An Upcycled Bag That Ticks All The Boxes

Sponsored by Malia Designs

By now, it will surprise no one that I love a practical bag. 

Pockets, zippers, compartments, and an adjustable strap are the key to a happy long term relationship with a handbag. It also helps when it’s lightweight and made with ethics and sustainability in mind.

So Malia Designs, who I’ve worked with for a couple years, is a natural choice…

Why Malia Designs?

Malia Designs was founded by a Peace Corps veteran (Lia) and her best friend (Maria) to provide economic opportunity to women in Cambodia by working with preexisting co-ops under fair trade guidelines to create practical, versatile bags, often made with readily available recycled materials.

In addition to advancing the goals of fair trade, Malia Designs gives back to agencies that fight human trafficking in Cambodia and the US. During 13 years of business, Malia Designs has assisted in the sustainable growth of the co-ops they work with and donated over 160,000 dollars to anti-trafficking efforts through their philanthropic arm, Stop Traffick. Learn more here.

About The Bags

Malia Designs specializes in two types of textiles: recycled cement and feed bags, and screen printed canvas remnant. This makes their range suitable for a number of aesthetics without compromising on practicality or ethics.

I’m using the Blue Dragon Crossbody Bag made from a recycled Cement Bag. My sister has a Malia Designs cement bag purse from a few years ago and she still uses it every day because it’s sturdy and lightweight. I really like the idea of upcycling old materials intended for discard into long term items, and there’s something about this style that feels both fun and a la mode. High fashion is having a moment with novelty and it’s lovely when it coincides with sustainability. Plus, I was born in the year of the dragon according to the Chinese Zodiac, so this has some symbolic value for me (and my birthday was yesterday!).

The Blue Dragon bag has two open exterior pockets, two internal pockets, an adjustable strap, and a zip closure. It is lined in red cotton. Price: $38.00

Now I have a little “capsule” of ethical, practical bags that I can feel confident wearing, both because I know how they’re made and because they work for my lifestyle and my wardrobe. I harp on this a lot, but turning 30 (and the anticipation leading up to it) has really pushed me into a long season of self reflection and inspection. It’s valuable for me to know what I like. If nothing else has come from aging, at least there’s a small glimmer of self assurance coming to the surface.

Shop Malia Designs here. 

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Leah Wise

Leah Wise is the founder of StyleWise Blog. She has been writing, speaking, and consulting on sustainable fashion, the fair trade and secondhand supply chain, and digital marketing for over ten years. An Episcopal priest, Leah holds a B.A. in Religion from Florida State University and an M.Div. from Yale Divinity School. When not working, you can find her looking for treasures at the thrift store.

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