There is really no part of mainstream culture or society that has been untouched by the growth of veganism. Vegan clothes, shoes and accessories are certainly now a hot topic in the fashion world. The industry has finally realised that the abuse and murder of animals has no place in fashion and the good news is that it has never been easier to shop for stylish vegan-friendly clothes and accessories. Thankfully, the days of ugly vegan sandals are long behind us and this article will look at some of the best vegan clothing brands available and also the animal-derived materials you need to be on the lookout for.
Vegan dressing is simple once you know what to avoid. As with food products, the first step to identifying vegan friendly items is to read the label. On clothing items the label will usually be on the neck or waistband and for shoes take a look under the tongue. Contact manufacturers and retailers directly if they do not clearly label their products as applying pressure is the only way things will change.
One of the fantastic things about vegan-friendly fashion is that it is usually much cheaper than animal-derived counterparts so if a product is surprisingly expensive make sure that you study the label closely. It is worth mentioning at this point that there are some extremely high end vegan designer brands, such as Stella McCartney’s range, so price should not be your only indicator. Her eco-friendly fashion range is ideal if you are looking for investment pieces and she was a proponent of vegan fashion long before it hit the mainstream.
Non-Vegan Materials to Avoid
Globally, millions of cows, sheep and pigs are killed every year for their skin. Leather is the chemically treated hide of an animal and is commonly used to make shoes, bags and other fashion items.
Buying leather products puts money in the meat industry’s pockets but there are many great vegan alternatives to leather. These include faux leather from plants and synthetic, man-made leather alternatives.
Wool is usually made from the hair of sheep, alpacas or goats. Shearing these animals is often an extremely unpleasant business and there is no doubt that wool isn’t vegan. Shearers are generally paid by volume rather than by the hour so they usually work quickly rather than kindly. It is usual for animals to be kicked and even cut in the process. There is a widespread procedure called mulesing which entails cutting a large chunk of flesh from an animal’s backside usually without painkillers. The top wool-producing countries are Australia and China, both of which sadly have weak animal protection laws regarding sheep. Vegan-friendly alternatives to consider are cotton, polyester and other synthetic materials.
Note that there are many types of wool, depending on how it is produced or what animal or specific breed is used. As such, it isn’t just the word “wool” (which usually means a sheep’s wool) you need to be on the lookout for. Below you can see some of the most common types of wool, all of which are non-vegan.
Types of Wool
- Lambswool – would you believe this comes from a lamb? This is the animal’s first shearing
- Cashmere – from a particular type of goat
- Angora – wool from Angora rabbit
- Mohair – from an Angora goat
- Merino – often used in jumpers this comes from a Merino sheep
- Alpaca – from the South American Alpaca
- Llama – from the llama, an animal similar and related to the alpaca
- Vicuna – vicuna wool is rare and expensive and comes from the South American camelid of the same name
- Camel – no prizes for guessing we’re afraid
- Qiviut – very warm wool from the Alaskan musk ox
Used in coats and jackets, down is produced from the feathers of geese and ducks. The birds are painfully plucked either whilst they are still alive or for the “lucky” ones after slaughter. Most of the world’s down comes from China where unfortunately live-plucking is still legal and animal-rights legislation is virtually non-existent. There are lots of vegan-friendly synthetic alternatives to down on the market which are cheaper and much easier to care for.
Fur is the most obvious animal-product used in fashion and one that gets a lot of attention from pro-animal lobbyists. Animals bred for their fur spend their entire lives in tiny, filthy cages often starving and without access to adequate medical care. Fur farmers then use the cheapest killing methods possible, including suffocation, gassing, electrocution and poisoning. There really is no excuse for wearing fur when faux fur alternatives are readily available.
Silk is the fibre silkworms weave to make their cocoons. To obtain it, worms are steamed or gassed in their cocoons whilst still alive. Silk was once used far more widely than it is today, the invention of nylon in the 1930s substantially reduced silk’s share of the clothing market but it is still found in men’s suits and ties. Always check the label, it is generally easy to find synthetic fibres rather than silk so just be vigilant.
Suede is a leather product that’s been given a soft finish. Most suede comes from the belly skins of lambs, calves and other young animals and is most commonly found in shoes and bags. It is not very durable and prone to staining and water damage. Vegan alternatives include microfiber, whilst faux suede is also available.
Note that it is not just the main material you might need to be aware of. Some fashion items, primarily shoes, may well use glues. Unless the product is clearly labelled as vegan, it is safe to assume that the glue used is derived from animals and as such the end product is not vegan friendly.
So, you now know what animal-derived materials you should avoid but what should you do if you have a particular clothing or accessory item in mind but you are not sure of the best vegan-friendly alternatives to be on the lookout for? Our handy guide below lists vegan friendly materials by clothing/accessory type, as well as including a reminder of the common animal products you should avoid.
Vegan-Friendly Materials for Clothing & Accessories
|Item of Clothing||Vegan Friendly Materials||Non-Vegan Materials to Avoid|
|Coats||Polyester, synthetic down, waxed canvas, polyester fleece, hemp, Thinsulate, thermolite, faux fur||Fur, wool, fleece, down|
|Handbags, Purses & Wallets||Synthetic and man-made materials, faux leather, pineapple leather, mushroom leather, microfibre, waxed canvas, ultrasuede, microsuede||Leather, suede, any other type of animal skin, for example snakeskin|
|Jumpers & Sweatshirts||Cotton, hemp, acrylic, viscose, linen, bamboo, microfibre, tencel, cotton flannel||Wool, cashmere, angora wool, mohair, silk, pashmina, shearling|
|Shirts & Blouses||Bamboo, cotton, polyester, nylon, rayon, viscose, modal, tencel||Silk|
|Shoes & Boots||Synthetic and man-made materials, faux leather, pineapple leather, mushroom leather, microfibre, waxed canvas, ultrasuede, microsuede||Leather, suede, any other type of animal skin, such as snakeskin|
|Suits||Linen, polyester, cotton, viscose, rayon, tencel||Wool, cashmere, silk|
|Ties||Cotton, acrylic, polyester, microfibre, bamboo, hemp, nylon, rayon||Wool, cashmere, silk|
|Wraps, Shawls & Scarves||Satin, cotton, acrylic, polyester fleece, tencel||Cashmere, silk, pashmina, alpaca, angora wool, shearling|
Vegan Friendly Fashion Retailers
Although not 100% vegan, many of the biggest names in fashion and retailing offer a wide range of vegan products – just make sure to check the labels carefully. Some companies have signed up for PETA’s approved vegan scheme, so look out for the “PETA-Approved Vegan” logo on products as this is a guarantee your purchases will be vegan. UK high street companies which are not 100% vegan but sell clearly labelled vegan products include:
|Vegan Friendly Retailers||What You’ll Find|
|Aldo||The destination for style-conscious shoppers, Aldo sells accessibly priced on-trend fashion footwear and accessories.|
|Burton||One of the UK’s leading men’s clothing and fashion retailers. Founded in 1903 by Sir Montague Maurice Burton, this stalwart of the UK high street sells a range of men’s clothing, including formal suits and leisure wear.|
|Dorothy Perkins||Dorothy Perkins is a multinational women’s fashion retailer based in the UK. Founded in 1909 by H.P. Newman, it changed its trading name to Dorothy Perkins in 1919 and still sells its own range of clothes, as well as other branded fashion items and accessories.|
|Dr. Martens||English footwear and clothing brand that now has a dedicated vegan range available both in store and online. Famous for their leather boots, the vegan range is a new and welcome addition.|
|Esprit||High-street brand that has a great range of vegan shoes for women.|
|Evans||On-trend plus size women’s fashion for sizes 14-32.|
|King & Allen||Bespoke tailoring for men including vegan suits.|
|Miss Selfridge||Miss Selfridge is a UK high street store that began as the young fashion section of the Selfridge’s department store in 1966. With over 250 stores worldwide, it sells women’s clothing and accessories and has a rapidly expanding vegan offering.|
|Outfit||Outfit is the one-stop-shop for a range of fashion brands, including Dorothy Perkins, Miss Selfridge, Topman and Topshop, many of which include vegan items.|
|The Kooples||A French fashion retailer that now also has branches across the UK, the Kooples sells both male and female fashion items and accessories.|
|Topman & Topshop||UK fashion favourites since the 1960s.|
The Best Vegan Clothing Brands
The retailers listed above are all good options if you need to find something in a hurry on the UK high street but what if you are trying to avoid fast fashion and want to ensure that the clothing brands you buy from are both vegan and ethical?
Are there vegan friendly brands out there who you can buy from safe in the knowledge that your vegan and ethical values are not being compromised? The answer to this is a resounding yes. Most of the companies listed below are currently only available online, but hopefully this will change in the future.
|Vegan Friendly Clothing Brands||What You’ll Find|
|ADKN||Based in London and founded in 2015, ADKN (Animal-free Designs and Kindness for Nature) is a female fashion brand that is 100% animal-free, eco-friendly, ethical and sustainable.|
|Alexandra K||Luxury brand that sells hand-made vegan bags and accessories for men and women.|
|Alive Boutique||A one-stop-shop for exclusive vegan, ethical fashion and accessories for both men and women.|
|Another Fox||British vegan clothing brand for children and babies.|
|Collection and Co||Vegan footwear brand committed to the use of non-animal leathers and non-animal glues.|
|Continental Clothing Company||Organic cotton clothing for men, women and children.|
|Delicious California||Vegan, organic and sustainable t-shirts, hoodies and sweatshirts.|
|Ethical Wares||Family run and exclusively vegan online business, offering a range of leather-free footwear and accessories.|
|Fferal||Sustainable, ethical and organic clothing for the whole family.|
|HeartCure||Ethical vegan clothing sold by a non-profit organisation.|
|Koi Footwear||British vegan footwear brand.|
|Lifestyle International||Vegan leather shoes and bags.|
|Love Gang Store||Vegan, ethical street fashion for men and women.|
|Love My Apparel||100% cruelty-free luxury designer women’s boutique.|
|Matt and Nat||Vegan shoes and accessories for both sexes. Some for Matt, some for Nat.|
|Monkee Genes||Vegan, ethical and fairly made jeans and other related products.|
|NAK Fashion||NAK (No Animal Killed) is a luxury, cruelty-free footwear brand for men and women.|
|No Fixed Abode||Vegan, organic, ethical, sustainable luxury fashion brand.|
|Plant Faced Clothing||100% ethical, cruelty-free clothing for men and women.|
|Sassy Spud||Ethical, Irish vegan fashion brand.|
|The Vegan Tannery||Sells “un-leather” goods for both men and women.|
|Uncaptive||Vegan brand available online and also boasting two shops in the Newcastle area.|
|Veenofs||Brings vegan fashion items together in one place.|
This is just a selection of the vegan friendly brands available and these are increasing rapidly. As well as these, as said, almost all of the major high street chains are starting to include at least some vegan clothes, footwear and accessories in their shops.
The vegan fashion revolution is here to stay and will continue to grow as designers and manufacturers see the endless possibilities of ethical fashion. It is now easy to both look great and feel great with your clothing choices, which is a step in the right direction for the fashion industry.