Driven by demand and an industry-wide call for more ethical manufacturing, fashion brands are moving veganism from the kitchen to the closets of conscious consumers with animal-free clothing and accessories.
Although the momentum for vegan fashion has been building since 2018 – a year which saw Helsinki Fashion Week ban leather and luxury giants like Gucci, Chanel and Versace eliminate the use of real fur in their collections – the category recently exploded in part in response to Covid -19, which has led to growing concern about infectious diseases of animal origin. The pandemic, coupled with the global shift towards healthier plant-based lifestyles, is causing brands and consumers to reconsider their fabric choices.
AG Jeans recently introduced a capsule collection for men and women of ‘soft and supple’ vegan leather pants, shorts and jackets, which the brand says ‘rival the softest lambskin’. Each piece is hand finished in a renowned leather factory, using the same traditional seam sealing techniques as applied to genuine leather garments, and taking care to mimic the true locations of the seams for a look and feel. an authentic feel. The collection is finished with soft-touch matte rubberized material from recycled materials.
Meanwhile, sustainable denim brand EB Denim has put emphasis on vegan leather lace-up pants and vests in its email marketing for New Year’s party looks.
The initiatives put in place by organizations like Veganuary also integrate vegan lifestyles. Throughout the year, the UK-based non-profit organization helps individuals and businesses adopt herbal products to protect the environment, prevent animal suffering and improve human health. Each January, Veganuary aims to inspire new habits for a new year by urging people to sign up for a month-long challenge to ‘go vegan’.
More than 580,000 people have made the pledge during the 2021 campaign, adding to the more than one million people who have already done so since 2014. Veganuary reports that one million people have gone vegan for 31 days has saved the lives of 3.4 million animals. 1.6 million gallons of water saved and over 103,000 metric tonnes of CO2EQ saved by contributing to the global warming crisis.
Veganism turns out to go beyond the food choices of consumers. In its Conscious Fashion 2020 report, fashion research platform Lyst reported that searches for “vegan leather” increased 69% year-over-year, with an average of 33,100 monthly searches online, and the search for “imitation leather” has remained constant. Meanwhile, searches for “leather” fell 3.5% year over year. Likewise, searches for “fur” declined 8% year over year.
Sleek vegan fashion is definitely no longer available. The retail market information platform Edited reported that at the end of January 2021 there was a 75% year-over-year increase in products described as “vegan” stored in the States. United and UK compared to 2018. Accessories and footwear make up the majority. products like influential labels like Adidas, Allbirds and Stella McCartney continue to innovate in this space with vegetable leather, recycled marine plastic litter and 3D printed materials.
While the denim industry has been proactive in developing alternatives for water-intensive crops and chemical washing processes, as it continues on its sustainable journey, each component that makes up a pair from jeans, down to the three-inch leather on two-inch back patch – is under review.
The Higg Materials Sustainability Index, a cradle-to-door material scoring tool of the Sustainable Apparel Coalition, ranks cowhide as the first most upstream loaded material. Not to mention that the material is linked to the fashion history of animal cruelty, although leather is a by-product of the food industry.
In 2019, People for the Ethical Treatment for Animals (PETA) took aim at Levi’s, demanding that the denim giant ditch animal-derived leather for alternatives that are more ethical and less harmful to humans, animals and the environment. Although some of the brand’s patches are made from Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified Jacron paper, PETA has recovered the minimum number of shares of the then newly listed company required to submit shareholder resolutions and guarantee speaking rights at annual meetings.
Levi’s responded at the time by pointing out that “a small fraction” of the raw materials it uses is leather. “Nonetheless, Levi Strauss & Co. strives to source materials responsibly,” said a Levi’s spokesperson. “Our aim is to ensure that wherever animal-derived materials are used in our products, their health and well-being are protected, in accordance with international animal welfare standards. “
The animal rights group rekindled the argument in 2020 by collecting more than 125,000 signatures for a petition that called on Levi’s to go vegan leather, this time targeting the brand’s efforts to fight climate change by claiming that animal leather has at least three times the negative environmental impact like most vegan leathers.
“It is now widely recognized that animal agriculture, including industries producing its co-products, such as leather, is one of the main contributors to climate change,” said PETA.
While the ethical and sustainable benefits of veganism haven’t prompted a denim brand to rethink its bib, the massive impact it has on sales can. The global vegan fashion market is expected to reach $ 1.1 billion by 2027, Edited reported, and that’s just for women’s clothing.
Denim brands in tune with values close to millennials and Generation Z are taking note. Dutch denim brand Kings of Indigo is a vegan brand approved by PETA. The organization also commends American Eagle, Boyish, Closed, Mother, Uniqlo, and others for using non-leather patches or ignoring the entire brand element.
Since fall 2018, Nudie Jeans has used paper-based patches on newly produced jeans. Although the brand is not entirely vegan – they use other fibers of animal origin in contexts where they believe the fiber serves a certain function – they did not see the need to use leather as a decorative detail. . The Jacron patches used by Nudie are made from recycled paper that contains a small amount of acrylic polymer, which the company says is the least durable part of new patches but necessary to give the patch the strength it needs to last. life of jeans.
Cruelty-free and eco-friendly don’t always go hand in hand. As Edited pointed out, “there remains the question of scaling up sustainable alternatives to vegan products.”
While Jacron, known for its leather-like appearance and durability, is a common leather substitute, other vegan alternatives are often made from synthetic materials such as petroleum-based polyurethane (PU) or chloride. of polyvinyl (PVC), which Greenpeace has described as “the most harmful type of plastic for the environment.
“Both pose serious environmental threats as they are typically made from fossil fuels and are not biodegradable,” said Elif Haslaman, managing director of DeriDesen Etiket, a Turkish toppings maker, noting that “vegan is not does not necessarily mean natural “.
Topping suppliers, however, are on the lookout for responsible vegan alternatives. Pineapple leather, apple skin, cork, organic fabrics, and stone paper – a paper made from limestone compared to trees – are some of DeriDesen Etiket’s vegan options. Several alternatives also claim industry-recognized certifications such as Global Recycle Standard (GRS), Oeko-Tex, FSC and Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS).
“Vegan toppings are important to our customers,” said Gloria Crivellaro, Ribbontex Export Sales Manager. “They know exactly what they want and what they don’t want, and this is extremely important and positive.”
Besides vegan leather, the Italian trim maker offers a range of solutions produced with hemp, organic cotton, recycled plastic bottles and biodegradable materials. These alternatives, she added, are often better than traditional leathers.
Vegan jeans are also a side effect of the enduring denim makeover, especially the new collections that align with Ellen MacArthur’s Jean Redesign Project, an industry-wide effort to put circular jeans on the market. Marlet. While the guidelines don’t distinguish between leather, they do require easy disassembly of the trims for recycling, to which some attendees like Blue of a Kind and H&M respond by keeping their circular jeans patch-free. Others, like Tommy Jeans, laser print pieces of durable denim to use for patches in their Jean Redesign collections.
Indeed, the alternatives of sustainable materials multiply with the seasons. As of 2020, Haslaman has stated that 80% of DeriDesen’s production is produced from certified sustainable materials. The company’s target for 2021 is 95%. “Alternative sources of new materials are increasingly sought after and new manufacturing methods are being developed,” she said. “They are an important addition to improve the choice of sustainable materials. “
And the pandemic has only strengthened the denim industry’s commitment to sustainability. Crivellaro described 2020 as a “pivotal year” with one major bright spot: it sounded the alarm for a “more sustainable, ethical and environmentally friendly” approach to design and manufacturing down to the smallest detail.
“I have worked in this industry for over 15 years,” said Crivellaro. “I find the combination of denim and vegan surprisingly uplifting, so I really hope this will be the key to a good reboot. “