It has literally never been a better time to be an activist for animals. Veganism is growing at breakneck speed in most parts of the world, fashion brands are turning away from fur and sustainable innovation such as coconut wool is showing that the future of fashion is increasingly animal-free. It might seem like all this progress came overnight, but it’s actually the result of years and years of dedicated activists pushing for change. From PETA’s iconic I’d Rather Go Naked Than Wear Fur campaign and countless investigations into the cruelty of fur and leather done by tireless campaigners, to brands like VAUTE creating animal-free coats and pushing for vegan fashion since 2008 and Beyond Skin normalising the idea of animal-free shoes since 2001, compassionate people have been laying down the building blocks for long-lasting progress for a long time, and now it’s finally being fruitful.
Affecting change in the world takes time – but if many people come together to make small changes, it creates ripples on the water and paves the way for bigger moves that will make an impact. If you’re as impatient to see more change happen as we are, there is a lot that you can do – today – to promote the idea that animals are not here for us to wear or use.
Donate your old fur to PETA.
Inherited a fur coat from your grandma and don’t know what to do with it? Used to be a fur wearer and had a change of heart? Unwittingly bought a “fake” fur coat that turned out to be real? Fear not: PETA has something as cool as a fur donation programme! If you donate your fur, it will be used in educational displays, be donated to animal shelters and sanctuaries as bedding, or be given to refugees or homeless people. In any way, it will be put to much better use than being paraded on a catwalk or walked around the high street.
Give your wool knitwear to an animal shelter.
As we leave the hot weather behind (sob) and head into chillier days, animal shelters prepare for colder times and a greater need to protect their residents from the elements. Warm wool knitwear is one of the best options to do that – and if you’re horrified by the cruelty of wool, it might bring you a small satisfaction to see other animals benefit from the garment. While you can’t give the wool back to the sheep, you can help a lonely dog or cat stay warm this winter, and that, my friend, is priceless.
Sell your leather jacket and donate the profits to an animal organisation.
When people transition to a vegan lifestyle, leather jackets are often the last item left behind in their wardrobes, and many are pondering the options of what to do with them. If it’s made durably (and that’s a big “if” – my old leather jacket is worn out and full of holes, so the “leather always lasts longer” statement is a big, fat myth) then selling it on to someone else is a much better alternative than throwing it out. Textile waste is a huge problem in the fashion industry: in the US, approximately 15 million tonnes of textiles are wasted every year, and 300k tonnes were wasted in the UK alone in 2016. So don’t add your leather jacket to that mess, and sell it instead. Feeling unethical about profiting off dead animals’ skins? Include a line in your ad saying that you will donate the profits to animal protection organisation – and then do so!
Inform people about where their wool, leather, mohair and silk come from.
You’d be amazed at how many people believe that silk comes from plants and that wool is a “gentle haircut” for the sheep – and most don’t even know what mohair is. Share investigations and videos about where these fabrics come from and how they are produced. It only takes one video, and one person sharing it, to convince someone to give up these materials. Don’t stress or hassle people – just helpfully inform of the truth behind some commonly used materials.
Learn how to be sure that your fur and leather are faux.
The news that some real fur has been mislabelled as faux is of course alarming – but it also shows that today’s consumers want nothing to do with the cruelty and environmental destruction connected to real fur. If you want to be 100% certain that what you are buying is in fact faux, we’ve got some helpful tips here.
Leather is a bit easier to spot, as long as you know your symbols – our friend, blogger Vicky of Ethical Elephant shows you how to read the symbols on your shoes here.
Wear a “faux not fur” badge on your faux fur.
If you love your faux furs and leathers as much as we do, you might want to consider spreading the message that they are actually faux every time you wear them. This is a great way to show pretty much anyone you meet that it’s possible to obtain the look of fur or leather without harming the planet and taking animals’ lives. PETA launched a “No Fur” badge made by artist Emily Malice that would add a stylish touch to your faux furs – while spreading the compassionate message.
Support a small brand that’s dedicated to the cause.
While we’re all impressed with the ease with which you can obtain vegan fashion on the high street these days, it’s only possible because passionate fashion activists start small, independent fashion brands that are dedicated to spreading the message of vegan fashion. Supporting a smaller, possibly struggling business is not only incredibly helpful to an actual person as opposed to a big corporation – it also helps the cause of vegan fashion: if more people help these brands grow larger and stronger, they might take up a larger piece of the general market pie. They might end up showing at New York Fashion Week, like VAUTE did. They might end up being worn by stars like Natalie Portman, Kerry Washington and Jennifer Lawrence, like Beyond Skin and Jill Milan have. They might end up being sold by major retailers like ASOS, like Matt and Nat are. And all of this helps vegan fashion become mainstream.
Write to a brand that still sells fur and ask them to consider stopping.
Now, this requires some strategy. First of all, no shouting, ladies (and fashion-loving gentlemen). Rather than attacking the brand, tell them calmly and helpfully why they should stop selling fur, and inform them about all the other brands that already have. List the agonising acts that are done to animals for fur, and the ways the environment suffers for it. Let them know that Gucci, Versace and Michael Kors are all ahead of them in the game, and the fashion industry is so over fur that it’s practically last century. Also, without resorting to aggression – I understand the temptation here, but it’s just Not Helpful – let them know that you will be happy to shop with them again once they are fur-free, but not before then.
And as always, take pride in dressing with style and creativity. Find your style and love it – to lead by example and show that cruelty-free dressing has never been hotter than now and that it’s easy and effortless to get a killer look without taking anyone’s life. Good luck, you stylish activist.
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Photos by Brandon Kelly