Who would have thought we’d stumble over our next accessory crush in the NYC subway of all places. With postings in stations and trains, emerging handbag brand Expressions NYC made quite a splash and left a lasting impression on the vegan fashion crowd of the city. Sure, it helps to plaster the subway if you want to be the talk of the town – but only if your designs hold up their end of the bargain. Well…they do.
We picked a few of our top picks from the Expressions collection and took them on a walk through one our our favorite neighborhoods of the city. And then we asked founder Shelly Varma a few questions, because that’s what we do.
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“I grew up in a vegan household”, Shelly tells us, outing herself as an “animal lover” with the goal to “bring forward designs that are functional and affordable” as well as “cruelty free and sustainable.”
Design Process and Production
“Our design directive is to create bags that are beautiful, trendy, functional, and made of vegan materials that impact our world in a positive way.” For Shelly, it’s “the excellent workmanship in our bags” that sets the brand apart.
Designs are created “in our studio in NYC” and then “produced in China, India, Thailand and Nepal” – all “facilities that offer fair wages and a safe working environment.” When we ask how she controls these working conditions, Shelly tells us about their “offices in China and India where our staff supervises all the facilities on a regular basis, bound to “very strict compliance procedures. My husband and I visit our overseas production facilities 4 to 6 times a year.”
Everything – down to product names – is very New York City influenced. “I feel NYC is the world’s capital – culturally and racially diverse, open, accepting and fashion forward. As a vegan brand, I want to highlight that one is more fashionable by incorporating cruelty-free and sustainable materials.”
A part of Expressions’s proceeds go to aid organisation Save the Children. “As a mother of two young boys, all children are close to my heart!” Shelly explains.
“Save the Children works in 120 countries around the world and is very transparent about the donations it receives. 5% of the website proceeds get donated to Save the Children.”
Leather alternatives still are – often mistakenly – looked at as being ‘inferior’, ‘low quality’ or just ‘plastic-y’ – so we were interested in which vegan leather options Expressions is using.
Shelly: “Most of the materials that we are using are more water soluble vegan leather rather than oil-based options. Meaning that most of the polyurethanes we use are water borne and solvent free. These are less energy intensive and made without oil based solvents, so safer to work with and better for the environment.”
“We are also experimenting with plant- and fruit-based vegan materials that are still rather new. We are also using recycled cork materials, as well as Tyvek for our bags. Then all linings used in our bags are made of recycled plastic bottles and we are constantly searching for other, new materials that are sustainable to incorporate in the production of our bags.” And sometimes, it’s in the smaller things, too… “All the paper that we use, including our hangtags, are made of recycled paper.”
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