Despite the current rise in vegan living, discussing vegan fashion still gets a few raised eyebrows. “What do you mean, vegan fashion? Aren’t all shoes leather?” and “but there isn’t any meat in clothes” are only a few of the more bizarre reactions I’ve gotten as founder of this magazine. As I’ve gone about planning articles, interviewing people and investigating brands, I’ve come to a conclusion: people have quite a few misconceptions about vegan style. Mainly due to the fact that the term vegan is still primarily connected to food, the misconceptions around vegans and fashion live on – but designers, bloggers and other compassionate style lovers are doing their best to dispel the myths.
Myth: Vegans all look, dress and smell like hippies.
Truth: Vegan fashionistas are just as stylish as your average Fashion Week-goer.
As I write this, I am wearing a Diesel Black Gold dress, the Zara version of Chloe’s Susanna boots and my favourite (carmine-free) red lipstick. I smell of The Body Shop’s Vanilla Mist. No incense, no dreadlocks. Not all vegans are made equal and most of the Vilda team looks (and smells, I guess) more like me than the stereotypical unshaved, unshowered, Birkenstock-wearing Standard Vegan (who’s got more than a few things in common with the stereotypical Standard Feminist: neither is the only, or even the most frequent, version of the lifestyle). I’m not sure that Birkenstock vegan even exists – I’ve never met a person like this. Nowadays, vegans look and dress more along the lines of the super-chic Justine Siegler (above) of the blog Justine Kept Calm and Went Vegan, who has given style tips to Vilda readers here.
Myth: Vegans don’t know fashion.
Truth: Compassionate consumers are rapidly becoming experts.
Conscious new style bloggers like Duckalicious and Roxie Hsieh is proof that vegans are a fashion industry force. We know brands, we care about style, we are inspired by trends. And we know how to dress – founder of Freedom of Animals, the impeccably dressed fashionista Morgan Bogle is another good example of the style-conscious vegan. She is often spotted on the streets rocking a sleek, urban-minimalist outfit that is the envy of streetstyle addicts everywhere.
Truth: Cruelty-free shoes can pack longevity.
Aside from the fact that I’ve personally had lots of leather shoes that fell apart just as quickly as their cheaper faux counterparts, there are plenty of vegan designers that make quality footwear. Stella McCartney is the first one that comes to mind (let’s discuss these starry Elyses!) but check out Beyond Skin (pictured above), Cri de Coeur and OlsenHaus for compassion and quality. Beyond Skin craft the insoles of their shoes from 70% post-consumer cardboard, and their soles from 70% recycled resin, making them the chic, planet-conscious choice.
Myth: Vegan bags are all cheap plastic.
Once again, Stella McCartney proves ’em wrong on this one (I love how she does that every time) with the first vegan accessory to ever qualify as an It bag, but we’ve also got Freedom of Animals (who recently collaborated with actress Nikki Reed on a sustainable capsule collection of sleek, versatile bags) and Angela + Roi to rival leather bags as durable, reliable and chic accessories. Angela+Roi recently teamed up with the ASPCA for an animal-friendly collab: a portion of A+R’s sales will go to the ASPCA to help mistreated animals and “convey that fashion doesn’t depend on cruelty” – a message worth repeating. Check Angela + Roi’s super-chic collection to find your ideal work bag.
Myth: It’s impossible to make quality coats and knitwear with no wool.
Truth: Have you ever heard of Vaute?
NYC designer Leanne Mai-ly Hilgart’s brand Vaute Couture was the first designer to show at New York Fashion Week, showcasing gorgeous vegan fashions on the runway. The high-tech, waterproof coats and chunky, cosy knits are made locally in NYC and organic, recycled fibres often take centre stage (incorporating fibres from plastic bottles pulled out of Italian rivers are just one innovative technique that Vaute uses to make their fashion planet-friendly).
Times are truly changing – and fashion is changing with them. Through new technologies, groundbreaking techniques (such as lab-grown leather) and the compassionate actions of consumers who no longer want to wear animals, compassionate fashion is earning its rightful place on the runways and in our wardrobes.
A version of this article was previously published on Coffee and Heels.