Rethinking Fashion: What’s Hot and What’s Not in the Ethical World

For vegans, it’s not just when shopping for food that we need to do a little label reading. We also want to make sure that our clothes, shoes, and handbags, among other things, are free from animal products. This is not as difficult as it sounds. Although there is an extensive list of materials that come from animals, shopping for clothes, shoes and accessories as a vegan does not restrict us to the extent that is commonly assumed. Avoiding leather, wool, fur, and (my most recent discovery after being a vegan for 11 years) silk, there are still plenty of vegan materials to choose from – from natural materials (such as cotton), to semi-synthetic materials (such as rayon), and synthetic materials (such as spandex and nylon). Just because you’re vegan, it doesn’t mean you have to give up fashion and dress like a stereotypical “hippie”. There are plenty of us who look and dress in a very mainstream fashion and are not at all deprived of the joy of shopping for pretty (or cool) clothing. Seriously, you don’t have to give up luxury from a fashion standpoint and I for one actually love a designer dress made from beautiful soft cotton. Two of my favourite brands that make high quality, stylish cotton (and rayon) dresses are Gypsy 05 and Zimmermann, but there are so many more. All you have to do is check the label and make sure they are free from animal products the same way you would if you were checking out a new product at the supermarket. Dresses With dresses, the animal product that you need to watch out for is normally silk, and occasionally, especially with winter dresses, there can be wool involved. Jumpers and sweaters Beware of any wool products when shopping for jumpers and sweaters, too. Look instead for the alternatives to wool, including acrylic, spun cotton and polar fleece. There are so many cool jumpers and sweaters out there that don’t contribute to the awfully cruel wool industry – anything from Gap Hoodies to plain ones at your local Kmart store. So there is absolutely no need to wear wool these days. If you are looking for a ‘woollen’ sweater, choose acrylic. It is also much cheaper. Coats and jackets For coats and jackets – watch out for leather and duck feathers. Pleather (artificial leather) is widely available now, making leather an obsolete choice. There are also plenty of warm jackets around that aren’t stuffed with the feathers of cute little duckies so please read labels if you want to make sure that you can stay warm and stylish the vegan way! For faux fur coats, or coats that incorporate faux fur, please be ware that many faux items may indeed contain real fur(!) So perhaps try to stay away from them, at least until this topic gets cleared out and proper labeling is instituted.

There are many vegan designer brands these days. In the photo above: the Neon Hostess Bag by the vegan designers brand GUNAS.

Bags and purses The biggest concern with bags and purses is usually whether they are made from or incorporate leather. The good news is that if you love the leather look, you can still have it in the form of faux leather, and if you hate the leather look, well then you have an even bigger selection still. These days you can find many great looking faux leather and fabric bags in almost every conventional store. If you go for the fabric variety make sure it is not embriodered with silk, and if you are into eco-friendly fashion, know that there are many bags and purses out there that are made with vegan and recycled materials. Shoes Shoes are one of the biggest fashion issues that a vegan may face and much of the stylish shoe market is made up of leather or suede. Having said that, I always manage to find a synthetic alternative without too much trouble. My kids and I all have vegan shoes; and so does my daughter who owns a beautiful pair of pleather Mary Jane’s from Seed which she loves. Canvas shoes are also readily available in many stores. I buy a lot from Kmart (the upside is that the shoes are super cheap too) and I also manage to find vegan shoes in more expensive stores on occasions. The key to shoe shopping is patience. Be fashionable and vegan As the fashion world becomes more conscientious, vegan shopping becomes easier. You will be surprised how many fashionable vegan items you’ll be able to find at your local shopping center these days. If you can’t find a desired vegan item in your regular designers shop, look online and you’ll find designer brands dedicated entirely to vegan fashion, which allow you to carry out your shopping without even leaving your home.   So if the “hippie” image is what is deterring you from making the vegan switch, don’t let it! Yes, occasionally, patience is needed to find the perfect fashion item in the vegan variety – but remember: there is nothing cool about the cruelty that is involved in the industry of animal products whether it be for food or fashion. Reading labels does apply to clothes, shoes, and handbags as much as to the food you buy – but it is way easier than you think. Happy shopping!  

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Vegan Super Mum Columnist

My name is Natalie Cunningham and I am from Melbourne, Australia. I am a mum of two beautiful girls, Leilani and Malia and my husband is Robert. We are a vegan family – I have been vegan for over 10 years now, Robert for 3 years and our children have been vegan since birth. I am the vice president and one of the founders of Vegan Parents Australia – an organisation dedicated to bringing vegan families together for moral support and friendships and to mainstream veganism by dispelling the myths that it is dangerous for children to be vegan, and that it is in fact easy and healthy!

More about Natalie

Check out Natalie’s co-founded organization – Vegan Parents Australia

Check out Natalie's Vegan Family blog - The Veggiebacons