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When I landed in Europe in May, I saw them everywhere. Slung across the backs of cyclists in Copenhagen, strapped firmly to the chest of (male and female) party goers in Berlin, and balanced on the hip of fashionable women in pretty much every country we visited: the waist pack. Or hip pack, fanny pack, bum bag, belt bag – no one can seem to agree on what to call it. (Hint, fanny is a name for a woman’s genitalia in Australia, so don’t call it that while you’re Down Under, no pun intended.) But it is definitely starting to have its moment in Europe.
It’s telling that these bags, so popular as to be a necessity to European women, don’t even have their own category on any of the biggest online secondhand outlets. But it’s only a matter of time before they hit the U.S. with force.
I’m not talking about the fanny packs your mom wore to Disneyland in the 90s, by the way. (Though Eastpak is doing a swift business in Berlin). They’ve grown up and found their style.
I’m convinced these bags are the sartorial culmination of feminism. Androgynous (men wear them too), supremely practical instead of delicate or cumbersome, and surprisingly roomy, they are appropriate for almost any occasion, especially if you get one with removable straps that can be turned into a clutch in a cocktail party-style pinch. (Which I’ve done multiple times in the past few months.)
It’s also a lifesaver for traveling. I put all the big stuff in my backpack, but having a small hip pack strapped across my chest allows me to easily access (and protect) my passport, wallet, and phone.
Unfortunately, there aren’t many ethical brands who have seen this trend coming. So brands, allow me to make a request: please make more sustainable hip bags! Just take your clutch (which, let’s face it, is as impractical and outdated as a pair of spike heels) and add a detachable strap that goes around the waist. Boom – it’s a versatile, practical, and fresh wardrobe must-have.
In the meantime, here are the five sustainable waist packs I found that a modern and beautiful:
This is the one I own! What looks like cotton canvas is actually QWSTION’s Bananatex fabric that they developed. Stronger and lighter than cotton, it’s made from a fiber called abaca, a regenerative, sustainable palm in the banana family. It comes in black and natural white, and the strap can come off or be switched to turn the hip bag into a small purse. Read more about the fiber and QWSTION.
Made with vegetable tanned leather in Italy, this will develop a shiny, luxurious patina over time.
Established in New York in 2017 by co-founders Ashley Cimone and Moya Annece, Ashya designs unisex travel accessories for the modern-day explorer. In efforts to minimize waste throughout the production process, the brand responsibly sources materials, upcycles fabric scraps, and produces in small batches.
With a removable strap that makes it endlessly versatile, this bag is made of excess leather rescued from a Finnish design furniture factory and crafted in Milan. Each bag is individually numbered and carries a DNA code inside, allowing you to learn more about exactly how it was made and by who. It comes with a dust bag made of cotton waste.
Made with 100% recycled leather or suede, an ethical YKK heavyweight silver zipper, and a 100% certified organic cotton interior, this bag is handcrafted to order in Denmark. You can have the strap customized to fit you!
This European brand has a huge selection of bum bags to choose from, but this one is the most sleek as opposed to army-surplus style. It’s made with water resistant Cordura® EcoMade polyester with an ethical YKK® 2-way zipper closure.
Volta Atelier’s fanny packs are completely hand-stitched out of 100% upcycled leather. In partnership with local NGOs, they work with women refugees from Haiti living in South Brazil, victims of domestic violence, or former inmates. Their mission is to encourage a circular economy, breathing life back into lost cultural heritage and growing communities from the ground up.