Founder and creative director Sugandh Agrawal makes high-quality handbags in vegan materials.
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Bold Biz: Can Vegan Be High Fashion?

Sugandh Agrawal, Founder & Creative Director of GUNAS New York met with #BoldBiz to discuss her vegan brand's handbags & designs. #BoldTV

Posted by BoldTV on Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Sugandh Agrawal had a background in industrial design when she moved to New York to get a Masters at the Pratt Institute on sustainability in business.  There she became interested in fashion and began interning with another designer who made handbags from exotic animal skins. When she saw a raw animal skin for the first time she was horrified and began designing 100 percent cruelty-free handbags.

When she started her work she was a vegetarian but quickly changed to veganism.  Which made her realize that since she didn’t eat meat why would she wear or carry accessories made from leather?  She has become a strong advocate for veganism in fashion. She doesn’t wear leather shoes and has now launched a small collection of vegan shoes.

Winning design prizes using plant-based materials

She markets her bags directly from her brand’s website at Gunas.com rather than trying to shop them around to stores where you can buy plant-based handbags, for example a coated-canvas bag, that recently won an award from Macy’s for the best independently designed handbag.  She is working on designs that are made of totally plant-based materials without even plastic coatings, such as one made entirely from Mulberry tree leaves. Her bags sell for anywhere from $100 to $300 dollars. In some ways, not using animal products allows her bags to pass on a saving to consumers as leather is an expensive commodity.  She says that even some of the larger bags are offering bags made of vegan materials, for example Hugo Boss has made a handbag from “pineapple leather” and Tesla is working on a car with vegan materials in the interior.

Cruelty-free and better for the environment

Vegan materials are not only cruelty-free but are better for the environment.  The leather industry is highly polluting and even dangerous to leather-producing workers who suffer from high rates of cancer according to Agrawal.   Just because leather is “natural’ doesn’t mean that it is not bad for the environment.

Agrawal is also a believer in conscious consumerism.  She wants to discourage people from “flooding their closets with new things” and rather buy things that are season-less and can be used all year-long which is also better for the environment as it prevents the endless disposal of still-good but no longer used products.

Advice for young people who want to start their own similar design company

Agrawal has advice for young designers including to be cautious about who you are and stay true to your brand DNA.  Don’t fall into the trap of fast fashion and produce things that are cheap. Stay honest and know your mission and try to make vegan bags better than leather as, she says, that is the only way you will get people to move away from leather.

Takeaway

Vegan handbags are not only cruelty-free and good for the environment, but they can also be award-winning designs.

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Posted 07.09.2018 - 03:00 pm EDT