It's World Vegan Month, and this time around, you are ready. Or... at least when it comes to food. You've got vegan eating figured out – you're reading the labels and know exactly what to reach for and what to avoid in the supermarket. You're clued-up on where to find the best vegan options at restaurants, and can whip up a delicious plant-based meal or two. But what about your wardrobe?
By Sascha Camilli: writer, speaker, activist and vegan fashion expert.
Fashion is sometimes an afterthought when it comes to going vegan, but the clothing industry exploits and kills animals on a large scale, just like the food trade – so if you're serious about eliminating cruelty from your life, the decision must involve your wardrobe.
If you're still standing clueless in front of shop racks, or wondering if you can get away with quietly wearing that one wool jumper still hanging in your wardrobe, this is the guide you need to effortlessly transition to a vegan wardrobe. It may not happen overnight, but at the end of this process, you will have a cruelty-free wardrobe to be proud of. Promise.
Learn about the issues
The first thing to do when undertaking any lifestyle change is getting familiar with the information that underpins the decision. Read up on the issues behind animal-derived clothing. Learn about the widespread devastation caused by killing over one billion animals every year for leather. Find out why wool has an extensive environmental footprint, and is far from the “natural”, ethical material many people believe it to be. Be aware of the damage done by fabrics like angora, silk, down, and feathers. Be clear on why you don't wear the things you decide to stop wearing. This will act as a motivation on the days you feel like giving in and reaching for that lambskin jacket at the shop.
Take stock of what you have
The painful – but quite eye-opening – part of the process is assessing your wardrobe and spotting the non-vegan clothing you own. You might believe you don't own any, but a thorough label-read is likely to prove otherwise. Animal-derived clothing isn't just fur and leather – that down-filled jacket and the jumper with 8% angora falls under that category, too. The unfortunate truth is that animals suffer for our clothing in many ways, and many people, unwittingly, have a wardrobe full of clothing that isn't vegan. Which brings us to the next part.
Decide what to do with any non-vegan clothing
Here we enter a territory that many new vegans find tricky. Once you've rounded up a heap of non-vegan clothes that were hanging out in your wardrobe, what do you actually do with them? Your options here are several: you either donate the items (if it's fur, PETA has a fur donation programme which will see the coats donated to people in need or given to animal shelters as bedding); sell them – nothing wrong with keeping the money, but if you feel bad about doing so, you can donate it to an animal rights organisation; or – perhaps the least wasteful option – continue to wear the items until they reach the end of their lifespan, and then replace them with vegan alternatives.
To minimise waste, let the transition take its time. The absolutely worst thing you can do when it comes to any changes to your wardrobe is to throw out large volumes of – sometimes perfectly functional – garments just because you've decided they don't fit your life anymore. The second-worst thing you can do is... impulse-buy a whole pile of new stuff. In a world where the equivalent of a garbage truck of clothing is burned or sent to landfill every second, being mindful of overconsumption is absolutely crucial. Don't contribute to waste. Wear the clothes you have, replace with care, and let the transition come gradually, rather than overnight.
Discover new vegan and sustainable brands
Realising that you may no longer be able to shop with some of your favourite brands – because of their penchant for animal-derived clothing or other unsustainable practices – may feel discouraging at first, but the upside is that it allows you to discover new favourites. Check out smaller, ethically minded companies that put animals, humans and the environment first, and you may be surprised at how well they fare in the style stakes. Take a look at our Bestsellers page to meet your new wishlist.
Lead by example
As vegan fashion gains ground, it's likely that people around you will be curious about your transition to an all-vegan wardrobe. Show them how joyful, stylish and expressive dressing cruelty-free can be. Talk about the issues behind wearing animal skins, but also talk about the new brands you've discovered, the gorgeous new vegan shoes you have your eye on, and your new winter coat with absolutely zero wool or feathers. You'll be changing minds and opening eyes in no time – just what the vegan fashion movement needs.
By Sascha Camilli
Sascha Camilli is a vegan fashion writer, speaker and activist. Her book Vegan Style is out now on Murdoch Books. For more about Sascha, you can read our interview with her. You can also follow her on Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn.
Cover image by Thalie Paris
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