Nora Baldwin had her “aha!” moment at the point of sale.
“I was about to purchase a bag made from calfskin,” the Colorado-based entrepreneur recalled. “I was pregnant at the time -- and perhaps extra weepy -- but it hit me that I would never feel good carrying that bag. I needed something stylish comprised of a material I could feel comfortable carrying. After realizing that I could not find modern, high-end, vegan handbags, Viva Creatures! was born.”
Nora was so convinced that she could help animals through fashion that she left her career as an attorney to enroll in design classes, then launched Viva Creatures! in 2014. The bags are chic and sleek, with an emphasis on strong colors, minimalism, and geometric shapes.
Beyond her commitment to cruelty-free, Nora is also passionate about supporting artisans and minimizing environmental impact. The bags are made in the U.S., and “we source the most beautiful vegan fabrics with the smallest footprint we can manage,” she said. “We source from U.S.-based mills whenever possible.” She noted that Viva Creatures! eschews PVC (known for its detrimental effects on health and the environment) in favor of the less-toxic PU and other, more sustainable and recycled textiles. “Sustainability is paramount, but it’s also a work in progress,” Nora added. “While the industry continues 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. I know that one day we will do even more, as suppliers catch up with demand.”
Going against the grain isn’t always easy, but it’s worth it, and the future is bright. “Designing clean, modern, logo-free bags, using high-end materials, and making them in the USA is certainly a challenge,” Nora said. “However, we hope to serve a customer who wants a different experience. She wants a connection to her bags -- a bag that has its own story and that becomes part of her story.”
For more on Nora’s story, including, how her love affair with fashion began, her most hilarious style faux pas, and, of course, what she wears now, read on.
I’ve always loved fashion. In fact, one of my earliest forays into personal style was pegged jeans in the early ‘90s. I was so tall -- I’m nearly 6 feet -- and the typical denim houses weren’t making jeans long enough for me to roll, so I would hunt for options. In my search, I noticed of the differences in cut, quality, and style. I’ve been interested in great design ever since. Design has long been a hobby, but when I got the idea for Viva Creatures!, I took a leap of faith, left my career as a lawyer, and dove in. I do what I love and I create something gorgeous that helps to save animals. For me, nothing could be better.
Clean, beachy, modern.
Right now, I love a semi-sheer, sea blue maxi skirt with a dark gray, loose-fitting muscle tank. I love this look because it’s not particularly body-hugging, but still feels super feminine. It works for daytime with sandals and my Indian summer-brown Valkyrie, as well evening with heels and my Victor clutch. Looks and feels so easy.
Online shopping vs. IRL shopping:
Both! I love that online shops can give you access to emerging brands you could not otherwise find. Case in point: Viva Creatures! is available in boutiques, but not in every city in the nation --- yet! So, how great is it that a stylish girl with a heart can get an animal-free bag in a few days with a click of her mouse? With that said, it is so nice to touch and feel the item you are buying. This is particularly evident with Viva Creatures! -- when people touch and carry our bags, they fall in love!
Most embarrassing fashion moment:
So many to choose from. I am a firm believer in trying out styles to see what suits you. I love when people push the envelope in terms of fashion and in terms of their own style. I do it all the time, and sometimes I fail… If I had to choose, it would probably be my hair from 1991 to 1995. Let’s just say it was big.
Designer role models:
Stella McCartney of the eponymous line, as well as Leanne Mai-ly Hilgart of Vaute Couture. Both are on the forefront of cruelty-free fashion, which is inspiring. It’s new and challenging to work with animal-free materials, and both women are rock stars
Go-to piece of jewelry:
A used men’s [Cartier] Panthere watch from the ‘80s, [a gift] from my parents. They’ve been divorced for more than 20 years, so it was super special for them to work on getting it together. It’s a classic that I’ll wear forever. And of course, my wedding ring for the obvious reasons. I won the lottery with that guy.
I really love all animals. In particular, I care for cows. Few people see them as the sentient beings they are. I read a story of a former dairy cow at a sanctuary who was hiding her newborn calf; she feared it would be taken from her, as had repeatedly occurred in the past. It opened my eyes not only to the treatment of dairy cows, but just how kind these creatures are, so I keep a special place in my heart for them.
The future of Viva Creatures!:
Right now, our priority is kind and chic bags. We just unveiled some gorgeous spring styles, and we are working on a few additions to complement the current collection (especially for those of you who need a small, super cute pouch to house odds and ends in your Severine tote!). We would love to explore other traditionally leather accessories -- shoes and belts -- and we will! Make sure to follow our journey -- we have big dreams.