The vegan lifestyle is gaining in popularity, and it applies not just to the food you eat, but also vegan clothing, skincare, cosmetics and lifestyle as well. With food, making a vegan choice is mostly obvious but with vegan clothing it can be harder to tell. Many seemingly natural options can contain animal products, from indigo dyed denim to footwear glue. Thankfully, there are plenty of sustainable, vegan options to choose from today, including materials such as cork, pineapple leather and plant-derived vegan wool. If you want to avoid animal byproducts altogether, get our guide below on choosing vegan clothing.
Vegan Clothing Guide
Wool, Alpaca & Cashmere
Animal fibres such as wool, cashmere and alpaca are commonly found in knitwear, sweaters and coats, but rest assured you can stay cosy and comfortable without wearing any animal fibres. Sustainable vegan alternatives to look for are natural fibres such as linen, organic cotton and tencel blends. While acrylic and polyester are often substituted for wool, we would rather avoid the environmental impact of these fibres and instead apply layers of natural fibres for warmth.
CONTENT 💚’s: The White Briefs organic cotton long sleeve layering pieces.
Silk is the fibre that silkworms weave to make their cocoons. It’s often used in clothing especially for dresses, blouses and tops. You can find alternatives that are vegan and sustainable by looking for tencel or modal, which will give you the same matte sheen that silk has but they are made from trees sourced from sustainable forests in a closed loop process. Cupro is another sustainable fibre that gives similar properties to silk and is made from cotton waste in a closed loop process. Lightweight organic cotton is another sustainable vegan choice that will help you avoid synthetic alternatives. New developments we are watching out for include orange fibre, made from citrus juice by-products, and lab-grown spider silk from Bolt Threads.
CONTENT💚’s: Woron modal underwear which has a soft as silk feel.
Surprisingly, while denim is usually made from cotton fibre, it is not necessarily vegan. After indigo dyeing, a derivative of chitin (derived from shellfish shells i.e. waste from the food industry) can be applied to the yarn to fix the colour, so dyes will not rub off. Why would a brand opt to use this? The only other options currently involve a cocktail of polluting chemicals (many brands and factories are working on filtering systems to remove residue from the water), but these can include microplastics which are notoriously difficult to filter from water. It’s complicated! And let’s not forget that traditionally, many denim brands have branded leather patches on the back of their jeans.
CONTENT 💚’s: Mud organic denim brand who do not use chitin and print their labels directly onto the jeans.
Leather, Skins & Suede
When sourcing for the store, finding alternatives to leather has been one of the most difficult areas. Why? Traditionally most vegan leathers have been made from PVC – a plastic. So we have ended up with both – recycled leather (which would otherwise be discarded) and some of the newer vegan leathers.
With advances in technology, it is becoming easier to find sustainable vegan leather and suede alternatives that have far lower environmental impacts than the PVC of old. Polyurethane (PU) is a less impactful alternative to PVC, and although still a plastic, recent developments use recycled fibres with water-based coating processes. For more sustainable vegan leather alternatives, look for pineapple leather (made from the plant’s waste fibres), cork, mushroom leather, apple leather and lab-grown bio leather.
Down is the soft layer of feathers closest to a bird’s skin that is found in many puffer jackets, pillows and bedding as insulation. Switching this hidden material out is not hard, as many companies are using high-tech vegan materials such as recycled plastic bottles or tree fibres to create vegan alternatives in a sustainable way. Primaloft is one name to look for; they used recycled plastic bottles to create artificial down, and all their products also comply with Oeko-Tex Standard 100. Another exciting innovation is made from dried wildflowers, which offers the warmth of down alongside a more lightweight feel.
This is one area where you may have to check if going natural is actually best. If choosing colours with a red hue it might be best to avoid natural dyes which can often include cochineal (made from crushed beetles). Instead look for low impact synthetic dyes or avoid the red and go for plant-based dyes in other hues.
With both luxury and High Street brands banning fur, sustainable and stylish alternatives are becoming more readily available. Synthetics such as acrylic, nylon and polyester are often substituted for fur but it’s hard to avoid these and still get the feel of fur. Some brands may be using recycled polyester, which at the moment is as close as you will likely get to a more ethical choice of fur.
Animal products can frequently pop up in jewellery, with many items made from pearl, shell, horn or insects themselves. For vegan jewellery alternatives, look for fairtrade gemstones and crystals that are sourced sustainably, or better yet made from sustainable recycled materials such as glass. In the workshop, both cuttlefish and beeswax molds can be used for casting, and beeswax used as a lubricant for tools. Vegan jewellers use soy wax as an alternative to beeswax along with resin or plaster molds.
Sometimes animal products are added to clothing in places you don’t see immediately. Always check for a fur trim, a leather label on jeans, leather pocket details, shell or horn buttons, and trims. Some fashion items – including bags and shoes – are made using animal glue or beeswax waterproofing. While this is not always obvious, the easiest way to avoid more tricky products like animal glue and wax is to shop from vegan-certified brands.
Keep an eye out for the VE badge on our website to identify products we have identified as animal-free or certified by the Vegan Society or PETA. Wearing sustainable vegan clothing is easy once you know what to look for.C