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One of the questions I frequently receive is, “How can fashion be vegan? You don’t eat clothing, do you?”
Just to clarify: no, I definitely do not eat clothing (glad we could clear that up!). But I do wear it, and what we wear has as much to do with veganism as what we eat.
The Vegan Society defines veganism as a way of living which seeks to exclude, as far as is possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing, or any other purpose.
While vegan fashion may seem like a new concept, it’s actually one of the oldest fashion options around. In fact, you probably wear vegan textiles every day! Cotton, linen, hemp, metal …. these have been staples of the fashion industry for as long as there has been a fashion industry, and this month I’m highlighting some obvious and not-so-obvious vegan material option that you can add to your wardrobe to help make vegan fashion the easy – and of course fashionable – choice.
Vegan leather may look like animal leather, but it has only 1/3 of the environmental impact of cow leather (yep, even the kind made from plastic!). It’s one of the most innovative areas of fashion right now, with leather alternatives ranging from recycled ketchup bottles to leftover pineapple leaves.
While this sparkly party favorite (or everyday favorite, for those with a more exciting life) was at one time made with gelatin, these days, sequins are vegan and made with plastics or metals (and now won’t melt off!).
Take the good vibes with you when you adorn with gemstones, crystals, and other pretty rocks. A favorite for jewelry, these minerals can also be a gorgeous accent on shoes, bags, or other accessories.
It takes over 2,500 silkworms to make one yard of silk, which can mean thousands of insects die just to make one dress. And while not all of us may love bugs (raises hand), we still don’t have to harm them when there are innovative alternatives available. Vegan silks (made from a variety of synthetic fibers) can give the same look and feel as traditional silk, without the need to boil thousands of living beings alive.
While polyester gets a bad rep – and for a lot of good reasons – it’s also a wrinkle-free, shrinkage-free, recyclable fiber that is a common choice for those needing fashion solutions for travel, climate, and exercise. Polyester can also often be recycled for a reduced environmental impact.
Rings, bracelets, zippers, eyelets – a surprising amount of metal can end up in your outfit, and fortunately, it’s an easy way to accentuate your vegan look. A touch of metal can add edge and attitude to an otherwise demure ensemble.
When it comes to making fabric decisions, there aren’t always easy solutions. While nylon is not always very eco-friendly, it is vegan, and there are times and situations you may want to choose this infinitely recyclable fiber – and we’re not just talking about tights. Nylon is long lasting and therefore a good option when you plan to wear something for many years to come.
A vegan fashion favourite, cotton is a soft, breathable, fibre that can be found in styles from head to toe. And, if you want to be extra vegan about it, organic cotton is intimately kinder to the people and animals where it is grown – most conventional cotton comes from places like Uzbekistan, where cotton slavery is still rife, and extensive pesticide use is still prevalent. Fortunately, more and more brands are offering organic cotton options (and if you’d like to see even more, let your favorite designers know you’re interested!).