Could vegan fashion be the future of fashion and mainstream clothing trends? Vegan fashion is a rising trend and topic in the fashion industry, especially with more calls for an eco-friendly world. The products often used to make mainstream clothing, such as leather from cows, fur, and wool from animals such as sheep, are often created by incorporating many toxic chemicals into the products and polluting the environment, as well as much harm and abuse done to the animals themselves to gain their products, including breeding them in confinement and later brutally killing them.  

An increase in vegan fashion is an alternative to many who do not support the abuse and cruelty done to animals for the sake of fashion. But there are also debates about whether vegan fashion is as eco-friendly as branded. Either way, it is a growing topic in the fashion industry and among consumers.

What Is Vegan Fashion?

Vegan fashion consists of fashion items that do not contain any animal materials and for which no animal by-products were used during the entire production process. By using no animal products, it means that there are no animals exploited for their products. Using fewer animals also means not just preventing cruelty but also minimizing negative impacts on the environment. For those who want to wear products that are like animal products but without any of the cruelty or emissions involved, vegan clothing is growing in appeal.

Despite vegan fashion being celebrated as an eco-friendly trend, however, there are also many detractors. Most vegan leather products are still made from either polyurethane (PU) or polyvinyl chloride (PVC), both of which are incredibly polluting. And even brands that say they are using plant-derived materials often make as little as 25 percent of their product from cactus or pineapple skin and the rest from plastic. Since the fashion industry as a whole is deeply unregulated, there is not much pushback on these processes on a legal scale. Because these brands use products that might be worse for the environment or are not as environmentally friendly as they claim to be, detractors argue that vegan fashion is simply another way of ‘greenwashing’ products—that is, making them sound more eco-friendly than they actually are.

What Impact Does Vegan Fashion Have Internationally? 

The Swan Mini Grab Bag, featured on the House of Anita Dongre’s website.

There are many designers that are attempting to utilize vegan fashion or start brands that entirely rely on selling vegan fashion products. One designer is Anita Dongre, who runs House of Antia Dongre. She launched a line of vegan luxury handbags and belts, and the collection also includes handcrafted bags made with recycled glass beads. The line included a Swan Mini Grab Bag, the Birds Of A Feather Crossbody Bag, the Nocturnal Glass Beaded Bag, Champagne Gold Glass Beaded Bag, the Birds of a Feather Belt and the Haathi Belt. 

The accessories were made using Mirum, a plastic-free alternative to leather. This plant-based material is 100% natural, 0% plastic, and cruelty-free. It is also 100% recyclable and bio-neutral, leaving a smaller footprint after its time is up. Designers of international repute like Ralph Lauren and Pangaia have used this material in their collections as well. Anita Dongre looks to change the trend of luxury products that are cruel to their source and make accessories that are both luxurious and kind. Additionally, 5% of the proceeds from this line of accessories will be donated to the India Animal Fund.

Though there are some brands that try not to use animal products at all, there are some that do still want animal products but without the animal cruelty involved. One example is VitroLabs Inc. They started pilot production of its lab-grown leather, which is made using the cells of cows and has the same qualities, performance and even scent as real leather. To make their lab-grown leather, they first take cells from a harmless, one-time biopsy from a living animal. These cells can then self-regenerate indefinitely, producing all that’s needed to make a high-quality animal hide. VitroLabs then uses a specialized bioreactor to provide the right signals and nutrients the cells need to grow into an animal hide in just a few weeks. Once the growth phase is complete, the new animal hides can go directly into tanning without any additional processing. Since the cells grow only what’s needed, the tanning process is simplified, meaning a significant reduction in the environmental impact.

What Impact Does Vegan Fashion Have In KW & In Canada?

Logo of The Grinning Goat 

There are many Canadian designers and/or brands that revolve entirely around vegan fashion. One of these brands is the Grinning Goat, which opened in September 2017. Their boutique carries men’s and women’s footwear, apparel, outerwear, belts, bags, and other vegan accessories. In addition to selling vegan fashion, 1% off all sales at The Grinning Goat are donated to The Alice Sanctuary for the care of all of the residents there.

(Video about the Grinning Goat: )

Logo for Talk Vegan To Me Clothing

Another Canadian brand advocating vegan fashion is Talk Vegan To Me Clothing. They offer Canadian-made apparel that aims to make the buyer “feel confident knowing your item was ethically and locally manufactured.” They work with Worldwide Responsible Accredited Production (WRAP) certified manufacturers that promote safe, lawful, and humane manufacturing environments for workers to align with their values of promoting a kind and just world while limiting our environmental impact.

A University of Waterloo graduate, Vikki Lenola, held a major vegan fashion show in Toronto, Ontario on October 2nd, 2022. This event raised $6,501 for the advocacy group Animal Justice, and the show featured clothing and accessories from vegan brands, along with food vendors, guest speakers, artists, and performers. Lenola’s goal was to combine her two passions for modelling and animal rights activism, as well as answer some of the questions people continue to have about veganism, specifically as it relates to fashion. She also wanted to demystify common assumptions about plant-based materials, so educating the public was the main aspect of the show. The models themselves were also invited to watch informational videos on sustainability and the future of fashion during the show’s casting call, and food vendors at the main event offered vegan versions of classic fares, like pizza and burgers. Each guest also took home a gift bag containing educational resources and samples. 

Though vegan fashion is a growing trend, it is also a trend that is still being explored. Whether it is considered truly environmentally friendly is still debated, especially with how the ‘vegan leather’ label is utilized by brands and companies in the fashion industry. 

What do you think of vegan fashion? Let us know in the comments by tagging us at @SustainableWat!