A Bay Area woman is bringing you the next line of handbags you need to have, and they are ethically made too! Bridget Brown launched Filbert this week, a cruelty-free and vegan handbag company that integrates carefully sourced features, even down to the organic cotton lining in each bag. The designs are contemporary and timeless, yielding to what Bridget calls “slow fashion” – stylish items that look good plus wear well so you can keep the piece forever, rather than cycling it through your wardrobe much like trend-focused counterparts that quickly go out of style. From totes that have a laptop compartment to crossbody bags that transition to clutches, there is something for every occasion.
24 East: What inspired you to found Filbert?
Bridget Brown: We wanted to create a luxe, cruelty-free handbag that was mindfully made in the U.S.- a collection of bags that set elevated aesthetic AND ethical standards. We feel that luxe and ethical don’t have to be mutually exclusive of each other, and that things can always be made better. So we started Filbert to see if we could create a bag that fit these ideals.
24E: Why is vegan and sustainable fashion important to you?
BB: I became vegan for compassionate reasons. My diet didn’t match with my beliefs that animals should be loved, not eaten. But then I found out all of the other positive things that come from a vegan diet…not contributing to factory farming and the suffering of animals…lowering your carbon footprint…the health benefits from consuming a plant-based diet. The list is long!
I also believe in the idea of slow fashion, not throw-away fashion. The concept that we don’t need a lot of things, just a few, better-made things. So much of clothing and accessories are made in horrible conditions, and by workers that are not paid fairly. We couldn’t feel good about making a product that was produced in these conditions, so making our bags in the U.S. is important to us. With a U.S. based factory, we can ensure our goods are made in a place where the workers are treated well and paid fairly.
We also want to bring awareness of why using vegan leather is a better way forward, and why it’s also the kinder option.
24E: What design elements were important to you in launching your bags?
BB: When we started the brand, we knew that we wanted to question every component that went into constructing the bags, from the thread to the brass rivets and the labels. We think that’s the definition of ‘mindfully made’. Going back to the idea of a curated closet, I always knew that I wanted a minimalist collection of simple, functional and beautiful everyday bags. So the collection consists of of four designs: the Riley, an everyday tote with top zip and laptop compartment; the Pixley, a crossbody that converts into a clutch; the Baker, a structured hobo with a crossbody/shoulder strap; and the Steiner, an Italian cotton canvas open tote. The designs are offered in classic shades: a chestnut brown, a pebble beige and a slate black.
24E: What is a major mistake you’ve made along the way that you wouldn’t repeat?
BB: Being too hard on myself that things aren’t moving fast enough, and trying to rush the process. We are almost 2 years into developing this collection, and at times that was frustrating. When you’re creating a product that exists in your head, you want to see it in person and hold it in your hands FAST. So it was difficult to be patient along the way and take some deep breaths.
We set very high standards for this collection, and along the way we were often encouraged by factories to make things easier on ourselves and drop some of our requirements. For example, we wanted to use US organic cotton for the lining of the bags. We wanted a PVC-free materials for the vegan leather. We wanted solid brass hardware that was made in the U.S. These things took a lot of time to source! We stuck to our beliefs and that was tough sometimes, because the less-eco options were usually the easier, cheaper and faster options. In the end we knew that we’d be disappointed if we didn’t try to make these bags with our ideals in place. We did it, and we are so proud of that.
24E: What has been the best part so far about this journey?
BB: Creating a mindfully made product has been tough, but also extremely rewarding. To be able to see an idea go from a sketch to a prototype to an actual sellable product is just so fun, and fulfilling, especially when it’s a product that you’ve personally wanted for a long time!
For more information on Filbert, go here.
Images for Filbert by Nick Brown.
Images styled by Caroline Rooney Serrano.