by Ashley Probst.
Though Bali bags only seemed to hit the world of Western fashion a few years ago, these intricate designs have been embedded in the Balinese culture for centuries. These iconic and eco-friendly handbags are made of ata grass, an abundant vine in the rattan family that grows in tropical locales like Southeast Asia. Local artisans use the material to weave traditional baskets or bags, a process that can take up to one month even for those who have mastered the skill.
Life, religion, and art all converge in Bali. They have no word in their language for ‘artist’ or ‘art.’ Everyone is an artist.
Once the bag is given a shape—like that iconic round silhouette—it is dried in the sun for several days, and then often smoked over a coconut husk fire. This creates a gorgeous golden-brown color as well as the bags’ distinct luster and aroma. The bags are also renowned for their durability, stylish appeal, and tropical feel.
The main components, ata grass or rattan, are all-natural fibers, but that’s not the only reason we’re swooning over these weaved wonders. Here are all the things we love about this material:
- Rattan vines regrow every five to seven years, making it a truly renewable resource.
- These vines have a symbiotic relationship with trees, so communities that grow rattan have added incentive to care for forests in their area.
- The final product is super lightweight, which makes for lower-carbon shipping.
- Rattan is recyclable and will eventually biodegrade (when disposed of properly)
It can be challenging to source these products directly from the Balinese artisans who originally created them. However, several companies have made it easier to support these artists and reduce your next favorite accessory’s carbon footprint. These types of bags can also be sustainably made and ethically produced in numerous places outside of Asia, including tropical regions of Africa as well as Australia. Prioritize any brands that have a Fair Trade certification, as you can ensure the artisans who made these bags were ethically treated.
Though vegans must be wary because leather straps are often incorporated in these designs, it is safe to say that these trendy bags get the GoodHuman seal of approval. Check out a couple of our top picks from some of our favorite vetted brands:
- The Little Market Round Rattan Crossbody Bag, $128
- Komodo CAMERA Bag Cloud, $66
- Beaumont Organic DIAH Rattan Cross Body Bag, $89
- Island Girl Sonia Rattan Crossbody, $56
Looking for more eco-friendly handbag alternatives that don’t harm animals or the earth? Download the GoodHuman app, where you’ll find a whole wide world of sustainable products from ethical brands!