Because creating a vegan wardrobe is easy – but it doesn’t come overnight.
When you make the decision to switch to a compassionate vegan lifestyle, the first steps you take are likely to be all about what to eat (and what never to let into your fridge again). Overhauling your diet seems like a big step, but once it’s done, you’re often amazed at how easy it was. And then come the thoughts of the next step – how to you go about making your entire life cruelty-free? And, as clothes are such a constant part of our lives, a vegan wardrobe is often next.
Creating a cruelty-free wardrobe doesn’t have to mean throwing out every leather jacket and wool sweater you’ve ever owned – it can mean gradually replacing your items as they wear out, keeping your cruelty-free philosophy as close as you do your credit card while shopping. With these ten easy tips, you’ll be wondering why you didn’t do it sooner.
1. Donate your fur. Grandma left you her old fur coat? Clueless but well-meaning relatives presented you with an expensive gift? Believe it or not, old fur can be put to good use. PETA’s fur donation programme has helped animals in shelters get new bedding, kept homeless people warm on cold winter nights and even been sent to refugee camps. So don’t throw out your old pelt – donate it instead.
2. Learn about high-quality faux leather. All vegan leathers are not made equal. The key characteristics to look for when shopping for a better fake are texture (you want a little bit of grain and a matte surface – smooth and shiny are a quick giveaway for fake), weight (a good leather jacket is often a little bit heavier) and a good fit (step away from anything too tight). See Cornelia Guest’s capsule collection of jackets for the perfect example of high-quality vegan leather.
3. Phase things out. Don’t feel guilty for still having the odd pair of leather shoes in your wardrobe – most of us weren’t born or raised vegan, so you can hardly be blamed for going with what you were taught for the most part of your life. What you can do is do some research and make sure everything you buy from now on is cruelty-free. For more insight into what to do with your old non-vegan items, see this article.
4. Explore new brands. Creating a vegan wardrobe is the perfect excuse for hours and hours of online browsing to discover the sure-to-be-cult brands that will elevate your new, compassionate wardrobe to unexpected heights of stylishness. Some of our favourites include Sydney Brown for shoes, Freedom of Animals for bags, Animal Behavior for sleek, minimalist separates and Raw Apparel for vegan message sweatshirts and tees.
5. Learn about eco materials. Once again, not all vegan materials are the same. Just because it’s good for the animals, it (unfortunately) doesn’t mean it’s automatically better for the planet. BUT – it definitely can be. There are many natural materials, some upcycled, that are much better for the planet than animal-derived clothing. Leather is far from environmentally friendly – in fact, it can be a bit of a nightmare for the planet. Go for cork, canvas, recycled synthetics or even pineapple leather, instead. Curious? Click here.
6. Learn how to care for your new wardrobe. New materials mean new care rules. Little tricks that make it easier to care for non-animal materials: put Vaseline (or other petroleum jelly-based products) on your faux leather to keep it from cracking and washing wool-free knits in cold water. And did you know you could put your faux fur in the washing machine? As long as you don’t use the dryer.
7. Find out where to shop online. One beautiful discovery you will make when you start scouring the web for animal-friendly fashion is that ASOS has a filter that lets you search for non-leather items. Or that NET-A-PORTER is actually a fur-free retailer. And once you’re ready for some serious all-vegan shopping, ethical multi-brand retailers like LoveChild and Unicorn Goods offer plenty of beautiful cruelty-free clothing.
8. Learn to distinguish faux from the real deal. Yup, we’re talking label-reading again – but as a vegan, you’re probably already used to that! Sometimes things are unlabelled and sometimes labels aren’t very clear, so get used to doing some nosing around to find out if leather or fur are real or fake. Real fur often has leather/hide-like backing, whereas faux fur is sewn onto fabric. It’s also more tapered than faux fur, which is often the same length all over. Real leather is often more grainy than faux, and harder to pierce with a needle. Most shoes have labels on the outsole – a hide-shaped symbol for real, a diamond symbol for faux.
9. Lead by example. As vegans, we are constantly sending a message to others about our lifestyle. Whether we want to or not, we ARE the image of veganism to non-vegans that we come across. So make a habit out of dressing well and truly put your heart into expressing your personality through style. That way, you will help get rid of the clichéd image of the patchouli-scented, dreadlocked vegan and make way for a new, more chic image of veganism. And that’s what we all need.
10. Have fun. Never take fashion too seriously. As any creative endeavour, it’s meant to be fun.
Top photo by Chasity Nao for Vilda/Raw Apparel. Second photo by Brooke Cagle via Unsplash.