"I can’t believe this isn’t leather," was my reaction when I received my new cactus leather backpack from Poppy Barley. After talking to co-founder Justine Barber, this seems to be the collective reaction to their new vegan collection, PB PLNT.
Certified B Corporation (a business that balances purpose and profit) and Canadian-based brand Poppy Barley began as a custom bootmaker in 2012, filling a gap for 60% of Canadian women who could not find boots that fit. Managed by Barber and sister Kendall Barber, the pair have placed great emphasis on ethical production, working with a small female-owned factory in Mexico where employees are paid well and experience great benefits.
The entrepreneurs are both focused on sustainability and conscious consumerism and have spent years researching and testing plant-based materials to fit their lifestyles and values. "About a year ago, we wanted to seriously look at more sustainable materials in response to our customer's desire for a leather alternative."
The search led Barber to Mexico in February 2020, where she met cactus leather creators. Barber was attracted to the leather alternative for its lack of harmful plastics and toxic materials like PVC (polyvinyl chloride) and PU (polyurethane), which are often found in leather alternatives. Inspired to create a collection that aligns with plant-based living's environmental nature, PB PLNT launched in January 2020. Each piece is made of Lagurao, a plant-based leather made from cactus grown in Mexico.
The 80 percent biodegradable collection features a multitasker backpack, convertible belt bag, and cardholder. The sustainability elements in the product assortment are innovative—little water is needed to grow a cactus. And only the regenerative leaves of the cacti are used, leaving the rest of the cactus intact. The brand also prides itself on a small supply chain where materials are all sourced and produced in solar-powered, family-owned Mexican factories. "We are trying to use the materials close to where they are from," Barber tells us.
The gorgeous vegan leather goods are buttery soft, and smell as enticing as real leather. Not to mention, the cactus leather makes each product water-resistant and easy to clean. Lined with a cotton canvas milled and woven in Mexico, the three products are just the beginning for PB PLNT. The duo plans to release four new accessories in August 2021, with bigger footwear plans soon. "Our goal is to do a vegan footwear line," Barber says, "We’ve been exploring apple leather manufactures in Italy and hope to launch that soon."
The coronavirus pandemic has made purchasing from socially mindful brands more important than ever. Poppy Barley’s PB PLNT is a great transparent collection that is putting the earth and humanity first. Ahead, shop the assortment.
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This bag is extremely versatile. It can be worn as a backpack or tote, making it great for commuting and travel days.