When your business goes against the grain and offers an alternative vision for a product or industry, it can be a bit of an uphill battle at first. For Cathryn Wills, her many years spent working within the leather goods industry made her realize that there needed to be more ethical and environmentally-friendly options for fashion lovers.

Her resulting brand, Sans Beast, offers high-quality, Eco PU handbags to consumers searching for an alternative to traditional leather. Cathryn tells us about the origins of her business, and how her custom tissue paper informs her brand story:

(In Cathryn's own words):

“I created Sans Beast after working in Australian fashion retail for nearly 30 years, with over a decade of that chapter spent living and breathing the world of leather handbags. Eventually, I recognised a disconnect between my professional role and my ethical stance on animal welfare and the environment.”

“I got the courage to walk away from a secure role in corporate life, I took some time out to travel + consider my next steps; I adopted a plant-based diet after having been mostly vegetarian since 2015....and 2 years later, Sans Beast launched. Sans = Without: Beast = Animal.”

“The challenge of starting something from nothing is constant. The drain on capital, the recruitment of a team who can fit into a startup culture where resourcefulness and initiative are key - and of course, the ongoing education process of talking to the market about the benefits of going cruelty-free, in a world where leather is still considered the premium option. The first two points just go with the territory. I manage this on a daily basis by staying focused, keeping communication clear, and overseeing our collection purchasing with discipline.”

“In terms of educating our community, we do by creating inspiring and educational content. We don’t want to hit people over the head with a vegan/cruelty-free message, but neither do we wish to shy away from the inherent cruelty and environmental degradation that mass animal raising brings with it. I am in this for the long haul and it’s a labour of love - I have the resilience and complete commitment to the cause, so whilst it’s a challenge, it’s also my purpose - and as we see the brand build, the reward outweighs the struggle.”

“Firstly, we are not suggesting perfection. Fashion brands that state they are fully sustainable are missing the point that fashion consumption for 8 billion people on the planet, is inherently unsustainable. Having said that, we focus on designing pieces with spirit + integrity, for people who will love them. We source Eco PU's, that adhere to international standards in terms of chemical ingredients - REACH + Prop65. We encourage our customers to shop slowly, and we help inform people wherever possible.”

“We work with a family-run factory in Dongguan, China who I’ve worked with for 13 years. Our exceptional relationship with Tony and his factory has helped our operations run smoothly, ensuring transparency throughout our supply chain. We pack all our online orders in recycled or recyclable cardboard boxes and satchels, we use noissue tissue paper, and our postcards are made from post-consumer recycled paper + printed with soy-based inks. We’ve also just started sealing our boxes with water-activated paper tape versus our previous plastic-based tape - so we aim to continue to take steps each season to improve.”

“Not only do we want to stand out within an already saturated market, but we also pride ourselves on choosing an ethically sourced supplier. The unboxing experience is very important to us, as we want our community to have a memorable experience with such a loved product. We put thought and time into all aspects of our production process and the final packaging should be no exception.”

“We aim to keep our environmental footprint as low as possible at all times. Choosing a company like noissue was obvious for us as we wanted 100% recyclable, soy-based ink and FSC-approved. When we saw the noissue Instagram portfolio it was love at first sight.”

“We have recently received our special edition Christmas wrapping paper which we are thrilled with. We wrote a veggie version of the 12-days of Christmas to portray our cruelty-free ethos, and overprinted this with our Sans Beast branding, in a festive tone - stay tuned!”