When I first started transitioning to a vegan lifestyle eight years ago, it was September. I was enthusiastic about my vegan-friendly wardrobe of skinny jeans, summer dresses, floaty skirts, cotton t-shirts, and faux-leather biker jackets. I was building up a collection of leather-free bags and loved stomping around London in vegan ankle boots and vegan biker boots. Dressing cruelty-free seemed simple. But then winter came, and UK weather forced me to face a conundrum: what about vegan coats?
By Sascha Camilli: writer, speaker, activist and vegan fashion expert.
Back then, every single coat in existence seemed to come with a label that proudly and enthusiastically screamed “wool-blend!” and contained an annoying 8% wool. If it wasn't wool, it was alpaca, or cashmere. On the rare occasion that a coat was actually vegan, it was likely to be made from polyester – not exactly a friend to the environment. Checking tag after tag, I was losing hope – what was a vegan to do?
Today, it's safe to say things are different. More consumers than ever are waking up to the reality behind the wool trade – in these industries prioritising mass-scale production, animals are treated like commodities and their well-being suffers. Sheep are treated so abysmally that shearers in both the UK and Australia have pleaded guilty to charges of animal cruelty.
Environmental awareness is another reason why more people are stepping away from materials like wool and cashmere, which have worrying environmental impacts, including contributing to desertification, loss of biodiversity and climate change. In short, animal-derived fabrics are no friend to the planet, and consumers are wisening up to that fact.
Outerwear is a booming category in what today is a thriving, blossoming vegan fashion industry – from attention-grabbing faux furs and practical parkas to chic trench coats and vegan puffa jackets, choice is plentiful. Finding a coat without wool – or other animal fibres - is now so simple that I own several. Most come from second-hand stores, others from forward-thinking vegan brands.
Firstly, learn what you're looking out for. Fur is a no-brainer (who even still wears fur?). Other materials to stay away from include leather, wool and cashmere, but also angora, alpaca, mohair, and vicuña – all animal-derived and sometimes present in outerwear in small percentages. Although thanks to pressure from animal rights campaigners, angora and mohair are disappearing from retail and are getting more difficult to find.
Vegans also stay away from down and feathers: not only do geese and ducks spend their entire lives on crowded, cramped factory farms without any chance to engage in behaviours natural to them, they are also often plucked alive. Instead, vegan versions of on-trend puffer jackets often contain fillers that are made from recycled materials, such as plastic bottles, which are also great at keeping you warm.
Recycled materials often also play a role in vegan parkas – popular for their fashion-meets-function appeal, parka jackets resurface every season, never really going out of style. If you're the outdoorsy type but still want to look chic, this is a design for you.
One item that is quite rightly considered a part of a timeless wardrobe is the classic trench coat. Luckily, this is a design that is most often vegan, as it's commonly made from cotton or cotton-blends. An upgraded eco version can be made from Tencel (wood pulp cellulose) or Cupro (waste parts of the cotton plant). Often, these materials are mindfully made, use fewer resources, and are biodegradable.
Raincoats also deserve a special mention, at least in countries like the UK. Often already vegan, raincoats have also stepped up from planet-harming plastic to recycled materials, while retaining their weather-safe, water-repellent properties.
And finally, there are the statement pieces, such as faux furs. Whether in classic black or featuring more of a stand-out pattern, faux fur is higher in quality than it's ever been. As animal fur completely disappears from the fashion industry – designers refuse to work with it, big-name furriers shut down, entire countries ban its production – brands specialising in vegan fur gain ground, experimenting with more planet-friendly practices such as linings made from – again – recycled fabrics. It's a great time to fake it.
So until spring arrives, I won't fear the cold – my vegan coats are the perfect companions for cold-weather days.
By Sascha Camilli
For stylish, sustainable and 100% vegan outerwear, shop our Vegan Coats & Jackets collection at Immaculate.
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.
Main image by CULTHREAD.
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