The fashion world is full of issues ranging from unethical labor practices to the disastrous environmental effects of production, including the issue of animal-based fashion.
Vegan fashion is the idea of producing and consuming fashion without harming or using animals.
This means avoiding materials such as wool, leather, fur, silk, and countless other animal products. Many of these have ethical, sustainable, and non-animal alternatives.
In today’s time, many of us end up buying and using things without considering where they came from or how they were produced.
After all, it isn’t very profitable to display how the production process harms people and animals.
Yet, many of us are also becoming more conscious, eco-friendly consumers looking for cruelty-free and vegan brands to support.
Most people think that going vegan is an overwhelming process, and in some ways, it can be. However, taking the right steps towards a more conscious lifestyle doesn’t have to be very complicated.
In this article, we will talk about vegan fashion, why it’s important, the alternatives to animal-based material, and some suggestions on vegan and sustainable brands that you can support.
Think of it as a primer on vegan fashion and how you can support animal-friendly clothing brands.
What Is Vegan Fashion?
First off, what is vegan fashion anyway? The word vegan gets thrown around a lot, but there’s probably some confusion on what it really means.
Many people seem to think that being vegan is all about eating plants and not eating animal products.
Contrary to popular belief, being vegan goes so much farther than food. Going vegan is not a diet; it is a way of life. You can be vegan in your skincare, makeup, and, yes, your clothing.
The goal of vegan fashion is to use and support animal-friendly and cruelty-free fashion brands. The term vegan fashion might seem like a huge commitment, but it’s really not!
You are already using vegan clothing in your daily life, and animal-derived clothing is something you can live comfortably without. Your cotton t-shirts, for example, are already vegan.
You already know that there are vegan options for nearly everything you are wearing right now. But, not all of these vegan options are good ones. Let’s take it back to your cotton t-shirts.
Conventional cotton production takes up plenty of resources and uses plenty of chemicals and dyes. Overall, not the most sustainable process.
Remember, part of living a vegan lifestyle is living sustainably. It is always good to take that extra step and use not only vegan clothing but sustainable fashion as well.
Why Is Vegan Fashion Important?
Veganism is becoming a more relevant way of life every day. More people are becoming aware of the consequences of their consumption and would like to take a step back and make less of an impact by choosing cruelty-free and vegan clothing.
The current relevance of vegan fashion is largely due to two sources: animal welfare and fashion’s environmental impact.
While they aren’t the only ones, these two are probably the largest contributors to why vegan fashion, and veganism in general, is becoming more popular.
But before we get into all of that, let’s get something out of the way. Our recommendations and the information in this article are not meant to make you feel guilty about your current lifestyle choices.
We simply want to spread the word and, maybe, influence positive lifestyle changes.
Moreover, even if you aren’t vegan, you can still participate through minor changes in your clothing choices.
You can start by choosing cruelty-free vegan brands. The point is, no matter where you are in your journey, you can contribute positively.
The Environmental Impacts of Animal-Derived Fashion
It’s no secret that the animal industry is an incredibly harmful industry, mostly due to the large scales of production.
According to a study from the Environmental Communication journal, animal agriculture is responsible for 14.5% of human-induced greenhouse gas emissions(1).
That number is about the same size as the transport sector, so you can imagine how large of an impact it has.
Although the animal agriculture industry isn’t devoted to fashion alone, the demand for animal-derived clothing items makes animal-based fashion part of the issue.
Different kinds of materials have different environmental effects. Let’s take leather as an example. The first aspect of leather production is, of course, the animal skin. But it doesn’t end there.
The nasty environmental effects of leather production don’t stop at animal agriculture. The entire process of turning animal skin into leather is also pretty damaging to the environment.
For one, it takes plenty of toxic chemicals for companies to treat the animal skin and turn it into leather.
These chemicals and dyes are the absolute opposite of eco friendly. In addition, the waste from companies can be damaging to the nearby bodies of water, polluting water sources, and potentially damaging communities in the area.
Next, of course, is the looming issue of animal cruelty. It goes without saying that animal-based fashion can take a toll on animals— living beings worthy of our ethical consideration.
Even animals who aren’t killed still undergo many cruel experiences, such as terrible living conditions.
Human cruelty becomes evident in how much we have changed certain animals’ way of life. Sheep, for example, have now been domesticated and need to be sheared once a year for them to stay healthy.
This dependence on human practice is a cruel result of human beings using sheep for our own benefit.
Vegan Alternatives To Common Animal Products
There are Good and Bad Alternatives let’s talk about them. There are so many cruelty-free and vegan alternatives out there for animal-based clothing.
However, just because it is vegan does not mean it is ethical, nor does it mean cruelty-free.
Not all of the available vegan fashion alternatives are plant-based, and even plant-based alternatives aren’t always sustainable and ethical (case in point, cotton).
Choosing the right vegan clothing also means considering if the brand operates with fair-trade practices, if they’re a brand that uses recycled materials in creating sustainable clothing, and much more.
It is always worth looking at the larger picture. Some of the vegan alternatives we will talk about aren’t sustainable, ethical, and generally not good for you.
Simply saying that something is vegan because it is cruelty-free is not enough.
The best alternatives in vegan fashion are those that are produced under ethical working conditions and with the least environmental impact.
Remember, ethical vegan fashion goes so much further than just animal-free or cruelty-free.
Leather is one of the most prevalent animal-based materials in the fashion industry.
The material is made from the skins of various animals, from cows and goats to exotic skins of alligators and snakes.
We see leather in bags, watches, shoes, and more. But as we’ve mentioned before, leather production is a process that requires many toxic chemicals and dyes, which makes it an incredibly harmful process.
Cyanide and formaldehyde are just two examples of chemicals used in leather production. Knowing that, animal leather quickly becomes less appealing.
Fortunately, countless brands are now moving towards creating pieces made from vegan leather.
Plant-based Vegan Alternatives to Leather
Without a doubt, the best alternative to leather is plant-based.
One excellent example of vegan leather is pineapple leather. Pinatex is an innovative vegan leather alternative invented by Dr. Carmen Hijosa from the company Ananas Anam Ltd.
It comes from the leaf by-products of pineapple harvests, which is an added plus because it takes care of food waste.
A focus of the company is a closed-loop system where what they produce is sustainable and doesn’t contribute to more waste.
The best thing about the company is that they provide a commercial opportunity for rural farmers and indigenous people in the Philippines, where they source most of the raw material.
Other vegan leather alternatives include mushroom leather and apple leather. The latter made out of apple scraps. These vegan leather alternatives are eco friendly and contribute less environmental impact.
Other Vegan Alternatives to Leather
Other common but far inferior, alternatives to leather are PU (Polyurethane) leather and PVC (Polyvinyl chloride) leather. Both of these materials are vegan leather. But are they eco friendly?
Absolutely not. Since both of these materials are plastic, they add a considerable amount of waste to our ever-growing pile.
Not only that, PVC and PU leather is not very high quality, which means more waste as you keep replacing your items.
Their production is also chemical-intensive, which makes them even more environmentally unethical.
The worst thing about PVC is that the chemicals used in the production process tend to leak out throughout its life.
Most of us recognize the unique smell that comes from plastics, which means we inhale the chemicals that are off-gassing constantly.
The problem is that PU and PVC are cheap vegan leather options. Many of the more affordable clothing brands use PU and PVC as their vegan leather options.
Therefore, try to avoid as much as possible PVC and PU leather items. Many fashion brands choose to use because they are cheap and easily accessible.
But by using them, you are having a negative impact on your health and the environment.
Another one of the more popular animal-based materials is wool. Wool often comes from sheep but could also come from different animals.
Cashmere(you can find out if cashmere is vegan here) and mohair from goat and angora from rabbits are a few examples.
When we think of wool, we don’t really think of animals dying, and thus, people think that it isn’t a harmful material.
After all, the sheep just get a haircut, don’t they? The reality is much harder to spell out than just a simple yes or no.
Regardless of whether or not the animal dies, animal cruelty is often in place in these animal farms.
Even if they don’t die, many of these animals are subject to unethical practices that don’t align with a vegan way of life.
Vegan Alternatives to Wool
Cotton is a very popular alternative to wool. But conventional cotton is one particular case where a plant alternative may not be the best choice outright.
As previously mentioned, cotton production can be very chemical-intensive and takes up a lot of resources, most notably water.
But cotton is still much better than wool. Try to find fair-trade cotton if you can.
The next question would be if organic cotton is a better choice or not. But it’s difficult to answer that question.
Even organic cotton takes up a lot of resources to produce, and the overall production process may still not be so eco friendly. Despite that, organic cotton remains a viable option.
Tencel is another alternative to wool. It is comfortable, breathable, and, best of all, sourced ethically and responsibly.
It is made from wood pulp, so you are assured that it is vegan friendly.
Plus, the brand prides itself on how they use eco friendly production methods. Tencel is also a high-quality fabric and is more durable than cotton.
There are also synthetic alternatives to wool, such as acrylic, but we would advise against these. Yes, they are cheaper.
Yes, apparel made of acrylic is vegan clothing. But, these synthetic alternatives are plastic and are terrible for the environment.
And lastly, we have fur. We’ve made plenty of improvements on fur use. Today, most of us consider wearing fur as tacky and outdated—a big step from how the fashion industry used to view fur.
Fur derived from the skin of rabbits, foxes, and minks is the most common, but it could also come from other animals such as chinchillas and lynxes.
The problem with fur is that it’s a luxury product, which makes it entirely unnecessary.
People used to consider wearing fur as a status symbol, but the material is increasingly going out of fashion.
Fortunately, luxury and a vegan lifestyle aren’t mutually exclusive. There are many fashion brands that produce luxury vegan clothing.
Vegan Alternatives to Fur
A vegan alternative to fur is faux fur, which is synthetic and made up of polymers (plastics). As such, it isn’t the best alternative.
If you really need some fur in your life for some reason, then stick to faux fur as it’s less harmful than animal fur.
Looking for Vegan Certification
Unfortunately, some clothing brands just use the vegan label to attract a certain niche of customers.
Sometimes, brands indicate that their products are vegan friendly yet lack the necessary certification to back that(something Puratium always takes a look at when we research brands).
Make sure to check if what you’re buying is certified vegan. There are a couple of vegan-certified symbols available, but the most popular one is the PETA-approved mark for clothing and accessories.
It provides consumers with a way to check if the items they want to buy are vegan without going through every single material used in the process.
It is different from the PETA-approved symbol of a bunny indicating that it is both cruelty-free and vegan.
The Issue With PETA
Now, there are many issues with PETA and its treatment of animals.
The group has faced some serious criticism from individuals and other animal rights organizations. There have also been issues on the credibility of PETA in certifying products as vegan and cruelty-free.
For example, PETA doesn’t periodically perform audits on the brands they give the PETA-approved certification to ensure that they still meet the cut for certification.
If you do, however, find yourself in a situation where there’s no other certification but the PETA-approved one, try to do a quick search on the brand.
Note that this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t trust fashion brands that use the PETA symbol or that you should be immediately skeptical of brands that do so. We are just encouraging a more thoughtful consumption process.
There are other vegan certifications, such as those issued by the Vegan Society and Vegan Action.
Be sure to check if the items are cruelty-free, as vegan items are not always cruelty-free.
Sometimes, there are products that contain no animals but have been tested and tried on animals, making them not cruelty-free.
This particular instance isn’t very applicable to fashion as there’s little point in testing apparel on animals, but it’s still worth looking into.
Vegan Clothing Brands
There are many vegan and cruelty-free clothing brands available today. As the movement is growing larger, more and more fashion brands are choosing to become more eco-friendly, cruelty-free, and vegan in their approach to fashion.
Here are some of our top picks.
This clothing brand focuses on creating clothing suited for the female body. Sisterhood uses entirely vegan materials and is cruelty-free.
Apart from that, they are also eco friendly with packaging made from recycled materials. Currently, the brand has the goal of using 100% sustainable fabrics in its clothing lines.
Operating since 2005, Expressions NYC is a New York City-based eco friendly, and PETA-approved vegan brand. They create luxury vegan bags that are made with the goal of ethically sourced and sustainable luxury.
Each of their designs is created in New York and named after the streets and avenues of the city.
They have chic backpacks made from vegan leather, cute fanny packs and belt bags, and they even have faux fur tote bags created from recycled plastic!
Since the brand’s goal is to promote a circular economy, they put extra effort into ensuring that they use sustainable materials.
By using recycled plastic bottles in their bags, they have prevented over 1 million plastic bottles from ending up in landfills.
Hiraeth is an animal-friendly, cruelty-free fashion brand that uses vegan materials to make its high-quality clothes.
They are a Los Angeles-based clothing brand, but their products can be found in New York, San Francisco, and even Singapore.
They produce high-quality vegan clothes made from alternative fabrics sourced from Italy, France, Japan, and the UK.
All of their designs are made individually in downtown Los Angeles, with fashion and ethics in mind.
BC (Born in California) Footwear is based in Los Angeles. They are a vegan shoe brand with collections that embody LA culture and street style.
This vegan brand is completely cruelty-free and is PETA-approved vegan. Their vegan shoes are high-quality and made of cruelty-free materials. Even the glue they use for their shoes is vegan.
The shoes are made (fair-trade) in China, where they visit their factory periodically to ensure that the workers are under excellent conditions.
BC footwear is also eco friendly and uses sustainable materials in creating their vegan shoes.
Insecta shoes is a sustainable fashion shoe brand that produces vegan shoes upcycled from vintage clothing. They also use recycled cotton, recycled PET bottles, and recycled cardboard in their production.
The brand is PETA-approved vegan and is a B-certified company.
They are vegan, ethical, sustainable, cruelty-free, and they focus on creating a positive impact with their use of upcycled and recycled materials.
Unfortunately, they have now chosen to focus their brand in Brazil, but they have plans of operating worldwide again in the near future.
Vegan Fast Fashion
It is worth mentioning that many fast fashion brands such as H&M and ZARA also offer cruelty-free, animal-friendly, and vegan clothing options.
After all, vegan leather and other vegan alternatives are now commonplace.
However, fast fashion is an insidious issue that isn’t the best option if you want to follow a more ethical, sustainable, and conscious lifestyle.
Many fast fashion brands do not use sustainable materials not fo they operate in ethical conditions.
Yes, you may find animal-friendly clothing in these stores, but can we truly say that they’re cruelty-free if they subject their workers to unethical conditions?
If you are looking for affordable vegan clothing, look into second-hand clothes shopping as it is by far the more sustainable option.
We hope this article gave you a good look at what vegan fashion really is and how you can apply it. If you have any questions please do not hesitate to let us know.