What materials are used in vegan clothing?
Instead of telling you what materials it includes maybe it’s easier to say what it doesn’t. It doesn’t include any clothing materials like wool, silk, leather or fur – anything created from a living creature. That leaves everything else.
Unfortunately animal furs and skins are very popular with fashion designers. Not enough fashion designers seem to give much thought to where the materials they use come from.
But slowly things are changing. The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) recently partnered with fashion designer Jay McCarroll, the winner of the TV reality show Project Runway, to promote their Fur Free Campaign during the debut of his fall line at New York Fashion Week. And he is not the first.
Designers Stella McCartney and Benjamin Cho along with other designers, models, retailers and celebrities like Alicia Silverstone, Drew Barrymore and Pamela Anderson also support the Fur Free campaign (an estimated 40 million animals could be saved from becoming part of someone’s wardrobe).
Ralph Lauren also signed the PETA campaign and beginning with his holiday collection will no longer be selling any fur products.
While these designers won’t necessarily be calling their fashions vegan clothing, these are some very positive changes.I am hoping we are beginning to see a gradual shift to creating and purchasing clothing that is not only beautiful but is created with concern for animals, people and the earth.
Get The Look Without The Harm
There are more options than ever that provide alternatives to leather, wool, silk and fur. While they are cruelty free fabrics, they are not without their problems. These manmade options are often made from plastic, no friend to the environment. Green plastics are in the works but we are a way off from that.
For now, pleather is a great alternative to leather and for many a good choice for vegan clothing. It’s no longer a cheap plastic like fabric. It is considered by some as a daring, cutting edge material being used in it’s classiest forms by Gucci, Prada and FUBU. But because it is less expensive than leather can be found in items that fit any budget.
Versatile, flexible, easy to care for and in many ways superior to leather, it can be made into vegan clothing, shoes and accessories that can mimic the look of leather or any animal skin such as crocodile, snake or ostrich.
Faux fur has also come a long way to mimicking the real thing. It can be made from cotton, polyester or more frequently acrylic or mod acrylic fibers which are available in a color, pile and density that resembles real fur.
According to the Humane Society of the United States the fur industry is going to great lengths to disguise real fur to look like fake. Some of the cheap looking fur trims on some of our clothing may actually be rabbit, fox or even cat or dog. A loophole in product labeling could allow all materials to be listed except fur.
Check out the HSUS for more information about this.
On a recent trip to the store, I was looking at a sweater with a pink fur like collar. I assumed it was fake fur by the look of it and because it was inexpensive but I thought I’d check the label. I was wrong. Surprisingly, it was rabbit fur. That was a lesson for me, never assume that because it is cheap it’s fake fur.
The arguments against leather and fur in vegan clothing may be easily understandable but what about wool and silk?
Silk worms are really caterpillars who secrete a fine filament that forms a cocoon around it while it grows into a moth. The cocoons are then boiled with the silk worm still in the cocoon. A few moths are usually allowed to emerge to maintain the silk worm population.
It was thought the silkworm was needed to keep the silk fibers intact so it can be reeled in one continuous thread. This is an old process that has been going on for hundreds of years. But there is an alternative, Peace Silk.
This process lets the silkworm live out it’s full cycle and emerge. With Peace Silk they have found that the fiber can still be spun like other fibers without the silkworm. It creates a soft, fluffy, lightweight material that has been found to provide excellent warmth and is good for therapeutic use.
There is also a form of wild crafted organic silk called Tussah. Vegan clothing made from Peace Silk can be hard to find but fabric and yarn for making your own clothing or wedding apparel is more accessible. For more information about Tussah, Peace Silk and other organic fabrics and yarns all naturally dyed, check out Aurora Silk.
The Problem With Wool
After all, it’s sheared off the sheep and they’re not killed for it. But it’s not as simple as that and while the sheep don’t die they can be treated very cruelly. Read for yourself and decide at the Peta website or do a search for vegan wool.
Wool fleece can be replaced with a new technology fabric, Polar Fleece created from recycled plastic bottles destined for landfills. It is a extremely durable, odor and water resistant, breathable, warm and flame resistant fabric. There are also some cottons and cotton blends that are comparable to wool.
Sometimes going for an animal friendly product only leaves us with a synthetic fiber alternative and the creation of many of these fibers can contribute to environmental harm. And there is always the concern with sweatshop labor with any of our clothing choices.
Unfortunately, there are just no easy answers here. The best solutions are found in vegan clothing made from eco friendly fabrics like hemp and organic cotton and as we learn how to green up manmade fabrics.