You may have heard about the toll that raising animals for food is taking on our environment by now.
But what about animal-derived clothing and accessories? These inspiring fashion brands know that leather, fur, exotic skins, and other animal-derived materials contribute to a multifaceted environmental crisis, so they’re making responsible choices by creating their fashionable wares with recycled, cruelty-free, and sustainable materials.
The vegan fashion revolution will continue influencing designers as they see the beautiful possibilities of recycled plastic bottles, cork, wood, industrial waste, rubber, and other materials. Mark our words: Ethical, eco-conscious fashion is the future wave.
It’s a month that calls our attention to all the ways we can help preserve the environment, such as going paperless, cutting down our use of plastic, or switching to eco-friendly products.
After all, wouldn’t it be nice if the clear skies we see now that the world is in one form of lockdown or another were a fixture in our daily lives?
As it happens, now is also the perfect time to rethink our shopping habits. You might have ditched fast fashion for sustainable alternatives, and maybe you’ve recently been initiated into the world of vintage and pre-loved fashion. But have you considered vegan fashion?
Like the diet, vegan fashion champions practices and products that do not involve animals. Vegan Fashion Week, inaugurated last year, gives us a better picture: clothes made from ethical — and often innovative — materials, such as pineapple-leaf leather and other fruit fibres. In other words, no animals were harmed in making these garments.
While VFW is relatively niche, vegan fashion itself may soon become the norm. Many luxury brands (including Burberry, Prada and Chanel) have already sworn off fur, leather and exotic skins. Just last month, Hugo Boss added a “PETA-approved” suit to its many vegan offerings, while Stella McCartney, queen of eco-conscious fashion, drove home her message of animal welfare with the furry mascots that walked her Fall/Winter 2020
If you’re ready to go vegan, keep in mind that you don’t have to resort to wearing only fancy fabrics made from mushrooms and apples. Cotton, linen, hemp are all-natural, animal-friendly alternatives that are pretty common. You do, however, have to say goodbye to wool, cashmere and silk. Trust us. It’s easier once you’ve read up on how animals are mistreated for.
What Is Cruelty-Free Fashion?
“Cruelty-free fashion” is clothing made from materials that are safe for our environment and our bodies. It means wearing clothing made with natural fibres that are biodegradable or made with non-leather alternatives, such as bamboo. It means buying your clothes made of recycled materials that are sewn using low-waste techniques, that do not include water-intensive dyes, and that do not require animal skins, such as mink, rabbit, etc.
There are many brands out there that make cruelty-free apparel and accessories! Is fashion always cruelty-free? Unfortunately, not all clothing is cruelty-free, as so many items are made with products that come from animals. For example, some leather boots are made from skins of cows, and a few brands that sell leather jackets do so from rabbit skins.
If you’re going to eat meat, the decision is quite clear. But many people are not ready to cut out meat, dairy, and eggs from their diet (and some people might never be), so they look for alternatives to animal-derived materials. Products made from these materials can still be considered “cruelty-free.” However, they’re still not good for the environment. They are often significantly more expensive than animal-derived materials, which means that they’re out of reach of the vast majority of fashionistas.
The cruelty-free label is a choice you can make better for the environment and benefits people in need. Modern industries are notorious for using toxic and unhealthy ingredients, so cruelty-free fashion should be environmentally sustainable and not harmful materials.
Why Choose Cruelty-Free Fashion?
We live in a world where we get bombarded with the idea that our consumer choices are of the utmost importance. We’re supposed to feel guilt for choosing to purchase cheap, petroleum-derived foods and disposable clothing that may be worn only once. But what if we reframe the question to ask not “should I buy this product?” but “should I buy this product using this product?” If the answer is yes, the only choice is to avoid harming animals to create the product.
Vegan fashion has come a long way from yoga pants and bonobos. But brands that exclude animal-derived materials are still scarce. And there are many reasons for this. Most importantly, if your industry decides to go one way or another on this issue, the next thing you know, you’re undercutting your customer base by producing things that someone else doesn’t want. Who wants to be the thing people can’t buy from? And this applies to more than just clothing. For a brand to exist, they will need to have their goods in stores and on shelves.
When Can We Call Fashion “Cruelty-Free?”
The ethics and morality of animal-based food consumption are also under a national spotlight in the U.S., as several states have recently adopted laws restricting the use of meat-based labelling. Consumers, corporations, and governments have largely failed to reduce our collective environmental footprint. In addition to animal products, the industry contributes significantly to pollution and greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) through toxic waste, sewage treatment, and transportation.
Concern for animal welfare is rising throughout the fashion industry. Widespread support from celebrities like Leonardo DiCaprio and political and economic movements like the Slow Fashion movement and PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) have highlighted the relationship between the fashion industry and animal abuse.
Some retailers, like H&M and Topshop, have publicly committed to phasing out fur, leather, and wool from their product lines in response to these movements. Because the fashion industry creates three times as much waste as the rest of the globe's industry combined, the trend towards reducing environmental impacts and choosing more sustainable materials will be adopted by many other major brands, including Urban Outfitters and Anthropologie.
Why Is Cruelty-Free Fashion Important?
Our Planet is on the edge of a very nasty ecological crisis. Every year, billions of acres of forests and other natural habitats are destroyed to create fodder for ranchers, feed animals, and clothing for people, increasing the demand for meat and other animal products. And, sadly, some of the fashion brands we like to buy can actually contribute to this. One fashion brand making it its mission to make responsible choices is the eco-friendly fashion brand, Everlane.
The company’s tagline is “We make fashion that doesn’t hurt the environment,” and they believe that “If we are going to have animals, we should kill them humanely.” To this end, Everlane sources 100% natural materials, including cotton, organic textiles, and recycled polyester, from ecologically responsible sources.
Some people may believe that “cruelty-free” means your garment has to come without animal parts like skin, hair, or feathers. But that’s not true. Some leading cruelty-free fashion companies incorporate animal parts to make their products more beautiful and fashionable, such as collarbones, coats made of rabbit fur, and feathers.
In addition, some clothing companies include metallic and precious stones into their products, and they’re working hard to make them even more environmentally sustainable. Making sustainable fashion and style choices can bring you to your more animal-friendly and compassionate self, but choosing to dress a sustainable, cruelty-free life isn’t easy. Fortunately, there are many ways to do it.
Animal-derived materials like leather and fur are not biodegradable and are major contributors to climate change. Animal fur is also commonly used in construction materials that damage the planet’s ecosystems. Animal skin products are also carcinogenic, and over 18 million animals are killed each year to make your favourite leather products. Animal-derived materials contribute to a multifaceted environmental crisis. Some fashion companies are going above and beyond to create comfortable, fashionable, and eco-friendly clothing.
Humans have been adding animal products to the products we use since the dawn of time. Of course, most of those decisions were made in good faith in the context of their natural, sustainable, or traditional use. For example, we often eat mushrooms because we love the taste or cherish their unique shape and texture.
Just a few centuries ago, we recognized the harmful impact of consuming animals is our sole source of protein and opted for vegetarian alternatives. However, the reality is that we’ve been taking advantage of animal hides and skin as far back as the ancient Egyptians. By making leather and other skins into boots and shoes, we rendered their natural use of skins as a protective, insulating layer of insulation practically obsolete.
Cruelty-Free Fashion Brands
Doyle is a label inspired by a desire to create beauty, strength, and joy. They use only the best quality fabrics, carefully choose who makes their products, and believe that our oceans and ecosystems are interconnected. Doyle sources their fabrics exclusively from conscientious, ethical, and responsible producers.
From brightly coloured sustainable, plant-based viscose to strong, luxurious 100 percent recycled leather, each of their products is an artful representation of its creator’s mission. Zenbu’s colourful pieces express various expressions and trends while simultaneously feeling both classic and modern. Their collection of minimalist, modern, and always flattering accessories is created using eco-friendly and animal-friendly materials.
Earth’s End Leather
On a quest to make an ethical pair of leather boots, 22-year-old Ingrid Mock realized that you have to have your product engineered to be resistant to holes when you craft boots for the sustainable market. So she created Ecoluxe, an innovative boot with an environmentally friendly outer layer, a recycled cotton inner lining, a highly abrasion-resistant sole, and an inner polyurethane layer to protect the boot’s shape.
The luxe French label’s leather goods and small leather goods are eco-conscious and cruelty-free. The company also manufactures jewelry and throws made of natural materials.
Communion is a line of jewelry created in the U.S. with high-quality jewelry-making skills.
Alpaca & Wool Clothing
Alpaca & Wool is a vegan clothing brand founded on the principle of “love for the planet, love for animals, and love for yourself.” Its collections are all made using organic alpaca wool. In addition to clothing, Alpaca & Wool produces accessories, home goods, and wall décor using recycled and organic materials. For a limited time, the company is donating 10 percent of sales to two organizations dedicated to protecting the alpaca: the Cosecha alpaca sanctuary in South Africa and Guia de Vida alpaca sanctuary in Argentina.
Founded by denim enthusiasts Aaron Wolf, Ryan Wolf, and Corey Gunter, Asymmetrical Leather was born of their passion for denim, sustainable fashion, and promoting a more positive consumer mindset.
The Environmental And Ethical Benefits Of Vegan And Cruelty-Free Fashion
Not only are these ethical and environmentally-friendly fashion brands on a mission to eliminate animal-derived materials, but they’re also making a bold move to ensure that all their shoppers are wearing fashionable garments made of ethically-sourced, certified sustainable materials.
As a responsible brand, Birders & Bunnies strives to make sure that we’re all wearing clothing that’s made using safe, non-toxic materials. “Our goal is to offer truly stylish, luxury fashion while providing a beautiful selection of leather, fur, and exotic skins-free leather, fur, and exotic skins.” – Birders & Bunnies Even brands that don’t guarantee that all their products are vegan-friendly use ingredients and fabrics that minimize animal-derived materials.
Using upholstery or recycled fabric from old clothes, vintage carpets, or other discarded materials instead of leather, faux fur, and other animal-derived material makes upholstery and floor covering as environmentally and ethically sustainable as possible.
But choosing vegan and cruelty-free material for clothing and accessories doesn’t mean the material is made from plant-based products like linen, cotton, and hemp. Instead, these vegan fashion labels use alternative materials like vegan leather, faux fur, and feathers to create gorgeous vegan styles that have a sweet, eye-catching, and luxurious feel. Plus, it saves animals from painful abuse.
Buying vegan clothing supports animal sanctuaries and grass-fed, free-range animals. Clothing from cruelty-free brands has zero animal-derived ingredients, leaving animal skin, feathers, and fur off the catwalk and out of the store. Vegan and cruelty-free fashion keep goods out of landfills, which are becoming over-populated with clothing.
Consumers are becoming more aware of their purchasing decisions' impact on the world and are therefore choosing to opt for environmentally friendly and sustainable products. There’s no denying the impact that synthetic and leather products have on the planet. By 2050, animal hides will only account for approximately 10% of global leather demand, according to a 2011 report from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation.
The Impact of Animal Clothing and Accessories On Our Environment
For years, environmentalists have stressed the harm that animal-derived materials like leather, fur, and other textiles have on the environment. But the effects aren’t just in the raw materials used to create these items; animal-derived materials are also created through manufacturing, the transportation of materials and finished goods, and waste production.
The cruelty that animals endure in their day-to-day lives, the prolonged and painful deaths, and the destruction of endangered habitats and habitat destruction can be so horrendous that many people choose not to support the industries responsible for these practices. In fact, there are several major fashion brands and retailers who have stopped selling fur.
Roughly 25% of the average American’s carbon footprint is due to material consumption. Nearly one-fourth of the animals slaughtered in the U.S. for food are slaughtered for clothing, skinning each one to make it into a purse or give it life. An average retail item of $46 would also take around 15,000 gallons of water to grow, harvest, tan, and manufacture, an absurd amount to waste.
Additionally, 65% of the world’s oil consumption and 66% of its freshwater is needed to produce animal-derived materials, such as leather and silk. To recycle 1 kg of polyester takes more than 1650 litres of water, representing a loss of 600 litres per kilogram of recycled material. Up to 40% of leather is produced for fashion by painful grinding and abrasion of the hide.
Can’t go vegan without wearing stylish clothes? Most cruelty-free clothing brands are also vegan and have some of the best vegan and eco-friendly collections on the market today. Most vegan fashion brands are also cruelty-free and have some of the best vegan and eco-friendly collections on the market today.
They employ a variety of eco-friendly and cruelty-free means of producing their clothing and accessories, and even their packaging is recyclable. They’re also in the process of building their eco-credibility through social responsibility programs and donations to local shelters.
Sustainably made from recycled materials and high-quality fabrics, these petite vegan models and designers challenge mainstream fashion to do better.
Boo, started in the back of a candle factory in 1999, became one of the first vegan fashion labels to focus on high-quality clothes made with recycled fabrics. Each piece is ethically made in the United States, with vegan, natural fabrics and a cruelty-free pattern.
Kickstarter-funded by businesswoman Cassie Reid, Squatterbox takes the “stuffed animal” aesthetic one step further, manufacturing vintage-style purses and clutches out of reclaimed wool-and-cotton materials, including vintage suitcases, leather wallets, and the like.
You don’t have to wear the colours black and white to be ethical in fashion. Consistently choosing vegan or cruelty-free clothing ensures that your closets are being cared for so that you can feel confident every day. The different vegan labels below offer more than just tasteful silhouettes. All of them are made from recycled, organic materials, offer natural fabrics such as cotton, silk, and wool, and use renewable energy to power their factories.
Revolve is leading the way by making cruelty-free fashion a top priority. The young e-tailer recently launched a sustainable footwear line made from regenerated plastic bottles and a non-leather jacket made from water bottles that reduce plastic footprint by 60% and recycled textiles in their streetwear collections.
Halo Women’s, a leader in ethical fashion since 1978, produces one of the top fashion brands dedicated to animal rights. They’re headquartered in Seattle, where they design clothing and accessories using ethically sourced fabrics, and they exclusively design moto jackets and boots with fair trade cotton.
Their products are made from cotton from family farms where they treat the employees humanely, like the Old Order Mennonite cotton farm. Their clothing and accessories are ethically produced and traceable. Their selection of environmentally sustainable fabrics also gives animal lovers comfort with confidence. Halo’s fabrics are designed to withstand the harsh climate and are made from recycled, recyclable materials.
A human rights scandal in Indonesia has shined a spotlight on the slaughter of thousands of exotic birds in Tai O, Hong Kong, for their feathers, wings, and gonads—as well as thousands of caged birds of paradise (the inspiration for Kylie Jenner’s buzzed-about Kylie Jenner Shop Collection) for their leather.
The practice is part of a complex black-market trade involving high-end retailers that also supply high-end leather. These unethical, unacceptable practices ultimately rob us of the cultural significance of these beautiful feathers, and they are also inhumane to the birds and the people who work with them.
If you don’t wear leather, fur, silk, wool, or leather accessories, you’re missing out on incredible styles and supporting an unjust and immoral industry. So go ahead and cross those items off your shopping list and start looking for cruelty-free alternatives to make your closet smarter, kinder, and greener.
There are lots of sustainable shopping options in the wild and exotic animals department. With so many impressive animal-friendly companies emerging, it’s not the stuffy, outdated fashions of yesteryear that can be found in shops everywhere. But if you want to see if a particular one might suit you, it’s well worth checking out their ethical credentials before diving in.
Animal welfare and sustainability can be tricky and demanding issues, but it’s no easier without a conscious and compassionate fashion option to look forward to. And hey, we aren’t trying to change your choices just because they’re on a sustainable path. Those are your choices to make.
I trust you enjoyed reading the article about Cruelty-Free Fashion! Please stay tuned. There are more blog posts to come very shortly.
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Ideas? Thoughts? Questions? I would love to hear from you. Would you please leave me your questions, experience, and remarks about Cruelty-Free Fashion in the comments section below? You can also reach me by email at Jeannette@LivingTheVeganLifestyle.org.