I was greeted this morning with a newsletter from a company called Artbag. The headline caught my attention: "Hot Topic: Sustainability. Do your part... don't throw out your old handbags! Refurbish! Refurbish! Refurbish!"
I have been repairing handbags before I went back to school at Parsons and learned about supply chains and sustainability. Yes, I have used Artbag, and no, they aren't paying me for this post.
Artbag is in NYC institution and has been around since 1932. I first learned about the company when my grandmother gave me several beaded evening purses from the 1930s; one of them had an "Artbag" tag. I have used the company to refurbish these treasures from her over the years. However, the bag I use almost every day has been repaired numerous times, all locally by shoe cobblers and the tailor at my dry cleaner. It is a circa 2011 shoulder bag that I bought for $24. It may be the most used item I own.
The material is most definitely not eco-friendly. It is made of a synthetic that looks like leather but feels nothing like it. I love this bag and, periodically, have looked for a replacement, but can't find anything close to the aesthetics and size. I also find that if I have a choice between repairing something or sending it to the landfill, I have it fixed. I've probably spent about $200 - $300 over the years. The lining has been replaced twice, so the bag no longer has a tag or an interior pocket. It has a new zipper, shoulder straps, and the bottom has been mended because of holes. I added the leather tassel right after I bought it, and it cost more than what I paid for the bag.
Artbag or similar businesses are a great place to go if you have a bag that is tired or needs to be fixed, but there are plenty of other ways to keep old handbags in circulation and out of the landfill.
The key to sustainable shopping, whether it is something new or used, is buying less, buying better, and buying what you love. If you don't like something enough to refashion it when styles change or repair it if it becomes damaged, consider whether you need to buy it all.