ONDINE SHERMAN

New vegan fabrics and why what you wear matters

30 - 12 - 2017

Eliminating the usage of animal products in one’s life might begin with diet, but it certainly doesn’t end there. The fashion industry is guilty of using animal products, and some estimate the numbers are comparable to those in the food industry. Indeed, some of the most coveted and expensive materials come from animals like leather and fur. Luckily, many prominent fashion designers are moving away from these often cruel animal derived fabrics and trying to incorporate man-made, vegan fabrics in their designs instead.

The clothing you choose matters

Fashion has been found to be the 5th most polluting industry in the world, equal to livestock. For example, leather tanneries use dangerous toxins such as formaldehyde, cyanide, lead, and chromium that end up in waterways and use chemical preservatives, colorants, stiffeners, and modifiers that make it almost impossible to biodegrade.

The well-being of animals around the world is so highly dependent on the health of our planet, it’s become clear how important it is to take a closer look at our fashion habits. And luckily, some amazing innovations are emerging that specifically address these problems, so we can start feeling good about what we’re wearing.

We all know how terribly cruel and unnecessary fur is. But did you know that hundreds of millions of animals are also killed for leather every year? Mostly cows but also millions of dogs and cats. The industry, located primarily in India and China is widely known to be unregulated and inhumane. We can no longer deny that our choices in clothing is an important contributor to the suffering of animals.

Fashion statements

There’s another reason why you should care about what kinds of clothes you buy. Fashion is a statement of who you are and what you believe in. As famous designer Miuccia Prada put it, “What you wear is how you present yourself to the world, especially today, when human contacts are so quick. Fashion is instant language”. Paying closer attention to what’s going on in the world and doing things differently is what’s going to allow us to move humanity forward. All it takes is one step in vegan shoes!

Animal-friendly & eco-friendly alternatives

New vegan and eco-friendly materials are emerging every day and they’re even being used by prominent fashion designers! Here are some of my favourites (and where you can get them, too!):

Recycled Rubber & Tyres

While rubber used to be naturally derived from the Pará rubber tree, the majority of it today is unfortunately synthetic and transformed from petroleum. We use both natural and synthetic rubbers everywhere, from tyres, to fire hoses – and disposing of this material is extremely polluting. Thankfully, designers such as Laura Zabo found a second life for recycled rubber, creating handbags, necklaces and even belts! The rubber from inner tubes has a very similar texture and density as natural leather and as designer Paguro found out, it makes for very attractive and stylish handbags.

Waxed Cotton

While this method has long been used for jeans by 7 for all Mankind and Marc Jacobs, it’s now being recognized as an eco-friendly and vegan alternative to leather. It’s pliable and waterproof just like leather but it has the added bonus of being machine washable! That means you can also contribute to helping the environment by cutting down on the use of harsh chemicals used in the dry-cleaning process. Win-win!

Fruit Waste

Many new materials are being derived from fruit and vegetable waste, like orange skins and banana peels. One very unique brand, Happy Genie, is now transforming apple fibers into beautiful bags. Similarly, Piñatex creates pineapple leather which they derive from pineapple leaf fibers. Not only are these natural and sustainable alternatives to leather, they also help provide additional income for local farmers and reduce waste, making this trend an all-around ethical gem!

Although these new materials are still emerging, some of them are actually quite affordable. And since we now know that what we wear is just as much about who we are as what we want to communicate to the world, it’s worth taking the time to get informed, ask questions and be the change we want to see.