“Look Gorgeous. Save Animals.” Viva Creatures!
Can I just say that I absolutely love everything about that tag line…. And the fact that Viva Creatures! might just be the best name for a cruelty-free handbag brand. Ever.
I want to shout it from the roof tops: VIVA CREATURES!
The lovely Nora Baldwin, the brains and beauty behind this new up-and-coming accessories brand, was kind enough to take time out of her crazy schedule to fill me in on everything Viva Creatures!
Baldwin is a native Coloradan, but has bounced around quite a bit over the last fifteen years, including a few stints living abroad. She has been back in Colorado for the last few years and it’s there that she planted the roots of Viva Creatures!.
I am always inspired by people who follow their true passion in life, but I’m EXTRA inspired by people who drastically alter their paths after realizing that the direction in which they were headed was no longer satisfying. Baldwin falls under the latter category, leaving her career as an attorney behind to pursue an education in design. Be happy she did, as the results of her career change are beautiful!
On the impetus that put that change in motion, Baldwin says:
Not long into my career, there was a moment of realization that altered my path. I was looking at a gorgeous bag and read that it was made of calfskin. It hit me: What it took to make that bag was anything but gorgeous. The tears started to flow (I was pregnant – a big mess!). I knew then that I would create an alternative for women who want high-end, sustainable, and ethically made handbags. I want women to look gorgeous and save animals!
The veritable “aha” moment is certainly something many of us can relate to. It comes in myriad and unexpected ways and has the power to shift our ideals or compel us to make major changes in our lives. Baldwin made the connection, but also internalized it and used it as the driving force behind her brand: “Creating luxurious alternatives to traditionally leather goods (the most lucrative by-product of the meat industry) – and proving that every element of a piece must be beautiful for the end result to be beautiful.”
It’s true: turning a living, breathing, sentient being into a handbag isn’t beautiful. I think many of us have echoed the same question Baldwin asks: “Why is leather a benchmark for beauty anyway?” Culturally, we’ve become so detached from the products we use that “calf skin” handbag doesn’t fully register for every consumer. There’s also this notion that leather is the best quality – the “real deal” and anything else is less-than or imitation.
Thank goodness brands like Viva Creatures! are turning this notion on its head by proving that non-leather handbags can be beautiful, luxurious, AND of the highest quality.
Sourced and crafted right here in the good ol’ United States, Baldwin takes great care to ensure that her impact on the environment is as minimal as possible. She explains,
Our bags are constructed with a conscience – we ensure that our materials are both stunning and sustainable. All the vegan leathers in our opening V Collection are made from nylon microfiber in a process that does not emit any gases, so it’s entirely eco-friendly. While it’s an ongoing process to improve the sustainability of vegan materials, they are in a far better place than the leather industry. The latter shares responsibility for all environmental destruction caused by the meat industry (which is plenty) as well as pollution caused by toxins used in tanning.
Honestly, guys, the environmental impact of the leather tanning industry is alarming. Just Google a search about the process of tanning leather and you’ll be horrified: it’s not only awful for the environment, but it’s also bad for the workers who are, more often than not, working in places with few regulations and precautions in place to ensure their safety. It’s really just bad for everyone.
But I digress…
As far as her opening collection goes, Baldwin sure hit the nail on the head, as it truly is stunning and sustainable, to boot! My favorite bag from her collection is The Victor, which is actually their signature bag.
It’s GORGEOUS and you’d be hard pressed to find anyone who would think Victor, or any other bag in the collection, wasn’t made from leather unless you explicitly told them.
And that’s the point. Baldwin uses high quality materials that are indistinguishable from leather in look and feel. Better still, Nora tells me that the materials used in her bags require little maintenance and are made to last: they’re bags that you’ll have for a very long time. She notes,
Our bags are made from the highest quality vegan leathers on the market. The quality is not only indistinguishable from leather, but it’s better….Our materials will not crack, fade or weaken over time. The same cannot be said for leather, which is negatively affected by oxidation, exposure to sunlight, breakdown of fibers, and general abrasion…The ease of maintenance is unmatched. You do not need to worry about cleaning, conditioning, and protecting our vegan leathers – grab some warm water, a soft towel, and you’re all set.
Just one look at her opening collection and it’s obvious that clean, timeless designs lay the foundation for the Viva Creatures! aesthetic. The collection is on-trend yet still maintains a classic feel: her designs will look just as relevant ten years from now as they do today.
Her own personal style certainly shines through, which she characterizes as clean and easy, but with pieces that are well-made and possess cool and subtle details. She’s a gal after my own heart in pursuit of classic style, as her everyday attire consists of patterned socks (yes!), grey denim, a cream top, a vintage gold watch gifted from her parents, top knot, and her Viva Creatures! Valkyrie crossbody (pictured below).
When it comes to her design process, Baldwin does a very simple thing: she listens. She listens to women and hears what they want. She hears that “they want to look gorgeous, be unique, do some good, get-it-done, and be happy. As silly as it sounds, I translate that to handbags.”
I don’t find that silly it all! In fact, it’s refreshing to know that a designer is listening to what her potential customers might want through every step of the design process. She brings those desires to life by incorporating them into thoughtful shapes, textures, and details.
I think clean design has been around for a long time because people love clean design. That’s the “gorgeous” part. I add a quiet but interesting detail for the “unique” part. I use cruelty-free fabrics for the “do some good” part and make functional bags for the “get-it-done” part. All these attributes combined make people happy. Above all, I design to ensure that our bags have a beautiful story to tell and that story becomes part of the holder’s story.
I’m personally looking forward to seeing what else Baldwin has up her sleeves and what the future holds for Viva Creatures!
In the immediate future, Baldwin is gearing up for the early spring release of a collection of a few new styles,in addition to a few styles included in her original collection in new fabrics. Baldwin says, “The colors are super fresh, the designs are clean and chic (as always!), and the pieces are extremely versatile – think the perfect day-to-night transition. I can’t wait to hear what people think!”
We can’t wait either! I know you guys will like this collection as much as I do: check out some more images of Viva Creatures! bags below.
Viva Creatures! bags are available to purchase at www.vivacreatures.com and at select boutique retailers.
Next week, my monthly column for Vilda Magazine will be live and will focus on the progress being made with vegan leathers and will feature other brands who have committed to using sustainable, eco-friendly products, free from animals. Stay tuned!
Be Kind. Live Well.