Article published in the spring issue of DeFuze magazine under the title “cruelty-free”
Veganism started in the early 40’s. From the beginning, it has not been merely a healthy diet; it has always been a lifestyle driven above all by ethics. This is how it was defined in 1944 by the Vegan Society: “ a way of living which seeks to exclude, as far as is possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose.” But, at this time, becoming a vegan was a heroic choice not without its fashion limitations.
Indeed, as it was explained in an excerpt of the Vegan, the official representative organisation of the vegan society, in its summer 1946 issue, the difficulties encountered by its members to find non-leather footwear were considerable:
“Your leather shoes are the first thing the destructive critic picks on. All this fuss about a drop of milk in a cup of tea, he says, and there you go walking about in a missionary zeal with a product of the slaughterhouse on your feet.
Never mind. You are aiming at ultimate consistency. The commercial world is not out to help you except by chance, and you have to succeed gradually, demonstrating what can be done to eliminate connivance at animal exploitation in spite of adverse circumstances.
You will have been on the look-out for those plastic shoes the Americans are wearing. Too bad they have not arrived in our shops yet. But Messrs Dawson and Owen, the Hertford pioneers of humanely produced goods, whose pre-war catalogue ranged from non-bristle brushes to vegetarian footballs, are hoping soon to resume manufacture of their non-leather footwear.”
For a while, the vegans were perceived as quixotic characters refusing to eat animal products and dressing like monks.
Luckily, times are changing and veganism is becoming mainstream! A surge of responsibility and innovation in fashion today benefits people who want to be stylish without using animal products.
Luxury vegan brands are now flourishing. The so-called vegan fashion brands are those which don’t feature any animal products at all, no leather, no feathers, no down, no fur, no hair, no wool, no fleece, no silk, no bone, no horn and no shell.
Surprisingly, Stella McCartney, who represents vegan luxury fashion in people’s minds, is actually a vegetarian and her brand is not vegan-friendly at all. Even if fur and leather are banned from her collections, silk and wool are still present.
Never mind. The first to take the leap of embracing veganism were the footwear designers. Beyond Skin is my favourite. The brand demonstrates in all its collection that non-leather shoes can be very stylish. Their shoes are simply gorgeous, feminine and playful.
Love is Mighty is a young footwear brand which succeeds in bridging centuries-old craft of tribal artisans in rural Indian villages with modern design. The brand also displays a collection made in reclaimed plastic biscuit wrappers and shopping bags. Each pair of shoes is unique.
After cruelty-free shoes, a smart stylish bag in faux-leather is a must-have in the closet of any trendy vegan woman to be the height of chic. The Canadian brand Matt & Nat was a pioneer in designing cruelty-free handbags. They look like they are made in real leather and they last forever. The collections are endless, in classic or vivid colours, perfect to complete an urban outfit.
The challenger for vegan handbags is Gunas. Launched in 2008, the brand was recognised in 2012 by the Ethical Fashion Forum held in London. Each piece is bold and edgy. A Gunas bag is the perfect accessory for the woman who wants to stand out in a crowd.
For the clothes, the vegan luxury fashion brand is Vaute Couture (the “V” replaces the “H” and stands for vegan). The brand is always looking for high tech performance textiles. The coat collection is just amazing, made of organic and recycled fibres, coated with moleskin and lined in ripstop. These vegan coats are so warm, they can even be worn for skiing. This winter, for the first time, Vaute Couture has launched a collection of oversized sweaters in 100% cotton for creating a rock‘n’roll allure.
An increasing number of young designers are meeting the demand for top-quality vegan fashion. Mia Loebl is one of them. Her style is decidedly avant-garde. She uses organic cotton and upcycled and recycled products for her unique handmade pieces.
Vegan designers create beautiful things. Now, it’s almost impossible to recognise the difference between viscose and silk, faux-leather and animal leather, wool and synthetic fabrics without taking a peek at the label.
Vegan designers are devoted to animals and the environment. They are committed to building a sustainable fashion industry. Kindness and consciousness are their story.
You can go with them to better your style and clean your conscience. Veganism is becoming mainstream, don’t get left behind!