Although many people associate veganism with a plant-based diet, most vegans expand their values to other areas of their lives, such as clothing and household products, and furniture. The question of whether velvet is vegan or not is therefore rather pertinent to most people who would call themselves vegan. Let’s cut to the chase: Is velvet vegan? Well, as with many items we assess in the Is It Vegan? section of our site, there is no definitive answer here. In other words, some fabrics that fall under the velvet umbrella (ooh, cosy!) are certainly vegan-friendly, while others are certainly not.
In this article, we’ll explore what velvet is and the materials it can be made from, and thus what allows/stops it from being vegan. We’ll also take a brief scout around for any versions of velvet that are definitely fine for vegans and that are environmentally sound too.
What Is Velvet & What Can Stop It Being Vegan?
Velvet is a layered material (or fabric) that is soft to the touch and is used for a variety of products including clothing, upholstery, and even to enhance royal bling (like the Imperial State Crown that was made for King George VI’s coronation way back in 1937.
Velvet can made from various fibres, including silk, cotton, wool, or also different synthetic materials. The distinctive softness of velvet is achieved by the short pile of threads, but this is particularly the case when the velvet in question is produced using silk. As we discuss elsewhere on our site, however, silk isn’t vegan as its production causes harm (and usually death) to the silkworms (animals) who produce the fibres.
Velvet that is made from cotton is generally vegan friendly as cotton is vegan, though there are sometimes ethical or environmental concerns regarding its production that some vegans might baulk at, especially those who have come to veganism for environmental reasons.
How Do You Know If Velvet Is Vegan?
Some materials that are used for clothing and other products are rather obviously made from animals, including leather and (perhaps a little less clearly) suede. As such, there has been a big push from ethically minded producers and retailers to push the various vegan leather options that are increasingly available. But when it comes to velvet, it’s sometimes quite difficult to ascertain what the fabric in question is actually made from.
If you are purchasing a velvet sofa, for instance, from a reputable retailer, they should label the product with details of the specific materials used. Even if it’s not specifically listed, a good retailer should at least be able to find out the information for you. Often, however, companies don’t feel the need to say anything more than “velvet three-seater sofa”, without giving information about what that velvet was made from. Invariably, cotton or synthetic materials, such as rayon will have been used (or a blend of cotton and synthetic fibres), but unless it is specifically mentioned, it’s better not to assume that only vegan-friendly fibres have been used.
As well as silk, which comes from silkworms, sometimes other animal-derived fibres are used to make versions of velvet. These include wool from sheep and potentially other animals, or even mohair from Angora goats.
Types of Velvet
Here are some of the main types of velvet you may encounter. Note that most of these types of velvet can be made from various fibres (including silk) so you won’t necessarily know whether it is vegan unless specifically labelled as such.
- Chiffon – A thin translucent version of velvet that retains the softness but is woven in a way that allows it to be see-through. Often made from silk, cotton or the cheaper synthetic alternatives rayon or polyester.
- Crushed Velvet – This usually contains some kind of pattern that is produced by crushing or twisting the fabric.
- Panne Velvet – Usually made from polyester, this is a version of crushed velvet that tends to minimise creases.
- Embossed Velvet – This is velvet that contains embossed or stamped designs for aesthetic purposes.
- Velveteen – Sometimes used synonymously as a term for velvet, but more accurately it refers to a fabric that is heavier and stiffer, but more durable than “real” velvet. It can be made from a combination of silk and cotton, just cotton or a blend of other fibres.
Given that synthetic fibres are generally made from crude oil and a whole load of other chemicals, and that cotton production has some troublesome environmental implications, can any velvet be truly vegan friendly? After all, plastic pollution and environmental issues relating to cotton production have a negative effect on animals all over the planet.
Thankfully, there have been various companies that have developed materials that resemble velvet but are produced from recycled materials or use production methods that have a low impact on the environment. One example is the Velours Recycled material made by Winter & Company that is produced using recycled plastic bottles.cAs the public desire for environmentally sound products increases and the rewards to ethical businesses also increase, we expect plenty more vegan-friendly, low-impact versions of velvet to materialise.
Vegan Velvet: Conclusions
If you can find out what a particular velvet is made from you can find out whether it is vegan friendly or not. At least on the face of it. For instance, silk comes from animals, so velvet made from silk is not vegan; on the flip side, cotton comes from plants, so velvet made from cotton should be vegan.
We say should because, increasingly, the environmental impact of products is being taken into account when assessing the vegan credentials of various products. If cotton is produced ethically and with due consideration for the environment, velvet made from it is fine for vegans. To be completely sure, though, opt for a velvet product that is specifically marked as vegan friendly and that has a low environmental footprint.