It's safe to say that vegan fashion is finally stepping into the mainstream. After years of being a niche movement, veganism is now a concept most people are familiar with – and as Oscar De La Renta becomes perhaps the millionth designer to officially go fur-free – fashion is no longer lagging behind food as a “secondary” part of the movement. Vegan Fashion Week is back on the catwalks this year, and any magazine with any self-respect has a strict no-fur policy.
Fashion brands are shunning angora, mohair and even what was a staple for many years – cashmere. Even so, some myths and prejudices are hard to get rid of, leading to new vegans straining to avoid rolling their eyes while answering question after question about their wardrobes. Here are some of the most common misconceptions about vegan fashion – and the truths behind them.
By Sascha Camilli: writer, speaker, activist and vegan fashion expert.
1. Vegan fashion equals plastic
Perhaps the most frequently asked (and, let's admit it, most annoying) question that fashion-loving vegans face is, “are you wearing plastic shoes?”. Well, chances are, we are not. This dated preconception may have contained a grain of truth years ago (and even then, canvas, cotton, linen and other vegan materials existed), but today, with the advent of plant-based leathers, allow us to point out that this question has become obsolete. With leather being made from apples, cacti and pineapples and cork, the days of choosing between cow skin and shiny, plasticky “pleather” are in the past. Wool is commonly replaced by organic cotton, while silk can be substituted with plant options such as Tencel lyocell, cupro, ramie and linen.
2. Vegan fashion? Not for me, thanks, I'm not a fan of the “earthy” look
Well, as much as we love a good boho vibe, vegan fashion in 2021 spans across the style spectrum, offering a range that makes choice agonisingly difficult! If you want something more high-octane than the muted tones favoured by the “earthy” crowd, here's a tropically themed selection bursting with vibrant colours. Prefer clean lines to cluttered boho outfits? Here is a minimalism-inspired edit for you. Like something more edgy? Enjoy this rock-chick selection. All different. All vegan. All light years away from the “granola and patchouli” stereotype.
3. Isn't vegan fashion bad for the planet?
Quite the contrary. When considering the impact of materials, it's important to think of its entire production cycle – not just processing. What many forget is that leather production also involves the environmental impact of raising animals, not just the tanning and preparation of the leather (in itself a toxic process). Animal agriculture is a huge contributor to climate change, and it's time fashion realised that leather – not just meat - is a part of animal agriculture. Compare that to cork – a vegan, fully natural and biodegradable material that is self-regenerating – and the difference is undeniable. Wool is not innocent, either: sheep produce large quantities of methane, a potent greenhouse gas. Vegan fashion, while it has varying levels of impact depending on raw material and production methods, is a less wasteful and toxic choice than clothing that derives from animals.
4. Vegan fashion can't possibly be on-trend, though
Well, let's see. Hugo Boss has made a collection of shoes made from pineapple leather, and Chanel has made a gold-toned hat from the same material (if anything ever screamed “statement piece”, that hat is it). Even Hermès is favouring bags made from mushroom leather. That's nice, you might say, but who can actually afford all of those brands? Fair point, but vegan fashion reaches beyond the luxury runways – H&M has included leather made from pineapples and grapes, as well as silk made from oranges, in its Conscious Exclusive Collection.
5. But no stylish people actually wear vegan fashion
You may have seen Stella McCartney's Falabella bag on the arms of celebs such as Charlize Theron and Kate Hudson – pretty much everyone who's anyone has carried a Falabella, without even realising that it's vegan. And let's not forget that time Natalie Portman had Dior re-make their shoes vegan for her role as brand ambassador. Ethical shoe brand Good Guys Don't Wear Leather has been worn by Emma Watson and Miley Cyrus, showing that stylish people everywhere favour kind fashion.
6. I'd love to wear vegan fashion, but it's so difficult to shop
We hear you – that annoying 8% wool that for some reason keeps getting added to otherwise perfectly good coats sure gets on our nerves. But vegan fashion is more widely available than it's ever been. Last year, the number of shoes available that were labelled “vegan” increased by 27% in the US and 36% in the UK year-on-year. Gone are the days when we needed to trek to specialty shops for what was, admittedly, quite un-stylish floral canvas bags. And today, right here on Immaculate Vegan, over 50 brands offer shoes, bags, accessories and clothing that are kind to the planet, humans and animals.
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 Frida Rome
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