appreciate the "vibe" more. I like to feel inspired, at ease, home-y, whether I'm writing a blog post, hosting a get-together, or just spending time with my family. If you read my blog post on cultivating a sense of home in "unlikely" seasons, you'll know that this phase of our life has been anything but home-y. We're currently in-between homes and, true to myself, I've found ways to create cozy, intentional moments even when we have no space to call our own. 

It's usually as simple as a familiar routine, hanging up some simple decor to make our temporary room feel like home, or for me, of course, creating a little "coffee corner" for myself to wake up in each morning. 

Believe it or not, I'm not the only one who is obsessed with atmosphere and "coziness". 

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It turns out that there are entire cultures and lifestyles built around this idea of "the art of creating intimacy" and coziness and the more I learn about it all, the more it speaks to what my soul already loves and craves. 

I've spend the past few months reading three books on the subject. 

Lagom: The Swedish Art of Balanced Living (here)

The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets of Happy Living (here)

The Little Book of Lykke: Secrets of the World's Happiest People (here)

Each of these books are a little bit different, but each one hinges on the Scandinavian culture of slow, thoughtful living, a topic that, not surprisingly, I fall more in love with by the day. The words Lykke, Hygge, and Lagom have English translations, but ones that, I think, fall short of the native meanings. 


hygge

Pronunciation /ˈhʊɡə//ˈh(j)uːɡə/

NOUN

A quality of coziness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being (regarded as a defining characteristic of Danish culture)


lykke 

Pronunciation/"lye-kee"

felicity, happiness {noun}


lagom

Pronunciation/

Lagom (pronounced [ˈlɑ̀ːɡɔm]) is a Swedish word meaning "just the right amount"... "enough, sufficient, adequate, just right". Lagom is also widely translated as "in moderation", "in balance", "perfect-simple", and "suitable" (in matter of amounts).


Although Scandinavian blood runs deep in my family, I can't claim to fully understand the depth and implications of living in a culture that so truly believes in these ideals. America, quite apparently, is far from the "just the right amount" mindset and our culture of more, bigger, and better has a tendency to distract. 

However. 

One of my deepest longings is to create a slow, thoughtful lifestyle for myself and my family. A lifestyle that doesn't continually need more. A family-culture centered around these notions of "less is more", gratitude, comfortable aesthetic, and experiences over things. Hygge, Lykke, and Lagom are, quite possibly, my biggest inspirations for Simply Liv & Co. other than my desire to grow the sustainable fashion movement. Unbeknownst to me, these concepts were so ingrained in me that I sought to live them out long before I knew what they were called, or even that cultures before me had done so for years and years and years. 

I strive to showcase products here that are both beautiful and functional. Lagom. Just enough. 

When Lakeshore Dry Goods reached out to me to collaborate, I wasn't sure how I was going to authentically share about towels. For one thing, I can't take a decent photo in them and, despite how much I use mine, it seems somehow different than sharing about a glamorous, easily photograph-able "capsule wardrobe staple", like I normally do. 

But, perhaps my mindset was all wrong. 

Perhaps the pieces that you use day in and day out, whether it's straight out of the shower, or in your real-life morning routine, or simply because your 3 and 4 year old love to look like mama, perhaps these are the pieces worth sharing about the most. 

Lakeshore Dry Goods uses organic, ethically sourced and sewn cotton to create their towels, which is noticeably gentler on hair and magically reduces frizz and tangles. Both of which, coming from a mother of two girls with insanely tangle-able hair, is a miracle straight from the hygge gods. 

It might seem silly to link a cotton towel to my "dream lifestyle" but, if I understand it correctly, living a lifestyle of "lagom" is about surrounding yourself with things that are both beautiful and functional. My girls look forward to each bath time, knowing that at the end, they'll cozy up with their very own "big girl" towel, just like mama does. 

I've been known to leave my Lakeshore towel on for almost an entire day, because it takes so much of the effort out of my normal hair-care routine. It reduces drying time, makes it easier to style my hair, is so much less bulky than a normal towel, and of course, I can focus on other things like making breakfast for my kiddos or enjoying my coffee in the morning for just a few minutes longer. 

My philosophy about enjoying the little things is so much simpler and more do-able when I'm not worried about silly things like spending time on my hair - a philosophy notably Danish and Swedish who are masters at the minimally undone looks. 

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Notoriously low-maintenance and a lover of all things simple, easy, and of course, beautiful, it's no surprise that my love for these simple towels is a reflection of my love for something much bigger: a lifestyle that I'm daily trying to emulate. And choosing the right towel, or the right coffee corner, or the best time to stay in and say no - it's all part of the hygge I'm constantly trying to achieve.

How do the concepts of hygge and lagom resonate with you? 


*This post was sponsored by Lakeshore Dry Goods, intentionally structured around these ideals that I try to portray in my everyday life. All opinions, photos, and obsessions with Scandinavia are my own.* 

A Zero Waste Picnic || Acacia Creations

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Lessening waste in today's world isn't easy. Nearly everything bought in a store is wrapped in plastic or made out of it. Attempting to buy items in bulk, plan meals in advance, and reduce your single use plastics takes forethought and effort - much more so than a quick, convenient run to the super market to pick up dinner to go. 

For the past month, I've been attempting to participate in Plastic Free July and, if nothing else, it's opened my eyes even more to the sheer amount of plastic and waste that's readily available at our finger tips on a daily basis. 

Some days I succeeded and others I failed miserably (our roadtrip to Omaha was particularly bad), but if there's one thing I learned during the challenge it's that small, pre-planned actions really can add up. Reducing waste may not be the easiest option, but with some habit re-wiring, and a bit of effort, it's totally possible and incredibly rewarding. 

One of the hardest parts of living a low waste lifestyle for me is the addition of my kiddos to the mix. It's difficult enough to reduce waste as a single person or someone living with a partner, but with a family, especially one with young kids, it can seem impossible. Gifts come wrapped in (or made of) plastic, most food that is marketed towards kids is covered in single-use plastic, and frankly, it's much more of a hassle to buy in bulk, plastic free, and plan ahead with two grumpy toddlers in tow at the grocery store. Straws, plastic plates, styrofoam...the works...it's all the norm for most families regardless of how old their kids are. 

So when Acacia Creations, an artisan marketplace I've admired for a few years, asked to partner on a blog post centered around a zero-waste summer picnic, I was skeptical. I was sure that, true to our normal tendencies, we'd cave and buy prepackaged food for the picnic, or that I'd forget silverware and drift towards the plastic-ware aisle. But I knew it was worth a shot. Acacia was sweet enough to send over a few pieces that not only made my zero-waste picnic much more aesthetically pleasing, but inspired me to follow through with my plans to have a truly zero-waste meal with my family. 

A bit about the brand before we dive into the pieces, because as many beautiful ethical marketplaces as there are, Acacia has one of the sweetest and most impacting missions of any that I've found yet. Acacia Creations is based in Nairobi, but works in 7 different countries across Africa and Asia. More than a fair trade company, Acacia creates jobs, provides training and health care, and gives back to each community they're involved in. Their pieces are extremely well designed (I've had their olive wood servers for a year or so as well and love how durable yet beautiful they are) and are handmade by craftsman carving out a better livelihood for themselves and their families. 

With their gorgeous handwoven cotton table runner as a centerpiece, and their clear Zanzibar canister (made from upcycled bottles found on beaches with a handcarved wooden lid) as a beautiful multi-use piece, I hauled the whole group outside earlier this week to test just how zero-waste we could be. 

Although preparing for the picnic wasn't nearly as quick and easy as running to pick up a carton of prepackaged fruit and a sandwich to share, preparing our food ahead of time felt much more intentional and, of course, healthy. I made a quick salad, cut up some watermelon (my girls' favorite), and sauteed some brussel spouts and corn for something a bit more filling and comforting. 

I put it all in reusable, glass containers, grabbed a few forks from the kitchen and glasses to fill with water when we got there, and tossed it all in my Mother Erth tote and we were off. It was a windy, rainy afternoon, but the sun cleared just long enough for us to eat and take a few photos before the thunder started rolling in. 

We didn't have plates and, if we had more than just us joining in, I would have spent more time crafting a more well-rounded meal, but on the whole, I was pleasantly surprised at how easy it was to prep, pack, picnic, and put away. Our reliance on convenience can brainwash us into believing that it's not possible to do things the "old fashioned way" - however, I, like so many others out there, am working on rewiring my go-to habits and making them as ethical, sustainable and kind as possible. 

With Plastic Free July nearly over, I'm curious, how many of you try to live a low waste lifestyle? What has been your biggest struggle and/or how have you rewired your own habits to be more sustainable? 


*This post was sponsored by Acacia Creations. All photos and opinions are my own. Thank you for supporting the brands that make SL&Co. possible*

Self Care with Curie || Everyday Elegance

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The beauty of a woman is not in a facial mode but the true beauty in a woman is reflected in her soul. It is the caring that she lovingly gives the passion that she shows. The beauty of a woman grows with the passing years.
— Audrey Hepburn

Self-care isn't a one-size-fits all event. For some, it's making space for a long, quiet run in the morning before the rest of the world is awake. For others, it's spending an afternoon alone in a cozy cafe people watching or catching up with a friend. Caring for your self doesn't have to look a certain way, it doesn't have to be planned, take a long time, or even be expensive. Self care is simply whatever makes you feel like you. Whatever helps you feel refreshed after a long day. Rejuvenated. Revived. 

As a mom of two toddlers and a self-proclaimed lover of solitude, self care usually involves alone time and something that feels "extravagant", be it a pour over at my favorite coffee shop or a mini-spa night at home. True extravagance (involving spending a lot of money) is rare, but luckily, it doesn't take much for me to feel refreshed - although entire days dedicated to self care are definitely appreciated and recommended ;) 

Lately, I've been staying home with my girls for the majority of the day, so true moments of peace and quiet are few and far between. When I do get those treasured moments of silence though, I'm dead set on creating the perfect ambiance, whether I'm taking a bath or writing a blog post. When it's the former "self care event" I've been relying on the help of a good candle, some essential oils, maybe a glass of wine, and my favorite Curie products to help set the mood. Whether it's ten minutes or an hour, creating the ambiance with things I love and products that make me feel "pampered" is a surefire way to help me feel more like "me" and less like hot mess mom of two never-tiring toddlers.

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If you've followed along for the past few months, you've heard about Curie several times. I've been using their Bella Flor perfume and lotion for the majority of this year and love that their brand focuses on small batch, organic, artisan created fragrance, instead of chemical-laden, mass produced scents.

After acquainting myself with Curie, I decided to broaden my relationship with their beautiful line of products and try their shower kit. If it smelled anything like their Bella Flor perfume did I knew I'd be hooked. 

Not surprisingly, their shampoo/conditioner/body wash trio is just as impressive, fragrant, and effective as their other products I've tried. Something about Curie exudes simple elegance and I love how just opening a bottle of their body wash feels like a quick moment of indulgence. The rest of my "beauty routine" is fairly minimal and sometimes non-existent, but when it comes to what I use to wash my hair and body, I'm oddly picky. To find something that checks boxes in everything from effectiveness, to ethics, to gorgeous branding makes me feel pretty cared for. 

Other than the occasional semi-extravagant DIY spa evening at home, I feel cared for and refreshed when I'm taking in the sights and drinking slowly brewed coffee at a new coffee shop, when I'm writing (not for my job), and when my home and closet feel intentionally organized and beautiful. 

Now you tell me, what's your "self-care style" and how are you making it a priority? Here are some of the responses I got on my Instagram photo from last night (I LOVED reading what makes you feel like YOU.)

  • "I take a walk on the beach or wok on a painting" - @happilyemerson
  • "Drinking a glass of wine on the back patio by myself while I watch the sunset." - @purposefullyminimal
  • "Well, no bathtub in my house, so turning off screens, using all the essential oils, going outside, reading..." - @sb.monhollon
  • "We go on a nightly walk together!" - @the.minimalist.kin
  • "Definitely spending time watering and caring for my plants, diffusing oils, doing a face mask, and probably drinking an iced coffee" - @emmmma_rhodes
  • "I go to gym classes, and push myself hard! I bike to the farmers market, and then bake for the whole day." - @EthicallyKate
  • "I love being alone in bed with a book and a glass of wine. No boyfriend, no family, just me." - @unpetitsourireslowsdown

*This post was part of an ongoing partnership with Curie. All thoughts and photographs are my own. Thank you for supporting the brands that keep SL&Co. running (and make you feel good in the process ;)*