Happy New Year, or should I say happy Veganuary?!
Vegan January, also known as the Veganuary campaign, was started in 2014 by a non-profit organisation with the same name. The campaign encourages people to try a vegan lifestyle for the month of January and beyond. This pledge is a great opportunity for those who care about animal welfare, the environment, and their own health to challenge themselves to a plant-based diet. At its core, Veganuary aims to promote compassionate food choices with the goal of ending animal farming, protecting the planet, and improving human health.
But veganism isn't just about food. It is a lifestyle that goes beyond what we eat. As vegans, we also prioritise cruelty-free cosmetics, clothing, and everyday products whenever possible. Many people may not realise, but the fashion industry has a significant impact on animal welfare. In this post, we'll explore how you can make more conscious and compassionate fashion choices.
From a vegan…
Before we dive into the vegan fashion sphere let me introduce myself first. Hi, I’m Virag, KOHR’s social media manager, and a passionate vegan since 2018. My main driving force to become vegan came from my love for animals. The first time I really considered going vegan was after I moved to university and at the same time got diagnosed with egg & milk intolerance. Well, long story short, these were the 2 main reasons for me going vegan and it was the best decision for me personally. I got a newfound love for vegan food and an even bigger passion for animals, all my stomach issues disappeared and I’ve never had better skin. Did I have my fair share of challenges along my journey? YES, but at the end of the day, they were all worth it for the animals, our planets and my health.
What is Vegan Fashion?
Vegan fashion is a growing trend that combines style with sustainability and ethics. It involves the use of clothing, shoes, and accessories that are made without the use of animal products or byproducts, such as leather, fur, wool, and silk. Vegan fashion also often includes the use of environmentally friendly materials and ethical production practices.
There are many reasons to choose vegan fashion. For one, it is more humane and compassionate, as it does not involve the exploitation or suffering of animals. Vegan fashion is also better for the environment, as the production of animal-based materials can have a negative impact on air and water quality, land use, and other resources. Vegan fashion can also be more sustainable, as it often uses materials that are biodegradable or can be recycled. Although vegan fashion is a very nuanced topic like many things when it comes to sustainability and fashion, we are here today to help you guide through the realm of vegan fashion while giving you some hands-on suggestions & tips.
Before we look at some great vegan-friendly fabric choices, let me give you my top 3 tips to start on your vegan fashion journey.
- Define your values within veganism and sustainability. What are the top 3 most important things for you? Animal welfare, ethical practices, plastic-free materials, the longevity of items, use of natural fibres? It is really up to you what you prioritise.
- Educate yourself about fibres/fabrics; what they are made of, and how they are made to really understand why some fabrics are not considered vegan.
- Read labels and material composition: this is where you’ll find all the information you need about a specific item so you can make a more conscious and informed decision.
Let’s start with 8 amazing vegan-friendly & natural fabric options.
No plastics here as we also want to prioritise sustainability and reduce plastic pollution.
Here I’d like to mention that most synthetic fibres like polyester or acrylic are also vegan-friendly if we only consider animal welfare. However, personally, I’d like to avoid purchasing these (especially new ones) due to their plastic and microfibre pollution. But, this is really up to your specific values and priorities. My top tip: if you’d like to opt for clothing made from synthetic materials for any reasons - accessibility or affordability - I would suggest getting these items second-hand, washing them in a guppy bag to catch microfibres, or finding recycled materials such as recycled polyester.
Let’s move on to a more innovative topic: Animal-free leather without plastic? YES!
If you're new to veganism and vegan fashion, the first leather alternative that comes to mind is synthetic faux leather which is widely available and an affordable alternative to animal leather. Although they are indeed vegan leather, these are usually made from polyurethane or polyvinyl chloride (PVC) aka plastic…and let’s be real, we don’t really want to add to our planet’s plastic pollution. Here is where some innovative natural plant-based leather alternatives come in.
Plant-based leathers are more sustainable and environmentally friendly, as they require fewer natural resources to produce and produce less pollution. They are also cruelty-free, as they do not involve the exploitation and suffering of animals. In addition, some plant-based leathers are biodegradable and can break down more easily at the end of their lifecycle. Overall, choosing plant-based leather alternatives is a more ethical and responsible choice for both humans and animals.
Here are some amazing plant-based leather alternatives:
Apples: Yes, you read that right! Apple leather, also known as "vegetable leather," is made from apples that have been peeled, cored, and sliced thin. The resulting sheets are then treated and finished to create a durable and flexible material.
Mushrooms: Mushroom leather, also called "Mylo leather," is made from the roots of mushrooms. This leather alternative is both sustainable and biodegradable.
Pineapples: Piñatex is a leather alternative made from pineapple leaf fibres. It's strong, durable, and has a unique texture.
Corn: Corn leather is made from corn husks and is a sustainable and biodegradable alternative to traditional leather.
Cactus: Cactus leather, or "Desserto," is made from the nopal cactus and is a sustainable and water-efficient alternative to traditional leather.
Grapes: Wine leather, also called grape leather, is made by Vegea, an Italian technology company. Grape leather is made from leftover grape skins, stems, and seeds from the wine-making process.
Cork: Cork leather is made from the bark of the cork oak tree and is a sustainable and biodegradable alternative to traditional leather. It's also water-resistant and durable.
- Silicone / Quartz leather: at KOHR, we’ve been using a vegan leather alternative made from silicone, a sustainable alternative to traditional PVC and PU fabrics. Silicone is made from quartz (a component of sand) and requires less manufacturing power, no chlorine, and has low VOC emissions. As silicone products are durable, it reduces the need to make excessive amounts, naturally reducing waste and extra energy.
But as a vegan myself, do I ever wear “real” leather?
It might be controversial but my answer is yes. I do have some real leather items in my wardrobe namely shoes and bags. BUT every single leather item I own is vintage and/or second-hand. As a vegan, when I purchase something, I am not only considering animal welfare but also the sustainability aspect of my purchase as well. Longevity is one of the key things I look for at a fashion purchase, and unfortunately or fortunately, in my experience, real leather items do last longer and are more durable than their vegan faux alternatives that are available at most places*.
*But here, I’d like to say that I have only ever purchased faux-leather alternatives which are usually made from plastic (which is another conversation altogether), and I have not yet tested any special planet-friendly plant-based leather alternatives that we have mentioned above.
Okay, but what about wool?
Here is where we can come to a more nuanced topic within vegan fashion. On a basic level, wool seems like a great natural fibre with amazing properties. However, from a vegan perspective, any type of wool e.g. sheep, goat, alpaca etc. does contribute to the exploitation of these animals which is against the vegan philosophy. Shearing – the process of cutting off the animal’s fleece - doesn’t necessarily look cruel or require the animal to die (like for fur), but still, it is considered a form of animal exploitation alongside their breeding and the way many of these animals are kept. That’s why, wool (of any kind) cannot be classified as vegan due to the overall animal agriculture aspect. But as I mentioned several times before, it is really up to your personal values if you’re okay with wearing wool items.
As you can see, vegan fashion is very nuanced and can be interpreted in different ways based on one’s personal values. Vegan fashion is not perfect by any means but it is definitely the right direction towards abolishing animal exploitation and animal cruelty within the fashion industry. Always remember, you don’t have to be perfect to make better choices for the animals and our planet. Do your research and make more conscious decisions whenever you can, based on your own values.
* Join the Veganuary challenge here.*