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- Faux leather continues to get sophisticated, thanks to innovative materials and smart design elements.
- Nordstrom is our top pick for where to shop, thanks to a wide selection from some of the top imitation leather handbag brands.
- Net-a-Porter, Amazon, and Matt & Nat are other great options.
The phrase faux leather used to conjure up images of stiff plastic that is uncomfortable to wear and ugly to look at. While imitation leather bags are still made with plastic, specifically polyurethane (PU) or polyvinyl chloride (PVC), they’ve come a long way in terms of look and feel, thanks to the incorporation of new non-animal materials (like waxed cotton) and construction methods.
When shopping for imitation leather bags, you’ll encounter the term "vegan leather," which has become a catch-all for leather that doesn’t contain any animal products. A vegan bag can contain PU and other non-animal materials, but not all PU bags can be called vegan. For example, a bag maker might use PU to coat real leather (known as bicast bonded leather), a process that The Spruce describes as leather that has been “laminated and strengthened with a polyethylene top layer.” In this instance, it’s decidedly not vegan, as animal skins are still used in the production.
If avoiding animal product altogether is your top concern, look for products and companies that specifically advertise themselves as “vegan” and are transparent about the materials they employ. For example, popular brand Matt & Nat has an ethics page that declares, “M&N is a vegan brand, therefore, there are no animal products used in production.”
Some brands are so skilled in the art of imitation leather that most people would be hard-pressed to tell the difference, at least from a distance. I received a bag from Matt & Nat for Christmas (the Laverne in the color Rio, to be exact), and it’s just as beautiful as any of the real leather bags I considered putting on my list.
As the quality of imitation leather has improved, the pricing has increased to match. A Stella McCartney luxury handbag can cost more than $1,000. You can spend less, but cheaper synthetic ones won’t come as close to resembling the real thing as higher-end labels. That’s not always the case: Matt & Nat bags fall between $100 to $200, and they look just as luxurious.
Here, you’ll find the retailers with the best selection of imitation leather bags, whether high-end or affordable.
The best places to buy faux leather bags in 2019:
- Best place to buy faux leather bags overall: Nordstrom
- Best place to buy luxury faux leather bags: Net-a-Porter
- Best place to buy affordable faux leather bags: Amazon
- Best place to buy faux leather bags for work: Matt & Nat
- Best place to buy trendy faux leather bags: Pixie Mood
Read on in the slides below to check out our top picks.
The best place to buy faux leather bags overall
Why you’ll love it: Nordstrom has a fantastic selection of the most popular, highly rated imitation handbag brands on the market.
Surprisingly — or maybe not so much — Nordstrom carries many of the best brands in the imitation leather game. Its selection is not only vast but also high-quality without being too hard on your wallet.
The department store’s website features backpacks, crossbody bags, tote bags, wallets, and more from Matt and Nat, Sole Society, Street Level, and Urban Originals. There are plenty of styles to choose from, including work-appropriate satchels and tote bags to structured backpacks that would look cool on the commuter train or at happy hour.
Most of these brands have mid-tier prices, with Matt & Nat being the most expensive on average. On the whole, the options are perfect for everyday wear, but you can find the occasional on-trend designer piece as well.
Pros: Variety from the best brands, most pieces are affordable
Cons: Limited selection from some brands
The best place to buy luxury faux leather bags
Why you’ll love it: Net-a-Porter is your one-stop shop for luxury goods, including imitation leather bags that are as good as the real thing.
Luxury online retailer Net-a-Porter might not be the first stop for imitation leather goods, but it should be. If you’ve been planning to invest in a designer bag, there are some stunning options available.
Stella McCartney is likely the most popular designer label, and Net-a-Porter stocks quite a few of her styles. You can find the cult-favorite Falabella range, as well as an oversized perforated tote and a bunch of cute crossbody bags. Other standout offerings include croc-effect faux leather designs from the label Nanushka. Hopefully, the store will add even more vegan brands to its roster as the faux leather trend continues to rise.
Net-a-Porter offers exchanges or returns within 28 days of purchase. Shipping costs and estimates vary depending on your location.
Pros: Luxury imitation leather goods available
Cons: Limited (but ever-changing) selection
The best place to buy affordable faux leather bags
Why you’ll love it: Amazon carries a ton of faux leather bags that won’t leave a dent in your bank account.
Imitation leather is often (but not always) cheaper than its animal skin counterpart, which is just one reason why some people gravitate toward synthetic materials. But you don’t want to skimp on quality or style solely for an affordable price tag. Amazon carries many brands that specialize in imitation leather.
In addition to established favorites like Matt & Nat and Pixie Mood, the retailer carries excellent but lesser-known brands that are recommended by places like Ethical Elephant. Shop Deaux Lux and Urban Expressions for super-fun, trendy styles and Urban Originals, Melie Bianco, and Marsi Bond for timeless, designer-like pieces.
Amazon, of course, offers fast, free shipping through its Prime program and offers full refunds for new and unopened items within 30 days of delivery.
Pros: Wide selection of affordable bags
Cons: Limited selection from some brands
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