Stella McCartney Ava Faux Python Clutch, $1995 via Net-a-Porter

Like any proud lover of luxury goods, I spend my fair share of time trying to explain to people that we’re not all slaves to a famous name when it comes to paying for accessories. Sure, some of the reason that prices are the way they are is that many of the brands we love have built of a reputation and history for themselves as employing the kind of aesthetic and artistic talent to craft the finest leather goods on the planet. The name is something, particularly when it stands for a history of craftsmanship and quality, but it’s not everything. Or so I argue. When I look at a bag like the Stella McCartney Ava Faux Python Clutch, though, I can’t help but wonder if I’m merely brainwashed.

I actually don’t have any aesthetic qualms with this design; in fact, I think it’s quite nice and I’m impressed that they got yellow material and gold hardware to function together without looking terrible. It’s no small feat! What I do have a problem with is the fact that it costs $2000 for what is essentially a gussied up PVC box clutch not dissimilar in fabrication to what you’d find at your local Target.

Sure, I’m understand that the manufacturing is probably more careful. The design, too, is much nicer, and those two things definitely factor in to what a bag costs. What brands often cite as the largest influencer of handbag prices, though, is materials, and that’s a place where Stella McCartney has little room to argue on her own behalf. Everywhere else in her line, she uses nothing but the best, which you can tell as soon as you lay eyes on one of her gorgeous knits. Because McCartney has strong views on the ethics of animal products in fashion, though, no leather goes into any of her bags, as most of you probably know. It’s all PVC.

I applaud her for sticking to her convictions about what materials she will and won’t use, but I believe that with the use of PVC should come with an adjustment in price. As I explained last time I wrote about a PVC bag, it’s simply not a luxury material by any stretch of the imagination, and it’s just about as cheap as it gets. I’ve never seen any claim from McCartney that the PVC she uses is some kind of special chemical blend that makes it more environmentally friendly or luxurious, and from what I can tell it’s just…PVC. I’ve never seen McCartney make any claims about the environmental friendliness of her PVC, and some of it has struck me was rather leather-like, but mostly, I haven’t been impressed.

So while I’m ok with McCartney charging a little bit extra for her name and maybe even a lot extra for design and construction, the fact that Stella charges fine leather prices for the finest in oil-based chemical non-leather will forever stop me from owning one of her bags. It’s too bad, I really like this clutch. Buy through Net-a-Porter for $1995.

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Share Your Thoughts With Us

  • Alexandra Davidoff

    In my opinion there is only one reason why McCartney’s PVC is just as expensive as real designer Italian leather – her own greed and ego. She refuses to utilize animal skins for her creations and yet wants to be put up there with all the other fine designers, ripping off her loyal fan/customers in the process. I have to agree her profits are probably the result of brainwashing – she is just like a pop star who’s voice on the disc isn’t real but made up of layers of auto-tune and computer enhancement (and they probably couldn’t sing live) and who they go and see on tour regardless. And like the pop star, the product looks cute, but is 100% certifiable fake.

  • aidan


  • Nanci

    Well said. I think that it is fine for a brand name to command a certain price but that the materials must be factored in. It also cracks me up when people describe a bag as being made from vegan leather. Um, that’s just PVC, right?

  • Sandra Rowley

    Yes, I have been waiting for someone to point this out. I have been trying in so many of my comments. I refuse to purchase anything Stella McCartney for this reason. (even the clothes) When you are making goods out of PVC, not matter how well stitched, the price should reflect the materials.

  • Kat

    Substituting PVC for leather does not make sense from an overall environmental perspective at ALL. Yes, there are ethical issues when it comes to real leather. But one could argue that there are just as many, if not more, issues with using PVC. PVC is one of the most environmentally hazardous consumer materials ever produced. Not only is it petroleum based, its production consumes an enormous amount of energy, its entire life cycle (from production, to actual usage, to combustion/recycling) poses health risks to livestock and humans (including cancer) and it is EXTREMELY difficult to recycle.

    So how is PVC a more “ethical” option versus leather?

    I used to feel neutral about Stella McCartney, but now I feel an utter loathing slowly forming.

    • Katrin

      It’s more “ethical” because no animals are dying in the process! 
      It may produce hazardous risks but so does the production of leather/meat industry type products. Posing a ‘health risk’ to livestock is a lot more ethical than killing it. 

      • jenna

        your lack of compassion for animals is really sad you ignorant, materialistic bitch.

      • stuck_in_the_suburbs

        Whoa, there! No need for nasty comments. We should be ambassadors for a gentle, vegan lifestyle. To each his own. I prefer Stella bags because I feel hypocritical buying leather if I don’t eat animals. The bags are beautiful, durable, and functional. Anyone who has ever compared Stella bags to a PVC bag at TJ Maxx will know the difference.

    • Archana

      Leather tanneries are on the top list of pollutants. And how many of your designer bags use vegetable dyes for your bags ? non.

      I think both are equally bad. I hope this pvc bag will last for a long time and go to the recycle pile. Thats all i can hope for.

      And one women is doing her gig among a sea of haters and i-dont-care-about animals world. I would support her for her strength. He label is now part of the conglomerate, and she will have to fight everyday for her ideas over stock owners happiness.

      Thats all i have to say.

  • Pixiejenna

    I’ve always felt the same way. I love her bags with the chains on them but I haven’t been able to justify the cost even when on sale.

  • t

    Well written Alexandra- spot on!!

    • Alexandra Davidoff


  • Alexandra and Kat pretty much cover everything I was going to say – so I’ll just add this: SM is just getting sillier.

    • Alexandra Davidoff

      Thanks, Musette! Glad to know I wasn’t too crazy on this post, and yes I definitely agree – McCartney is getting sillier.

    • Kat

      Thanks. I just got really, really riled up by this SM. Using ethics as an excuse to use PVC versus leather is just ridiculous enough as it is, AND then she has the gall to charge premium leather prices. RIDICULOUS.

      • Kat

        *by this POST on SM.

      • Suntan Tuesday

        I think it is so sad that you all keep referring to leather as premium and worth more than other materials….. animals have been harvested for their skin, slaughtered in their millions… when your grand children ask why you stood by during the animal holocaust what will you say about your desire for ‘premium’ products…….

  • Marie Martell

    Agree with everyone here!

  • camilla

    you got ther point. I never never would buy something from her, it’s simple absurd. She says she is green but please tell me how can it be if she uses plastic (eco-leather is plastic) but the prices are like best phyton and not faux one. I hate people like her. We can make the difference, we as customers can refuse to play her game.

  • John

    The sad thing is, people will still probably buy this. You can buy a Balen or PS1 already with what you spend on this clutch.

  • I have never been fooled by Stella. I just don’t get it when I see women that I know are wealthy carry that Fallabella bag. I finally got to see one in person, and I wasn’t impressed. To be honest, I thought that the PVC felt cheap and tacky.
    I remember when one of my favorite designers, Marc Jacobs, made a PVC bag for around $300. I wouldn’t pay $300 for one, and I definitely wouldn’t pay $2000. When I think about what kind of nice, leather bag that I could buy for that kind of money (even at $300), it just makes me wonder how stupid Stella thinks that her consumers are.
    With that being said, it’s a nice bag that I wouldn’t pay no more than $50 for.

    • Katrin

      Not everyone wants to buy a ‘nice, leather bag,’ I have bought many SM bags and I love them, they are durable, gorgeous and cruelty free! 

  • rose60610

    I think that if her father were someone other than Sir Paul, the scads of celebrities and fashion editors would not give her the time of day, let alone buy and promote her hideous bags. Buying her so called “animal and environment friendly” bags at the prices they go for reflect a consumer for whom money is no object or someone who is given McBags to wear in public. I can’t believe her clothes and shoes have nothing to do with animals (wool? leather? silk?) And the celebrities and others that have scores of her bags? Think they have other bags that ARE leather? As a group, most celebrities are the biggest bunch of nauseating hypocrites out there.

  • Chris

    I think it is very simple: as long as people are buying her bags, Ms. McCartney might as well ask for a ridiculously high price. Come on, guys ! Does anybody here think that $39,000 for a backpack from The Row was justified? It sold out nevertheless. Yes, Ms. McCartney probably laughs all the way to the bank. Good for her. I do not understand why people would bash her, she is not forcing anybody to buy her handbags, is she?
    Having said that, the clutch is not bad. I would not buy it though, first because of the price, and second I need more versatile handbags.

  • PurseFan

    I agree with you all. It is just greed. Every luxury brand has to find a way to pay for their Hampton estates. :) And remember cost of a product is 10%-20% of MSRP based on product ( this includes materials, manufacturing and overhead expenses.)

    But what really kills me is this so-called environmental moved towards PVC products. The dirty little secret they don’t tell you is that to color the bags, they use LEAD BASED PAINT!!! California and some European countries require a disclaimer be place on the bags so consumers know their purse is covered in lead-based paint and can be harmful to your health if ingested like when you are eating you sandwich at lunch after handling your bag.

    So maybe they should move on to cotton, denim, etc.

  • It’s a shame that it’s such a nice design, but terrible material. I can image what it feels like and I don’t think the looks can make up for the ‘fake leather’ feeling. I agree there is something special about owning bags made with luxury materials, and PVC is definitely not one of them.

    Boo, Stella.

  • Mari


  • Rashida

    I am digging the comments! They are so spot on! I wouldn’t pay that much money for some crap like that! Sorry!

  • Anonymous

    PVC / PU is not good for the environment! it is made from plastics & petrochemicals, and the processes for creating the material cause pollution. its not ecologically friendly, and that for me is the great irony. fine, its not animal skin, but its also not good for the planet.

    • Evans

      The tanning process of leather is not good for the planet. It is picking the lesser of two evils. Either you kill an animal and harm the planet or you do some harm to the planet. Tanned hides do not naturally biodegrade well and the chemicals are incredibly toxic.

      • You either kill animals and harm the enviornment OR harm the enviornment and kill people and children that live in that polluted enviornment. It is not picking the lesser of two evils and I by one think that her bags are way too expensive. If she wants to make a difference then why not go further into donating her fortune she gets from her million dollar business sitting comfortably in her mansion (thanks consumers) and actually help save rain forests from deforestation so animals can actually have a home!!! This will also save our precious GREEN in our earth.

    • Guest

      It’s not PVC it’s made in a special process using vegetable oil and probably magic.
      Her bags are not only animal friendly they are environmentally friendly. Also you should know in order for leather to not rot (since it is dead skin), toxic chemicals are used to tan the leather so it doesn’t decompose.

    • Jennivi

      One of the statements I’ve read is that Stella’s line with Adidas does not use PVC at all. I’m not sure if she applies the same rule in her own line but I’m assuming she does because how can she request the non-use of PVC with her collaboration with Adidas if she doesn’t apply the same ethics to her own.

      • She is using PVC. She is just not going to reveal her secrets of making to the public because it won’t be convienent with her. Everything is all show and business.

  • Subbz

    I saw a similar clutch in Zara, only it wasn’t fake python and wasn’t 2000 dollars.

  • mizzc

    FINALLY!! Someone publicly said what i’ve always thought!! I would NEVER buy any of her bags/shoes. If i’m paying upwards of $2000 or more on a handbag, I want it to be made from a real cow, lizard, alligator or some other once living breathing thing:-).

    • Mary

      Your best friend human skin perhaps???

      OK I won’t pay $2000 for her bags or any other PVC one but also won’t agree to breed or kill other animals for my own  selfish desire. Wake up!

    • Katrin

      That is actually the most disgusting comment I’ve read so far. 
      I want a bag made from your skin so ignorant people like you can open their eyes, although realistically people like you would probably buy it.

    • Suntan Tuesday

      Animals have been harvested for their skin, slaughtered in their millions… when your grand children ask why you stood by during the animal holocaust what will you say about your desire for ‘premium’ products…….

  • Gi

    No handbag is ever worth the “designer price” – a bag’s real manufacturing cost is not affected all that much by the material(s) it is created with. 80%+ of handbag’s cost goes to PR, marketing, sales operations, distribution, logistics, etc. along with cost of maintaining perceived brand value. This is why luxury conglomerates fight so hard to protect their brands and designs.  

    So saying Stella McCartney is not worth it because it isn’t real python / leather is not really a valid claim. 

    • Katrin

      Finally, your comment has brought me out of my anger from reading the other comments.

  • Shida205

    Right on Amanda! Get in her butt! PVC is not high end period!

  • Phee

    My thought exactly!!!! I always think shea overcharge her creation!! she uses cheaper material while charging high-sky price, just because her name..not her fan!

  • mardianamd

    Spot on. Thank you…

  • Guest

    excuse my French, but that bag and this woman…what a crock of sh**.
    Does she think we have half a brain?

  • My personal guess was around $35,000 and I thought that even that kind
    of figure might be a little low, particularly when you consider that so
    many designers seem to be in some sort of unofficial race to see who can
    produce the most ridiculously expensive bag

  • Lettygirl

    I actually had a very similar discussion with a close friend who is a huge Stella follower.  I can’t believe she still told me, “well they are still a couple hundred less than a PS1 or balenciaga,” and I was like, yes but that is leatherrrrr! 
    Of course, to each their own, but I will personally not buy one.  Thanks for posting.

  • Emcilhany

    Well, I won’t wear real snakeskin.  Please put up anything from Target that looks like this because I just got mine and it’s huge, innovative and beautiful.

  • Emcilhany

    I will never stop loving Stella.  Her attitude may not be perfect but it’s a start.  If you guys want an excuse to keep wearing exotic animal skins-what did these animals ever do to you?-you don’t need to be here.  I am rich, and vegan, and I want to feel luxurious.  I will support her in any way I can.

    • rintamakilover

      This is the best comment. I am rich, vegan and I want to feel luxurious too. Stella is an iconoclast in her field. She has very ingeniously made not just a name for herself but a brand of trying to be a better/ethical brand. I am a man and I want her to start creating a men’s line. I actually thought about it last night. It should be called “SIR Stella.”

      • rintamakilover

        I’ve been debating whether I could rock a Black Falabella. But this is not just fashion but a cause I’d like to support so either way I guess I should just buy it and rock it hard for my upcoming 30th!

      • Briana

        Exactly how I feel! Honestly, I don’t feel that any bag is worth $2000, but Stella Mccartney is a high profile designer/celebrity who is making a very bold statement. There are a lot of people who buy her bags, not because they are vegan, but because they have a designer tag. So.. she’s making a point that we can be high fashion and kind at the same time. :) So, yes I would pay the price for this bag. Absolutely.. that is if I had the money haha

    • Anna-Lisa Christiane

      Love your comment I’m Vegan too and agree I don’t see how people could be so selfish to think any of that is worth the guilt of what you buy

  • Loffve

    I have stella bags.and i can make the best price for you.

  • Katrin

    I disagree completely with this article, I loved it though because the clutch is gorgeous! 

    I think that what she is doing is amazing because people who disagree with buying leather and animal cruelty can feel just as luxurious as the next person. I’m not saying this is the case for everyone but purely for myself. I’ve been vegan since I was 13 and was never able to buy beautiful luxurious bags until McCartney. Yes it sounds materialistic but we wouldn’t be looking at bags in that price range if we weren’t a little materialistic anyway! I love that I can have an amazing clutch, just as nice as that of my Burberry-Prada-Trending friends without the burden and guilt of leather. 

  • TT

    I don’t believe in buying leather or fur. I’ve tried cheapo PVC bags and they always fray within a couple uses and are stiff. I bought my first SM bag almost three years ago and it is still in awesome shape and has not frayed one bit. Her materials are not the same cheapo non leather alternatives you find with low-end designs. I believe in quality over quantity so buying one SM bag every two or three years is better than buying five or six crappy bags every year. Oh and my issue is with the animals and use of their bodies for vanity purposes, not with the environment, so I will continue to buy her bags.

    • stuck_in_the_suburbs

      This is a very appropriate comment. I have been vegan for about two years, and although I haven’t gotten rid of luxury bags that I purchased prior to becoming vegan, I have about four Stella bags, and they seem to hold up as well as any other designer bag that is made primarily of leather. Louis Vuitton are at an even higher price point, and they are made mostly of coated canvas with only leather trims. I looked at less expensive bags that were non-leather, but they had a cheap look. Admittedly, I like the fact that my Stella bags are considered a high end designer label, and if you weren’t into that, you wouldn’t be reading this blog. So, we all fall for that marketing.

  • Alena

    I totally agree with the article! When I was younger, all I could afford was cheap plastic shoes and bags. Now, as I am getting older, I think I deserve class and elegance, I want to have nice luxurious things, and to my opinion they don’t go together with cheap Chinese overpriced plastic (or, maybe, it’s made in Italy (the plastic it is) and that’s why it’s so expensive?).

  • jade

    They are expensive because vegan materials are expensive. Compare a Target bag to a Stella bag and try to convince yourself there is no difference, I challenge you.


    I am an accessory design student and as someone who is exposed to the manufacturing side of handbags and has constant access to swatch book, after swatch book, I can tell you that there is very little difference in the feeling of faux leather and real leather- not cheap faux, but high quality luxury faux materials. Leather is made from animal skin, which will rot unless treated by a number of toxic chemicals in morally apprehensible conditions, that often result in health issues for the workers tanning these hides, not to mention the terror and torment of the animals that provide us with this “luxurious” leather. You have been conditioned to equate luxury with leather- in the same way that you have been conditioned to find beef or chicken delectable, but cat or dog disgusting as a food source. As previous commenters have mentioned, materials are the least expensive consideration in the pricing of a handbag. If you knew how much it actually cost to create some of those “luxury” goods you have been carrying, your brain might explode with disgust. Ultimately it is a the context in which a bag is placed and the quality of materials- faux or not, that create a sense of luxury. It’s time to start equating luxury with compassion and Stella McCartney is doing a wonderful job at that.

    • stuck_in_the_suburbs

      well said. I appreciate your perspective as a student. I am not a designer or design student, but I can certainly feel the difference between the materials that Stella uses in her handbags and less expensive faux leathers. And the heavy chain on the Falabella bags adds to the luxury feel.

  • Viv

    As a fellow writer it’s hard for me to see you as a credible source when you write “I’m understand”. McCartney promotes ethical treatment of animals and people in the fashion industry as well as using organic textiles which is why her items are more expensive than those at Target. I really enjoy your writing but please have somebody proofread it before it is published. :)

  • Sicofhaters

    I think all of you that are hating is because you can’t afford a bag like this. I love her bags and the material she uses is not tacky or cheap. I think people should be able to wear what ever they want without being judged. If someone saves up and works hard and wants something that’s stylish and functional then they should be able to get it. Her styles are what makes it worth it. And yes it is animal friendly and good for the environment. She uses recycled plastic bottles and the chemicals are non toxic. Mabe you people should do your research before you talk crap!! Keep doing what your making cause at least she’s trying. I’m sure none of you are trying your to busy whining about someone else!!!

  • louise kahle

    you can watch the video of dogs being electrocute in china and then it all makes you think differently compassion should be fashion too!

  • louise kahle

    after watching a video of gorgeous sweet frightened dogs in china being electrocuted …………. you will know why Stella cares. COMPASSION in fashion for me!

  • Mary Khoury

    What are you talking about! Leather is not expensive either but we pay for the brand. You cannot jusity buying Stella how about you are just cheap.

  • Anna-Lisa Christiane

    Because they want to offer a high fashion brand and label without torture… There’s no such thing as high quality leather they all die in the same run down places in far from nice situations. There ain’t nothing classy or expensive about wearing torture.

  • Joel handelman

    Paying 1,000 pounds for a bag made of plastic… ridiculous.

  • Aixa

    Yeah no one explained why they’re so expensive. I guess people like to buy brands without giving a second thought. When I want to buy a leather bag, I want it to be a leather bag. When I want to buy a silk dress, I want it to be made of silk. If I wanted fake shit, I’d buy other brands at a lesser cost. Yes, fake.. Stop saying faux to make it more glamorous than it is.

  • soph

    some comments here have been absolutely disgusting and let me just point out to Amanda Mull and any other idiot who reads her article and uses it as an excuse to continue to buy leather and fur ….do your damn homework and don’t try in your sly way to discourage people from buying from one of the few,perhaps only ethical designers out there! what she is doing/trying to do is up about her actual ethics and her fabrics before you write crap like this please.youll see that the fabrics shes now trying to make are innovative and therefore more luxurious then the standard leather that you cling to so dearly,worshipping it like some fool. that’s what creates the high cost along with, as you have pointed out yourself, the high quality manufacturing and the fabulous design! what more do you want!?

    on her website it is stated:

    ‘In 2008 we began to phase out PVC from our products and since 2010 all Stella McCartney products have been PVC free. In addition to our own products we also assure that all adidas by Stella McCartney products are PVC free.

    Does avoiding leather cause a lot of difficulties in production?

    When it comes to shoes, because synthetic or woven materials are thinner and less elastic than leather, the main difficulty is achieving a uniform product. This is because many of the industrial techniques and machines used in leather shops are not appropriate for non-leather shoe manufacturing.

    This means most of the steps in the production of both bags and shoes are executed solely by hand by skilled artisans – our bags, for example, can only be produced in a couple of factories in Italy that specialize in non-leather production. About 70% of the work is done by hand, and depending on the style, it can cost us up to 70% more to make a pair of shoes than any other brand – yet we don’t mark them up for the customer.

    Both bags and shoes require the use of glue and this too is diligently tested to ensure the high ethical standards for which Stella McCartney is known. No fish glue, or any other glues derived from animal parts, are used in the production of our shoes and bags.

    Your non-leather shoes and bags still look luxurious – how do you do it?

    It can be a difficult task for our design team, sourcing, studying and testing a range of textiles that combine different blends of organic and synthetic fibres until they find a fabric that looks stunning, yet is versatile enough to undergo a variety of production techniques.

    Because of the scientific research that goes into creating these blended fibres and subsequently, their scarcity, innovative materials could be considered a true luxury, rather than leather, which has become a commodity.’

  • Joan Fox

    I think she charges a lot so that people who think they need a status bag will buy one of her cruelty free bags. I’m all for that. I am sick of all the calf (baby) skin and snakeskin etc. all the “big names” make–all the ads in every fashion magazine. Thank you for your post.

  • Maggie

    I love her clothes but there is production accountability if you want to see where it is actually produced? I will pay the money but not if it is off shore…especially since there is so much chatter and $ with regards to sustainability ,vegan and yadda yadda…


    What a disgusting article. We should pay more for murder and torture? I don’t think so.

  • fashiongermane

    I did enjoy your post and agree with some of your thoughts. Stella McCartney is very expensive. However, with all designer brands you are paying for the name as well as finer materials. What is extremely notable about Stella McCartney is that she owns a vegetarian brand. It cost’s more money to operate a company using alternative sources. It costs a lot to manufacture something so similar to leather or fur, that isn’t the real thing. Her company targets people who not only love designer fashion, and can afford it, but also the people who live their lives with the same values she instills in her brand. I wonder if she did not advertise her brand as vegetarian, but still used the same materials and had the same prices, if she would still be so successful?

  • MX

    I too have some similar thoughts about this. But I think it would take a deeper understanding to answer why. In my opinion, people who are used to luxury, may need some sort of happiness & satisfying feeling when they purchase. Some of them are vegan, wich I think SM & those people responsible behind this concept are smart enought to have these rich &vegan as their target customers. I believe that this is just part of their marketing strategy.