In recent years veganism has gotten more and more popular. Studies have shown that it not only has a positive impact on our health but also on the environment. When thinking of veganism most people immediately think about food. But a diet isn’t the only thing that can be vegan. Veganism has also become prominent in other areas such as makeup.
A lot of beauty brands are also bringing out vegan makeup lines, and some brands are even turning completely vegan.
In the fashion industry veganism is also making an appearance. In this article, we will take a look at veganism in the fashion industry. Is it actually as good as people believe it to be or are there also negative aspects to vegan fashion?
What is vegan fashion?
Let’s start off with the most important question here: what is vegan fashion?
Vegan fashion is a fashion that is only made of plant-based materials. No animal product or animal by-products are used for the creation of the clothing. Technically veganism in fashion is not something new. For ages, plant-based materials have been used to create clothing, for example, cotton.
While it is often assumed that vegan and cruelty-free are the same, this is not necessarily true. A product can be completely vegan, but not cruelty-free because it has been tested on animals. This also works the other way around. A cruelty-free product does not mean that it is completely vegan. It can still have animal products in it. However, this is primarily an issue in the makeup industry. In the fashion industry, the products are not, and have never been tested on animals, and therefore, both terms are used interchangeably.
Benefits of vegan fashion
So let’s take a look at the benefits of vegan fashion. Starting off one benefit is immediately clear: it is better for the animals.
Animal products are used in many clothing items. Common materials are leather, fur, pelts, and wool, but the skin of snakes, crocodiles, and even seals are also used in clothing. A lot of these animals are factory farmed, which includes terrible living conditions and abuse. The animals are exploited and mistreated for their skin.
As for leather, most comes from countries such as China and India where the animal welfare regulations are lacking, and some animals are even skinned alive. Moreover, to get wool from sheep the animals are often handled roughly causing them harm.
So by turning your back to clothing made from animal products you are ensuring animal welfare.
Vegan fashion is also less damaging to the environment. While it is often believed that leather is a by-product of the meat industry it is actually a co-product meaning that there are farms where animals are specifically held for their skin. As we know the meat industry is terrible for the environment seeing as it uses massive amounts of energy, water, and has a huge carbon footprint. Next to this, a lot of chemicals are used to manipulate the materials so they can be used in clothing items. These chemicals end up in the environment due to the lack of waste regulations in many countries. Causing both environmental problems and health problems.
Leather is not the only animal product that is bad for the environment. Other materials such as wool and cashmere also use a lot of resources. And specifically for wool, the land is cleared so the sheep have a place to graze. This alone has caused many environmental problems such as erosion and a decrease in biodiversity.
There are alternatives
In this day and age, we have everything, and thus also alternatives for animal materials. Turning to vegan fashion has never been easier. We can now use wood, bamboo, and even seaweed to make materials that can be used for clothing. Even fruit leather is a thing now! On the right, you can see a picture of Piñatex which is leather made from pineapples.
Next to this, many brands and designers are cutting back on using animal products in their products. Examples of this are Tom Ford, Stella MacCarthy, Versace, and Gucci. And fast-fashion brands such as Zara and H&M are now also selling vegan products.
The downside of vegan fashion?
There are some claims that vegan fashion is not necessarily more environmentally friendly. Many argue that vegan materials are often made of plastics and synthetic materials. Because of this, the products aren’t biodegradable, and difficult to recycle. In order to create vegan materials, there are also several chemicals used. Take for example bamboo. Bamboo needs to be manipulated with many harmful chemicals in order to use it in clothing. Therefore, using bamboo in clothing is not as sustainable as is believed.
Another point that is often made in the discussion about vegan fashion is that leather made from animals is way more durable than vegan leather, making it more sustainable. While all these arguments are true, clothing materials made from animals, and especially leather are still less environmentally friendly than their vegan alternatives.
However, this shows us that even though vegan materials are better we still should not be buying every single vegan item we see.
After all, the most sustainable thing to do is to buy nothing.