Vegan Fashion 101

Sofia Kastrinou

When it comes to veganism, the main thing that the vast majority of individuals think of, is an animal-free diet. This is the reason why most people do not completely understand the term ‘vegan fashion’. When you follow a plant-based diet, you definitely contribute to animals’ welfare and the protection of the environment, but the embracement of veganism means to fight against animal cruelty in every aspect of life. 

The term vegan fashion is defined as the production of clothes, shoes, bags, accessories, or other fashion items without the exploitation of animals. Specifically, vegan fashion products are ones in which the entire process of their production does not involve animals’ breeding in captivity and suffering and also do not consist of materials that are derived from animals. The general concept of vegan fashion is that it is unacceptable for animals to suffer for human’s sake.

The burning question arising from this subject is why people continue supporting industries that, in one way or another, torture animals. The most likely answer is because they do not know about it. On the altar of profit, a lot of fashion industries exploit animals for years or prematurely kill them, but their methods are unknown to the general public. 

Even if some industries keep their tactics secret, the impact that their methods have on the environment are undeniable. Animal farming causes the emission of great amounts of gases (e.g. methane that traps heat and therefore contributes to global warming) and results in high consumption of water. These gases, derived from animals’ biological processes, would not be a problem if animal farms were not so plentiful. Furthermore, the chemicals that are used within these industries are, most of the time, harmful for both the environment and the animals.

Distinguishing the terms

The terms vegan and sustainable fashion are often confused. Sustainable fashion focuses on the production of clothes with the least impact on the environment. It embraces the utilization of recyclable materials and fibers that can degrade. Nevertheless, in some cases, sustainable fashion industries continue to use products of animal origin, such as wool, leather, and silk. Therefore, sustainable fashion is not always vegan. Nowadays, most sustainable brands try to minimize the use of animal products as much as possible.

Slow fashion vs fast fashion

In order to define fast fashion, we need to understand the goals of the most-profitable fashion industries all over the world. Fast fashion, which has thrived the past 20 years, can be defined as the attempt of most brands to make fashion trends, introduced by influencers or at catwalks and fashion shows, quickly available and affordable for the public. The fast fashion industry focuses on promoting seasonal and consumable trends. 

Fast fashion is, overall, disastrous for the environment. The raw materials that are used, for the production of clothes, shoes and accessories, are full of lead and other chemicals, which are harmful for both humans and the environment. Animals are also exploited to a high degree for the quick, massive production of cheap, low quality fashion items. In addition, fashion trends tend to change from time to time, so, each year, tons of clothes are being burnt or thrown away from all of these industries. Furthermore, as mentioned above, as the fast-fashion items are low-quality and cheap products, as time passes, they tend to look faded and shapeless. As a result of this and the promotion of seasonal, consumable trends, the majority of buyers purchase items more often than needed. A large amount of fashion products are wasted because of the manipulation of buyers.  

When the veganism movement started to spread in the food industry, it was thought that the fashion industry should follow in its footsteps. Kate Fletcher of the Centre for Sustainable Fashion was the first to introduce the term slow fashion. Slow fashion focuses on sustainability. It tries to contradict fast fashion’s massive production of consumable fashion and it is based on the production of high-quality garments that will last longer. Slow fashion brands embrace veganism , do not use raw materials that originate from animals, and try to utilize environmental and animal friendly methods. They are usually found in small, local stores rather than in big enterprises. Buying fashion goods from companies that support slow fashion is one way individuals can help both the environment and animals simultaneously. 

Sources: Good On You, The Good Trade, Shop Like You Give a Damn, Vegan Fashion Week, Vegan Souls