Christine Silak ‘22, Business Ad/Circulations Manager
If you are familiar with shopping fur-friendly in the fashion industry, you will understand that shopping vegan is a term to describe buying clothing that takes animal welfare into consideration— and does not use animal products at all. Why? You will likely be surprised to hear that many fast fashion corporations, and even high fashion brands, turn a blind eye to their treatment of animals before they are turned into coats, boots, or jackets.
Every year, billions of animals lose their lives to factory farming. These farms are characterized by cramped, filthy conditions, where animals are exploited for their fur, feathers, and skin. After a lifetime of torment, they are slaughtered by the cheapest means possible, including electrocution, gassing, or even at the hands of the workers themselves.
Luxury brands like Alexander Wang, Canada Goose, Dior, Fendi, Louis Vuitton, Marc Jacobs, Valentino, Yves Saint Laurent, and countless more still use animal furs and skins today.
The majority of the world’s leather comes from India and China, both which lack animal welfare legislation. Even in nations such as Australia, animals raised for leather do not have the same legal protection as pets, allowing them to be subject to abuse, deprivation, confinement, and other painful treatment. Additionally, contrary to popular belief, leather itself is a profitable resource and not just a byproduct of the meat industry.
Ethical alternatives to leather exist, however. Vegan leather, or “pleather” is made from Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) plastic, which is listed as an environmentally damaging plastic. Instead, upcycled leather from vintage markets is a sustainable and ethical alternative.
While wool is considered a winter staple, there are several concerns regarding animal welfare in the industry. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has revealed instances of mistreatments to sheep in Australia, where much of the world’s merino wool is produced. Mulesing, a procedure where flesh is cut from the animal’s body, often without anesthetic, is a common practice in this region. In 2004, the Australian wool industry, concerned by the threat to their international wool markets, after being challenged by PETA, set itself a deadline of 2010 to phase out the practice. So far however, this has not been achieved.
Wool alternatives such as organic cotton, hemp, and linen are gentler to the environment and cruelty free.
‘Luxurious’ clothing items such as fur and skin from rabbits, minks, goats, foxes, crocodiles, alpacas, llamas, and kangaroos are coveted by the fashion industry. Animals Australia found that “85 perecent of the industry’s skins come from animals raised in battery cages in fur farms, where animals are deprived of quality of life.” While faux fur is a more ethical alternative, avoid fast fashion faux fur garments as they are often made from non-renewable, petroleum based products.
“More and more consumers are seeking out both ethical and sustainable fashion options — and vegan is often the benchmark for both,” Annick Ireland, CEO and founder of online boutique Immaculate Vegan, tells Vogue. “Just as we’ve seen a real revolution in how people eat over the past few years, with huge growth in the plant-based food sector, we’re now seeing the same in vegan fashion.”
Advancements in textiles make vegan materials and clothing dupes close to indistinguishable from their animal-derived counterparts. Especially in the 21st century, vegan fashion has developed enormously and has become commonplace in stores and large brands. If anything, before shopping, take the time to research brands and materials, or check for a “cruelty free” line on the back of tags; it just might save an animal’s life.