Vegan handbags usually fit into one of two categories: “vegan leather” (which is usually made of polyvinyl chloride and other non-natural materials that are actually quite awful for the environment) or cloth/canvas (cute, but not very sturdy and a bit casual for those who prefer a more traditional looking purse). Up-and-coming Sri Lankan brand Kantala is bringing something new to the table with vibrant, woven handbags using carefully sourced, all natural materials paired with traditional shapes.
While visiting Sri Lanka earlier this month, I had the opportunity to spend some time with Vikum and Nadishan, co-founders of Kantala, and to learn more about the process used to manufacture Kantala bags, which are are comprised of four different materials: handloomed cotton, Pinatex, coconut shells, and hana, or agave plant fibers.
The best fibers come from plants that grow in a rocky, drier area, as the water content in the plant's leaves will be just right. The hana leaves are harvested, and then scraped by hand with a wooden tool that removes the green, pulpy parts of the leaf and leaves behind strong, white, thread-like strands.
The fibers are then dyed and prepared for weaving. Weaving is still done on the same type of wooden loom that has been used for hundreds of years.
The resulting woven "mat" is sturdy, flexible, and soft, the perfect material for Kantala's line of purses, clutches, and bags.
Much like the situation here in the Philippines with traditional weaving techniques, the Sri Lankan weaving industry is struggling as many weavers grow older and few younger artisans choose to learn the craft and follow in their footsteps.
Vikum and Nadishan are hopeful that by providing better wages and “modernizing” the products made with traditional weaves, Kantala can be a part of revitalizing the weaving industry. The hope is that when weaving becomes a more valued and profitable form of work, a new generation of weavers will commit to keeping the art form alive.
Kantala is currently raising funds on Indiegogo to scale up their production and launch a new line of bags. You can be the first to get your hands on a purse or clutch (in the color of your choice) by supporting the campaign!
After visiting Kantala's artisans in person, I'm a huge supporter of the brand. I truly believe in and support what Vikum and Nadishan are trying to do through their company, and the products are beautiful and high-quality! I’ve been "field testing" the Kantala bags that I brought back from Sri Lanka and I’m impressed with the durability of the materials and the sleek look of the designs.