This post is a follow-up to a four-part blog series on the reasons why to choose vegan fashion. These ranged from the blatant animal cruelty inherent to sourcing leather to attempts at making a case for the sustainability of vegan fashion. While the former is rather clear-cut the latter is more controversial. So is vegan fashion sustainable? Spoiler alert: This post will describe why, after wanting so much to choose vegan fashion, I'm not buying it. I am not advocating that we all go out and buy new cashmere sweaters and leather boots, but rather aiming to expose the limitations of vegan fashion, particularly with regards to its environmental impact.
But first, I am going to talk about why I love natural materials. Having recently picked up a 1960's Italian wool skirt at a luxury swap curated by Female Narratives and What's Your Legacy, I have become increasingly aware of the durability of natural materials. This skirt is 60 years old, and if it were not for the vintage label, this skirt could have been made in the past 6 months as far as I am concerned.
^Luxury Clothes Swap held at The AllBright Mayfair
A particularly tricky area for me is shoes. A couple of years ago, for instance, I purchased a pair of boots from Beyond Skin, which to be fair I did wear extensively. However, having to throw them away did make me wince a bit compared to leather, knowing that the polyurethane boots will still exist on this planet in hundreds if not thousands of years. Most vegan shoes are made out of PU, and while you can choose materials such as canvas and cork from the likes of Po-Zu, Toms and Birkenstock when you live in central London, you will be lucky to be able to wear these materials for three months of the year. This is not to bash brands who are innovating in the vegan fashion sector but is to question the notion that vegan is always the best option.
^Pair of pre-loved suede boots I purchased from Vestiaire Collective
Furthermore, if I write to a brand and they can show me that the wool they use is non-mulesed¹, I will choose this option over a synthetic such as acrylic for knitwear any day. Knowing that wool, as a natural material will biodegrade, I don't have to fret if and when I do have to throw a garment away. Similarly, to leather buying pre-loved knitwear made from natural wool is also a great option.
While some synthetic garments can be recycled, this is only true for fabrics that are not multi-fibre blends as we do not currently have the technology to separate blended fibres on a large scale. Besides if I chose to recycle a 100% polyester bag, what is to say that the next person will?
Furthermore, even if I do purchase a recycled nylon or polyester garment, it will still shed thousands of micro-plastic particles when it goes in the wash. Obviously, bags and shoes are an exception to this rule (unless you put them in the washing machine which I strongly advise against!). However, these items will, nonetheless, likely end up in landfill one day unless extremely well-maintained. As such, we need to reduce the amount of plastic that we produce and use.
This year Fashion Revolution expanded its campaign to encourage citizens and conscious consumers to ask brands 'Whats in my clothes?'
Before committing to vegan fashion, I encourage you to ask yourself this question.
Love and Solidarity,
¹ Mulesing is the painful removal of strips of wool-bearing skin from around the breech (buttocks) of the sheep to prevent parasitic infection. However, sheep are specifically bred to have more skin folds as this equates to more wool per animal. Mulesing is not just cruel; it’s also ineffective