Vegan vs. sustainable fashion
Veganism. You’ve heard the word everywhere in the last few years, maybe to your delight, or antipathy.
Either way, the number of meat alternative options that are around now would have almost been unimaginable a decade ago.
With this progression in the food industry, people have started to demand the same from their fashion purchases.
At one time, if a person was seen wearing a mink fur coat and a hat made out of snakeskin, they’d be seen as enviable, wealthy and stylish – now they’re just seen as a reflection of unfavourable morals and values.
The rise of Vegan fashion
The term ‘vegan’ in fashion works off the same principles as that seen in food, but specifically refers to the opposition of animal abuse and destruction of the environment, through the use of animal skins and wool.
As vegan fashion has gained more interest in recent times, top fashion houses like Stella McCartney and Vivienne Westwood have led the way in the eco-friendly fashion movement, calling for an end to the use of real-fur in the UK altogether.
As a result, consumers are now less shy to call out brands who have failed to evolve with the times, even going as far as boycotting those who refuse.
Take Canada Goose for example, an outerwear brand renown for its unnecessarily cruel methods of sourcing coyote fur to use in its garments. Pre-pandemic, you could find a mass protest outside their flagship store on London’s Regent Street almost daily. This isn’t to mention the criticism they have already received on a global scale for a number of years.
Many fashion brands have therefore scrambled to find less harmful alternatives to their favourite animal by-products, to avoid being named and shamed.
Is Vegan fashion sustainable?
Recycled polyester, faux fur and acrylic are amongst some of the fabric substitutes fashion brands now promote in their collections.
Whilst this is a win in terms of animal welfare, there is further loss to the environment, as these alternatives have been found to be far less eco-friendly than animal derived-materials themselves.
There seems to be an issue that lies within the assumption that if something is considered ‘vegan’, it must mean that it is sustainable, when this isn’t always the case.
The faux-fur fiasco
The best example of this can be seen within the heavy adoption of faux-fur across the fashion industry.
When first introduced on the scene, faux-fur was praised for being a great compromise for fur-lovers who wanted to hop on the vegan trend.
However, as time has passed, faux fur has been found to be less sustainable than first described.
Faux-fur is made predominantly from synthetic fibres, produced in factories from chemicals derived from fossil fuels.
Most often, the fabric is made entirely from plastic-based materials like polyester, which has detrimental effects not just on the environment, but the health of the workers who manufacture it.
A strong argument exists which suggests that real-fur is actually more sustainable overall than its supposedly less-harmful alternative, despite its clear benefits to the welfare of animals. To be clear, however, we don’t support either!
If you needed anymore reason to take caution with faux fur, here’s a few statistics;
- Faux fur coats have been found to be kept by the wearer for a shorter period of time than real fur, which poses four times more risk of damage to the ecosystem, 2.3 times more risk of adding to climate change, and 2.7 times more risk of impacting resource consumption.
- Due to the plastic nature of faux fur, it is estimated to take anywhere between 500 to more than 1,000 years to biodegrade.
- The environmental impact of real fur is much lower than that of faux fur, due to the reduced level of harmful fumes emitted during production, and lower levels of resources needed to manufacture.
Take caution with buzzwords
Veganism is used interchangeably in fashion with other buzzwords like ‘sustainable’ and ‘ethical’, however it doesn’t ring as true as it does in the food industry.
You can sleep well at night knowing your plant-based burger may have saved the life of a baby cow, but don’t assume the same eco-friendly benefits for your faux-fur frock.