What is vegan fashion?

What is vegan fashion? Why should you buy vegan accessories and clothing? Is vegan fashion sustainable at all?

Unfortunately, much of the clothing and handbags manufactured today contains materials derived from animals. With vegan fashion we show that it doesn't have to be like this.

As the number of vegans increases worldwide, vegan fashion is becoming more and more popular.

So whether you've recently turned vegan and don't know where to start or you're just interested in the fashion world in general, I'm sure you're going to learn something useful or interesting!

What is vegan fashion?

To understand vegan fashion, we must first understand veganism. Veganism is not just about plant-based eating. Veganism is a lifestyle that seeks to prevent animals from being harmed and exploited in all areas of life as far as possible and practicable. In addition to food, clothing and beauty products are the largest contributors to animal suffering.

Vegan fashion is a way to produce and buy clothing and accessories without exploiting animals. Vegan clothing and accessories are free from materials obtained from animals, such as fur, leather and wool. There is also no use of buttons, glues and other details that come from animal products.

Why choose vegan fashion?

There are many reasons to choose vegan fashion. The most common is because you don't want animals to suffer, especially if you have alternatives that are just as good or even better than their non-vegan counterparts.

The best and easiest thing you can do for our planet is to buy less animal products, so choose for vegan fashion!

You might also want to consider vegan clothing if you have skin concerns. Most non-vegan materials are heavily treated with chemicals. The most skin-friendly and natural materials are vegan.

Stop exploiting animals

Animals are sentient, living beings that are not here for us to use. They are NOT machines!

We have no right to kill and/or harm them for leather, fur, wool, silk, etc.

It's not okay to kill someone for a pair of shoes, nor to lock someone up for life in a small and crowded place to make sweaters for you.

99% of the people are animal lovers, probably you are too. You probably wouldn't support cruelty to animals with your money if you had seen it happen with your own eyes.

Varken achter hek

Environmental benefits of vegan fashion

Raising cows for leather, sheep for wool and small mammals for fur has a very detrimental effect on the environment. They are responsible for greenhouse gas emissions, deforestation, soil degradation, water pollution and more.

Some vegan materials such as cotton can also be very toxic, but they are still more environmentally friendly than those that come from animals, especially when consumed consciously.

You could say that leather is just a byproduct of the meat industry, so it actually reduces waste by using all parts of the animal. This is technically true, but this should not be the reason to keep buying leather for two reasons:

  • We should consume less meat to combat climate change. Leather is the byproduct of an industry that is harmful to the environment, and the profit goes to them too. So every time you buy leather you are still supporting the meat industry.
  • The farmers or factories know that they are going to sell the skin at the end of the cow's life. They know that about 10% of the profit will come from selling the skin for leather and they are counting on that. If people stopped buying leather, farmers would earn 10% less, and maybe it wouldn't even be profitable to raise cows that way and they would switch to growing plants instead.

Is vegan fashion sustainable?

Vegan leather is made from plastic which is also not sustainable. I agree it's still an issue and vegan fashion isn't perfect yet. But there are more and more brands that offer vegan leather made from plants such as pineapple leaves, apples, mushrooms, etc. There are some brands that use recycled plastic, which can also be a solution to the plastic waste that we have already created.

So the answer is yes. You can find vegan clothes, shoes, bags and accessories that are made from sustainable materials and that no longer cause plastic pollution.

Discover our vegan bohemian handbags here.

What materials should you avoid as a vegan?

Which materials come from animals? And why should you avoid them?

These are the things to keep in mind when buying new clothes. Always check the label and make sure they don't contain the materials listed below! It's even better if you can find clothes labeled 'vegan'!

Be aware, vegan alternatives are not all created in the same way. Some are more durable than others. If possible, choose the best alternative!

Fur

Fortunately, most people today are against the cruelty of fur. The animals used for fur are the cutest and, well, the furiest. Probably the most famous are mink, rabbit and fox fur, but they also use or used the fur of beavers, chinchillas, cats, dogs, raccoons, seals and bears.¹

Fur is a luxury product and you can just avoid it altogether and save the lives of these animals that are either caught and killed or raised under terrible conditions for their skin.

A fur coat was a statement item in the fashion world for so long (thanks to Anna Wintour and her approach to fashion without any compassion), but nowadays wearing fur seems embarrassing and outdated to most people.

Vosje in de sneeuw

Vegan alternative to fur: faux fur

The vegan alternative to fur is fake fur or faux fur. It is made of polyester or other synthetic materials, so not really recommended. If you do need fur in your life, it is still better to choose fake fur instead of real fur. Faux fur is not as soft as real fur, but it is less cruel. So you can decide if that gentleness is worth killing a dozen adorable animals.

Learn

Leather is made from the skin of dead cows or sometimes pigs. It is mostly used in shoes, bags and accessories, but it can also be made into clothing such as trousers and leather jackets.

What's the problem with leather? First of all: there is no leather without a dead animal. So when you buy leather, you pay for the death of that animal. Second, the leather industry is not sustainable. Cows produce a lot of greenhouse gases and waste, and tanning (the most common chrome tanning) is highly toxic to the environment and harmful to the people who work with them.

There is also exotic leather made from snake, lizard, alligator and crocodile leather.² This is just as cruel and harmful to the environment as conventional leather. But exotic skin is only used for luxury products making them even more redundant.

Bad vegan alternative to leather: PVC

A common alternative to leather is PVC, which is mainly used by fast fashion brands. PVC is a very cheap and low-quality synthetic material and it is not a good alternative to leather. PVC items are very wasteful because they do not last long. They also look of a lower quality than real leather.

If you're on a budget, but still want to avoid animal cruelty, go for PVC!

Popular vegan alternative to leather: PU leather

Another leather alternative that is growing in popularity is PU leather. PU stands for polyurethane which is also a synthetic material. However, PU has a much better quality and durability than PVC. It is very similar to real leather and an untrained eye would not be able to tell the difference.

PU leather is a fair alternative to leather. Both have their pros and cons, but PU leather is not related to animal cruelty so I think it's a better option. It is also kinder to the workers who do not need to use chrome tanning.

Best vegan alternative to leather: vegetable leather

The best vegan alternative to leather is undoubtedly vegetable leather. Vegetable leathers can come from many plants, but the most common are Pinatex, which comes from pineapple leaves, MuSkin that is made of mushrooms and apple leather.

Most vegetable leathers look and feel just as good as real leather, but Pinatex has a unique wrinkled look. I wouldn't say it's better or worse, it's just different.

Vegetable leather is also more environmentally friendly than real leather because it comes from plants. It is natural and biodegradable and less energy and water intensive than leather or PU leather.

Wool (also cashmere, alpaca, angora, ...)

Traditionally, wool is made from sheep's hair. But there are other types of wool that come from different animals. The name of these comes from the name of the animal from which they were harvested. So cashmere comes from cashmere goats, alpaca comes from alpacas, angora comes from angora rabbits, etc.

Compared to leather and fur, it is more difficult to see why wool is cruel to animals. Because to get wool you don't have to kill the animals, you just have to give them a haircut, right?

It is mostly true but unfortunately there are still very cruel practices in the wool industry .

There is, for example mulesing at which some hair and part of the skin at the tail are cut off to prevent infections. However, there are other ways to prevent infections but this is the cheapest option.

There is also the belief that sheep should be sheared. That is true and false at the same time. There is no species in nature that needs the "help" of humans or else they would die; nature and evolution simply don't work that way. There are only a few species that depend on each other, but no animal is dependent on humans. Except domesticated animals...

The problem with domesticated sheep is that we bred them to have wrinkled skin, so they have a larger surface area to grow wool. This way they get more wool than they need. Now sheep kept for their wool produce excessive amounts of wool, putting them at risk of dying from extreme heat. Hence, they must be shaved. But this is because of us!

Cashmere, alpaca, angora, and other types of wool tend to be less cruel but they also have their own problems. These industries still see the animals as commodities and their goal is to make a profit of them. The animals usually provide poorer quality wool as they get older and after a while it is no longer economically viable to keep them. So they are generally sold for meat at a much earlier age than their original lifespan would be.

Schaap

Vegan alternative to wool: cotton

Cotton is a good alternative to wool. Cotton sweaters are usually not as warm and soft as wool sweaters, but they are just as breathable and even easier to care for.

Cotton also doesn't itch as much as wool and it is better for sensitive skin.

Bad vegan alternative to wool: acrylic

Acrylic is a synthetic material that is often used as a substitute for wool. The advantage of acrylic is that it is much cheaper than wool and also cheaper than cotton.

Acrylic is, however terrible for the environment. It's made of plastic, it's not biodegradable, it's low quality, and it's not sustainable.

Acrylic can be warm but it is not breathable. This means you can get super sweaty in acrylic or other synthetic clothes.

Avoid it if you can!

Silk

Silk is another fabric that vegans avoid. It is probably the least known where it came from. At least I didn't know until I went vegan.

Silk is the cocoon of the silkworms that they build before turning into moths. Unfortunately, they don't get the chance to transform because when silk is harvested, the worms are boiled alive in their cocoons.

Roze zijde

Popular vegan alternative to silk: rayon

Rayon is a popular vegan alternative to silk. It's made from wood pulp so it's completely vegan.

Rayon is cheaper and more durable than silk.

Both rayon and silk are very difficult to care for. They can only be dry cleaned, which is harmful to the environment.

Rayon is a great textile so I will not go into it further. But if I get the chance, I'd rather choose something else that's more environmentally friendly and easier to maintain.

Best vegan alternative to silk: modal

Modal is one of the best silk replacements and one of the best materials today!

Like rayon, modal is also made from wood pulp. But it is made in a more environmentally friendly way in a closed system that does not produce toxic waste.

Modal feels silky soft and is more practical than silk or rayon. It can be machine washed and it does not crease! It is also hypoallergenic and great for sensitive skin!

Down and feathers

Down and feathers are usually used in warm winter coats. Feathers can also be used as decoration or embellishment.

The down and feathers used in jackets for insulation are mostly from ducks or geese. They are often painfully and inhumanly ripped out.³

Down and feathers are unnecessarily cruel because we have better (kinder and more environmentally friendly) options.

Best vegan alternative to down: recycled plastic

Plastic from PET bottles, discarded fishing nets or old synthetics can be recycled into lightweight and insulating materials. These are great for keeping you warm in the winter while keeping plastic out of our oceans and leaving the animals alone!

Plastic pollution is one of the greatest challenges of our time. Making clothes from it is one of the possible solutions and there is currently a lot of innovation in this area.

Pearls

Pearls are gemstones produced by mussels or oysters.

These are animals that vegans don't eat, so they don't wear or buy pearls either.

Oysters are farmed for their pearls and when they can no longer produce, they are sold for their meat.

Vegan alternative to Pearls: ethically mined gemstones

There are so many different precious gemstones. They come in different colors, shapes and sizes. And they are all vegan!

But please make sure they are sourced ethically and fairly! Unfortunately, there are many unethical practices in mining (by the way, also in pearl farming).

Discover all our beautiful bracelets with gemstones here.

Vrouwen draagt armbanden met edelstenen

Details that make your clothes non-vegan

Even if the main material of an item is vegan, sometimes it can contain details that are not. These details in clothing or accessories are like powdered milk in food. They are there but no one knows why and they can easily be replaced by something else.

Always pay attention to the non-vegan details below because even clothing labeled as vegan can have these details.

But even these details all have vegan alternatives.

Glue

Traditionally, the glue used for shoes was not vegan. It is made from animal protein that comes from milk, bone, skin, meat, etc.

Today synthetic adhesives are more popular because they are cheaper and easier to produce. But traditional glue based on animal proteins is still on the market.

Most retailers don't have any information about the glue their contractors use, so it's hard to know whether it's vegan or not.

Leather patches

Leather patches are pieces of leather that are sewn onto clothing. They are most common on the back of the waistband of jeans and as decoration on bags or jackets.

They aren't necessary so you can easily avoid them. Or you can replace them with vegan leather patches or other vegan materials.

Inks and dyes

Some of the ink used for dyeing clothes is not vegan. They can contain ground lice, bones and snails.

Screen printing is also a non-vegan method of printing on clothes. It usually contains gelatin from animal offal (bones, skin, organs, nails, etc.).

Water-based inks are not tested on animals and they are also more environmentally friendly and less toxic than other inks.

Buttons (pearl and horn)

Pearl is the shell of an oyster. It can be turned into buds that are very pretty, but they are unfortunately not vegan.

There are also buttons made from the horns of cattle, sheep, water buffalo and deer. These are also not vegan.

Fortunately, there are many different synthetic and natural materials, so you just have to choose something other than pearl or horn.

Why choose PETA-approved items?

If you choose PETA-approved vegan clothing, you don't have to check every material on the label (and even the ones that aren't on the label) to make sure nothing is made from animals. PETA has already verified it for you!

You immediately know with certainty that the clothing or accessories are vegan because vegan fashion is trending right now and there are brands that label their clothes as vegan, even if they are not.

However, there is one thing to keep in mind when shopping from a PETA-approved brand! There are brands that sell PETA-approved vegan leather bags, while also selling pearls that are not vegan. So even though a brand has PETA-approved certification for a material, it may not be valid for the entire collection.

Peta Approved Vegan

How to buy vegan clothes?

If you're just starting out on your vegan fashion journey, it's not easy to keep all these rules in mind. But don't worry, after a while it will become second nature, something you don't have to think about every time you buy something.

Is it difficult to buy only vegan fashion?

As I mentioned above, it can be confusing at first and you may need to research things a bit more thoroughly but after a while it gets easier, you have your favorite brands and you don't even have to think about it anymore.

There are many options and you probably already have vegan clothing that you don't even know is vegan. Your cotton T-shirts (not screen printed) are probably vegan.

It's also good to accept that you're likely to make some mistakes along the way (everyone does) and that's okay. You'll do better next time!

Are there clothes that vegans can't wear at all?

There is no form of clothing that vegans have to avoid completely. There are vegan versions of everything: shoes, bags, accessories, vegan leather jackets, faux fur coats, everything.

They can be found in different styles, so you really don't have to miss out on trends or certain pieces that you like.

What to do with non-vegan clothes you already own?

You recently went vegan, but all your shoes and bags are made of leather, now what?

I would say: keep them, wear them. It's almost impossible to buy a whole new collection of clothes, shoes and accessories. There could be vegans or even non-vegans who say you're not a true vegan if you're wearing leather... Well, what you bought in the past will not have any direct effect on the industry or animal life now (it will not create a greater demand for leather shoes), what you buy NOW is what it is all about!

But if you don't feel comfortable wearing animal leather or clothing anymore, give them away, sell them or trade them! Do what makes you feel good!

Can vegans buy secondhand clothes that are non-vegan?

Yes. Why? Because you don't support the brands and industries that produce these items. You are not creating a greater demand for this type of clothing.

You support the second-hand market that helps to reduce textile waste. Buying second-hand clothing is also more budget-friendly than buy something new.

Some vegans believe that wearing old or second-hand leather “normalizes” the wearing of leather. I understand where that comes from, but most of the people you meet don't give a damn whether your clothes are vegan or not. Besides, high quality PU leather and some vegetable leathers look almost identical to real leather, so they won't even tell the difference.

But again, if you don't like wearing non-vegan clothes, don't buy them! You probably won't find many used vegan shoes, so you will have to buy them new. Otherwise, you can get everything else you need from the thrift store, but you should pay more attention to the details!

Is vegan fashion ethical?

Unfortunately not all vegan clothing is produced under ethical conditions and without exploitation of people. In my opinion, these brands should not call themselves vegan! Humans are animals too, so vegans should also avoid the cruelty done to humans. Look for Fairtrade certified companies and clothing that is ethically produced.

On the other hand, I think that fashion that is not vegan should also not be called ethical! How can you say something is ethical when it comes to murder and cruelty?

The future of vegan fashion

I really believe that the future is vegan, just like the future of fashion. The number of vegans is growing exponentially and the vegan fashion market is also following this pattern.

In recent years, we have seen some huge steps in this direction. Major fashion brands stopped using fur and exotic skins due to public pressure.

At least 15 European countries and Japan have already banned fur farming. California, India and New Zealand have banned the import and sale of fur.

Vegan fashion and the search for alternative materials have a huge effect on the fashion world in general. The new, innovative materials can transform the entire industry into something much more environmentally friendly, sustainable and animal-friendly than today's clothing and accessories.

Vrouw draagt vegan bohemian handtas

Sources

¹Peta, "Animals Used for Fur"
²Peta, “Exotic Skins: The Animals”
³Youtube, Peta, “How Geese's Feathers Are Ripped Out for Down” - graphic footage
⁴Vegan Kicks, “Understanding Glues For Vegan Shoes”
⁵Shop Like You Give A Damn, "What Is Vegan Fashion?"
⁶Peta, "A Guide to the Fur-Free Revolution: These Places Have Banned Fur"
Also https://theprettyplaneteer.com/ and https://www.veganisme.org.