Whether it’s on college campuses or in the workplace, we all recognize the signature red-pinstripe interior of Herschel backpacks. Herschel Supply Co.‘s sleek designs and assortment of products — from traveling gear to everyday backpacks to clothing — appeal to a broad swath of consumers. Additionally, Herschel’s international consumer base affords the brand an extensive, global presence. That being said, there is little to no information available in regards to the brand’s sustainability efforts and production lines. While their products are high-quality and long-lasting, it is exceedingly difficult to gauge their environmental impact. For this reason, buying from Herschel may not ease the conscience of eco-friendly consumers.
Fabric? Polyester? Canvas? It was surprisingly difficult to obtain any concrete information about the basic raw materials for the Herschel Classic. The inner red-pinstripe lining is a fabric material. In terms of the backpack itself, some sources point to polyester, but the lack of detail on Herschel’s own website leaves this fact unverified. However, given that the Classic is not waterproof, this would seem to indicate some type of fabric or polyester material, as opposed to something like canvas. While other Herschel products utilize full-grain leather for their zipper pulls, the Classic utilizes rope.
Your guess is honestly as good as mine. Where are they sourcing their materials? Are they ethically obtaining resources like leather? What are the conditions of their Chinese factories? All these questions remain entirely unanswered. Beyond the fact that Herschel Supply, Co. is based in Vancouver, Canada but has production facilities in China, there is little publicly available information regarding their production lines and the specific manufacturing of their products.
Besides my own experience with my Herschel bag and the company’s own testament to product durability, there is little information upon which to base any analysis of the product’s life-cycle and longevity. My own Herschel backpack has held up very well over the last two years; I’ve carried it through rain and shine and it’s still in sturdy condition. Since they use materials like leather and (again, merely based on my own observations), their fabrics appear well-made, it seems a safe inference that as long as you take care of your Herschel product, it should last a considerable amount of time.
A design-oriented brand - At their core, Herschel is a design-driven brand dedicated to crafting timeless pieces. While Herschel’s attention to design has clearly proved popular and successful, there is no mention on their website of incorporating aspects of sustainability into their designs. In fact, there is no mention of any environmental effort or sustainability initiative to be found amongst spotlighting their collections or communicating their brand identity on their website. A large component of Herschel’s success has been making their products available at other large retailers, namely stores like Urban Outfitters, Nordstrom, and ASOS, none of which have a particularly strong reputation for being environmentally-friendly.
No company commitment to sustainability - In terms of production, Herschel has no stated intentions of reducing carbon emissions or water usage while manufacturing their products. In terms of labor, they employ 170+ people and while have a “Code of Conduct,” it is not publicly available. Additionally, it does not appear as though workers have the ability to form coalitions or file collective complaints, nor is there evidence that Herschel pays a living wage to those who participate in their supply chains. Lastly, in terms of animal welfare, Herschel does utilize leather, wool, and exotic animal hair, but there is no information regarding the ethics of their sourcing.
While there is no explicit environmental mission on their website, Herschel is currently selling a backpack, created in collaboration with CocaCola, made of recycled PET materials. While PET, or polyethylene terephthalate, is a highly recyclable form of polyester, again, there is an absence of information regarding sourcing and production.
Lack of information and conclusion - By this point, it is needless to mention the severe lack of information regarding any aspect of Herschel that pertains to sustainability. As a result, the Classic Backpack was particularly difficult to review, simply because there seemed little to no information to review and formulate an opinion. Admittedly, Herschel backpacks are of high quality and boast timeless designs; they have a long lifespan, are versatile, and are a good piece to own from a practicality and durability standpoint. That being said, given the lack of information and the inability to verify the ethics and sustainability of Herschel as a company, the eco-conscious consumer is probably better off turning to alternative brands with more explicit environmental efforts and commitments.