There are so many words that get thrown around in the fashion world when it comes to the environment and especially now sustainability has become a major focus in the industry, it can be confusing to know whether companies are just green washing, or they genuinely care about their effects on the environment.
With veganism an ongoing trend for environmentalists, brands can easily promote the non-use of leather, furs, skins and feathers as being ‘vegan’ product - but are they really all they are cracked up to be?
When shifting into a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle, it is important to also make sure that the fashion and accessories you buy aren’t harming the environment in other ways. Many early ‘vegan’ options simply substitute leathers, suedes and furs for PVC and other petrochemical based products.
These ‘plastics’ may look like leather, suede and fur but in many cases can be a far weaker product resulting in massive amounts of wastage, landfill and charity stores full of cheap ‘fakes’. Plastic and petrochemical based products take a minimum of 200 years to degrade in landfill, and leave behind toxic chemicals in the earth. Hardly a sustainable option.
This is where many people may then question how veganism is helpful for the environment, when obviously cows are sustainable, as are the animals that fur comes from. Cows and other animals reproduce right? We can eat them, and reuse their skins, so why aren’t they considered an environmentally sound option for fashion?
In some fashion circles they are. Ethically sourced cow hides are touted as sustainable fashion, alongside wooden and cork shoe soles. However, the process of tanning leathers for use in fashion and accessories is chemically heavy and not at all good for the environment - they are on par with the PVC stuff really.
Fortunately, the industry has come a long way in the last 5-10 years, and vegan environmentalists have many new options for getting a high quality fashion look, without any skin involved.
Renewable sources for making fabrics are now coming from plants, food and discarded waste. From paper to pineapples, recycled rubbers to slate and cork materials, not only are vegans getting a product that hasn’t come from an animal, but they can rest assured that they are sustainable in their production methods.
To find out more, check out this great article from Eluxe Magazine, or read all about vegan fabrics and their sustainability at the Minimalist Vegan.