In comparison with a decade ago, the information and knowledge surrounding vegan food has intensified. There are social media sites dedicated to it, books heavily promoting it, and celebrities waxing lyrical on the virtues and beneficial effects of cutting out all meat products. And from this, yet another trend has emerged, with more and more of us adding it to our wardrobes; Vegan Fashion.
In the past, synthetic leather and faux fur were the only options when your first choice of real leather and fur was out of your price range. Today, these choices; clothing marketed as free from any animal products; have become a major selling point within the industry.
For many years now, fashion designer Stella McCartney has been a strong advocate of vegan clothing; refusing to use leather and fur; marking it out as her USP. This summer, LVMH, France’s largest luxury group, signed a deal with McCartney as part of a push towards more sustainable fashion within the industry, demonstrating how important this has become to the luxury market. Last year, a PETA investigation into the creation of fabric from angora goats in South Africa uncovered some horrific evidence. High Street giants Zara, H&M, Topshop and Gap all pledged to ban the fabric from being used for their products. Where once this seemed like another perk for the richer classes, more affordable brands are following their consciences around animal welfare.
And not before time…
Sustainability has been the byword of 2019, and vegan fashion feeds into this. Currently, almost three-fifths of all clothing ends up in incinerators or landfills within a year of being produced, and less than one percent of materials used to create clothing are recycled. The cruelty against animals debate is becoming more important to people and gaining more column inches. A lot of commercial fur comes from China, where it can be produced very cheaply, at the expense of the animal’s welfare. An undercover investigation by Swiss Animal Protection/EAST International discovered that there were many cases of animals still being alive while they were being skinned. And an investigation by Sky News, in 2017, found that some supposedly fake fur products, such as gloves, at leading retailers, did contain real fur.
There are, however, many factors that go into the production of vegan clothing, so it’s wise to be wary of just how sustainable all vegan clothing is. Just because your clothing is animal free, does not necessarily make it environmentally friendly. Synthetic fabrics shed microfibers into the water system which can cause further damage to the environment. If your buying cotton, choose organic cotton since its production is far less damaging to the environment. From the biodegradability of the clothes to the working conditions of the people producing them, there are so many aspects for us, as consumers, to consider, in order to determine how much of it is, in fact, truly sustainable.
However, there is a way to determine if the vegan clothing your buying really can be classed as vegan. PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) developed a “PETA-Approved Vegan” logo as a way of recognising progressive businesses that are selling products which are genuinely 100% vegan. Doc Martens vegan DMs were launched back in 2011, with vegan boots representing 4% of all pairs sold. Whilst Burton, Dorothy Perkins and Topshop are all part of the “PETA-Approved Vegan” programme in Europe, having signed a statement of assurance verifying that the relevant products are vegan.
Whilst these are all positive steps, according to the Global Fashion Agenda, roughly half of the industry still hasn’t taken any action on sustainability. As consumers, making the effort to shop more sustainably, buying vegan and organic, sends a clear message to retailers, which hopefully will result in further positive changes across the fashion industry.
Ultimately, although the fashion industry is beginning to invest more and more in vegan fashion, the prime message will resolutely be to buy less. Whilst making efforts to be sure that what you do buy causes as little harm as possible to animals and their environment.
About Our Author: Katie Calvert's background is in fashion and textiles with a first class honours degree in Fashion Communication and Promotion and experience in trend, PR and events. She decided to take the plunge back into education in 2015 to complete a Master of Arts in Multimedia Journalism. Using these newfound skills and her love of fashion and culture, Katie has been freelance writing for over a year.