Between 2014 and 2019, the number of vegans in the UK alone quadrupled. This lifestyle change to a plant-based diet has not only impacted the food industry, but fashion too as consumers look to adjust their shopping habits in all areas. It only really applies to leather, wool, suede (and so on…) goods but the rise of conscious consumers means that “vegan” has been incorporated into the fashion glossary and alternatives to animal-derived materials are on the rise. So really, vegan fashion isn’t too different from non-vegan fashion, as a standard pair of jeans don’t contain any animal substances, it’s more about keeping an eye out for any garments that aren’t so cruelty-free.
Vegan fashion is undoubtedly a good thing, as it’s decreasing our dependency on animals in an industry that has been found guilty of severe cruelty. The lack of transparency and traceability in many supply chains means that fur and leather production, for example, is very unregulated in some countries, as well as abuse of power over the labourers too. But, a rapidly growing number of companies, fashion weeks and fashion houses are banning real fur from their shop floors which is being matched by declining fur and exotic skin demand too.
You don’t have to be vegan to participate in cruelty-free, considerate shopping which is quickly becoming the norm for many. Plus, real leather, silk and wool items can be on the pricey side, so it’s a good swap for those shopping with budget in mind. It just makes sense if you care about the environment too, as cattle farming uses a great deal of land, namely replacing parts of the Amazon rainforest at an alarming rate.
But aren’t synthetic materials technically just as harmful to the planet? Well… yes, to an extent. But vegans know this! And luckily some clever people are developing alternatives to silk, wool and leather so plant-based people don’t have to forgo any trends or styles.
Apples, mushrooms and wine grapes all have the capability to mimic leather with H&M using the latter to craft handbags and shoes in the naturally-occurring deep purple tones from the fruit. “Peace silk” and spider silk seem like more humane methods of obtaining the luxurious fabric, but many die-hard vegans would counteract that these are still animal-derived materials. But fear not, it turns out that silk can now be made from the cellulose found in the by-products of citrus fruit or even grown in a laboratory requiring the most basic of ingredients. Tencel or Lyocell is a fabric obtained from wood cellulose and makes a great replacement for wool. It is truly amazing how much the fashion industry has progressed past the dependency on animal-derived materials.
So, in a nutshell, vegan fashion is incorporating novel and innovative techniques to reduce unnecessary cruelty and create a more sustainable future, and as it turns out can benefit your conscience, carbon footprint and increasingly, your budget!