Ethical & Sustainable Fashion Trends for 2021

2021 is well underway – and as we prepare to take the first cautious steps into a post-pandemic world, the fashion industry is placing more emphasis on sustainability. Our difficult relationship with the Earth is now taking its toll on our health, and the fashion industry is taking note. From coronavirus outbreaks at mink farms to the undeniable role fashion plays in the climate crisis, it's clearer than ever that what we wear has an impact on our world.

By Sascha Camilli: writer, speaker, activist and vegan fashion expert. 

For these reasons and more, ethical fashion, which has been on the forefront of trends in the past few seasons, is bound to become even more crucial to the fashion conversation this year. While we get ready to emerge from lockdown and dust off our favourite outfits once again, here are the sustainable vegan fashion trends in 2021 that you might want to keep an eye on.

Cactus Leather

Animal leather can never be described as sustainable – the amount of resources that go into raising animals for human consumption and the toxic substances used in the production of animal skins make it a hazard to the planet. Today, animal leather is becoming obsolete – innovation means that leather can be made from a variety of plants. The latest vegan leather added to the ever-growing list is cactus leather, a partially biodegradable plant-based material free from toxic chemicals, phthalates, or PVC. Created by Mexican material entrepreneurs, cactus leather – or Desserto, as it's called – is mainly used in accessories, and offered by brands like Thalie Paris.

Bamboo Silk

Silk is still a bit of an obscure topic in vegan and sustainable fashion. Most people are still unaware of the fact that silkworms are killed (often by being boiled alive) to create silk. Most people also don't know that silk is highly damaging to the environment – the 2017 Pulse of Fashion Industry Report placed it second (after cow leather) on its list of materials with the highest cradle-to-gate impact on the planet. Plant-based material innovation in silk includes bamboo, an exquisitely soft fabric that can also be sustainable: it's grown without any chemical fertilisers. Bamboo silk makes for great sleepwear and loungewear, and is used by brands such as Charlotte Dunn Design.

Vegan Wool

Sheep used for wool, goats in the mohair and cashmere industry, and alpacas used for their fleece all suffer for the trade. Wool also has a major impact on the planet, due to the environmental cost of raising animals for consumption. Vegan wool has been an area that's stayed in the development stages for a long time, but today, it's stepping out into the spotlight. While innovations such as vegan wool made from plants and flowers are still in the works, and recycled fibres can play a big role in vegan knitwear, organic cotton is still the most sure bet for jumpers, cardigans and other knit garments suitable for vegans. Consuming much less water and using fewer chemicals than conventional cotton, organic is also a good choice from an environmental standpoint. L'Envers offers a versatile range of vegan knitwear without animal fibres, all made from organic cotton.

Vegan Puffer Jackets

Puffers have been a winter staple for a long time – and this winter they have truly taken centre stage, as celebs rarely seem to venture outside without one. But what few are aware of is the cruelty to animals that happens behind closed doors in the down industry. Geese and ducks in the trade are often held in cramped, filthy factory farms and live-plucked for their feathers – a procedure where the feathers are torn from their bodies while they are completely conscious. Investigations revealing this cruelty have prompted many brands to experiment with vegan-friendly down fillers. One such brand is Culthread – a London label specialising in vegan coats and jackets, from glamorous faux furs to on-trend parkas and puffers, filled with Thermore Ecodown filler, which is made using recycled plastic bottles.

Vegan Loungewear & Trainers

And finally – with lockdown still upon us, loungewear and casualwear still reigns supreme in most wardrobes. For vegans, or indeed anyone who cares about sustainable fashion, this should mean steering clear of cashmere. Aside from the cruelty involved in the industry – investigative footage has shown animals roughly handled – cashmere also has a devastating effect on our planet. Cashmere goats eat 10% of their body weight every day, devouring the entire plant with the roots. This prevents the plants from regrowing, which leads to desertification. Cashmere is mainly produced in areas like Mongolia, which is already at risk of desertification. If we aim for a sustainable wardrobe, cashmere is definitely out. What's in? Recycled and regenerated fibres, and of course planet-friendly organic cotton, which features heavily in the Immaculate Vegan loungewear collection.

What to wear with your sustainable loungewear Why vegan trainers of course! Whilst fashion trainers have been ubiquitous for a while, lockdown has catapulted them to the top of the footwear list, with most of us having several styles (classic, sporty, trendy) in our wardrobes. They remain a key trend for 2021, and the number of high-quality vegan trainer brands has proliferated – the choice of different styles and price points has never been so good. So if you're on the lookout for a fresh pair of sustainable kicks, check out the vegan trainers collection at Immaculate. Your feet and the planet will thank you for it.

By Sascha Camilli

Cover image by Thalie Paris

If you love the idea of vegan leather, why not take a look at our vegan leather bags, vegan leather shoes, vegan leather boots, vegan leather trainers and vegan leather accessories.

About Sascha

Sascha Camilli is the founder of the world's first digital vegan fashion magazine, Vilda Magazine and the host of fashion podcast Catwalk Rebel. She was selected as one of Glamour UK's Most Empowering Nu-Gen Activists and is a frequent public speaker on the topic of vegan fashion and material innovation. Her book Vegan Style is out now on Murdoch Books. For more about Sascha, read our interview with her.

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