When it comes to clothing, should we be focusing on buying vegan or ethical products? This is a question that sometimes puzzles me. As a vegan, I don’t want to buy any clothing items that contain animal leather, etc. but as a human being, the ethical questions that surround the fashion industry should be addressed and considered when shopping for clothing items. So where should we focus on?
I have read some articles about sustainable fashion and saw many mentions of fast-fashion brands like Zara or H&M. These companies mostly refuse the use of fur and animal-derived fabrics.
On the other hand these companies have been repeatedly called out for their work ethics (or rather, their lack of), mainly because their factories are based in undeveloped countries where the working conditions aren’t usually the best – more on that later.
Although this might be true, I wanted to get to the bottom of this question. Which piece of clothing should we focus on if we want to buy ethical and vegan items?
How can clothing be vegan?
Vegan clothes do not contain any animal-derived fabric, as leather, fur, wool or skin. Although you might already have vegan clothing in your closet, there are some items to have in consideration, especially on winter time.
When buying your winter boots or coats, read the labels, do your research and think before you buy. Nowadays there are many brands that sell vegan leather or winter coats with vegan, thermal insulation.
Where can I buy vegan clothing?
Depending on where you live, there are some clothing brands that sell vegan leather and clothes that don’t use any animal products. In the UK, you can find well labeled clothing and accessories in stores like The Kooples, Beyond Skin or Dr Martens.
Portugal has many companies working with many alternative and vegan options, especially with accessories using cork. Many stores like Artelusa, Glam Cork, Montado or Najha. You can also find a thorough list of vegan clothing stores at PETA’s website.
Why is sustainable clothing important?
The terms “ethical” or “sustainable” have been used to describe a different, better way of producing clothing pieces. With the rise of fast-fashion, we became more aware of the clothes we wear and how long they will last in our wardrobe. There are more environmentally and human-friendly ways of producing pieces of clothing.
The fashion industry is one of the biggest polluters of our planet and, even so, we don’t often think much about buying clothes that last or have gone through a fair process, without using many of the chemicals that pollute the Earth. Fast-fashion human’s impact has been big too. There are many families separated, with parents having to travel great distances to work in factories where they don’t have a fair pay or humane work conditions.
Fabrics like organic cottons have been favoured by many brands, since it’s produced in a more sustainable way. Organic cotton is grown without use of pesticides or fertilisers, using also less water than non-sustainable options. Other fabrics are created from other eco-friendly sources, such as cork, hemp, bamboo or even tencel.
Which brands offer ethical working conditions and sustainable materials?
There is a large number of companies fighting for honest, fair working conditions who also produce clothing with eco-friendly and sustainable materials. Brands like Thought, People Tree, Free the People and Finisterre offer sustainable pieces without compromising their workers lives. Another brand famously known for being sustainable and with very modern clothing is the US brand Reformation. Their dresses are incredibly beautiful and made with sustainable fabrics.
We are also witnessing a positive development of fast-fashion brands using sustainable collections, like H&M Conscious collection. H&M uses organic and recycled materials, making sure all the cotton they use is organic and sustainable. However, one could argue that buying sustainable clothing from a fast-fashion company doesn’t exactly help improving the lives of all the people working at H&M factories – which in the end isn’t that sustainable or ethical.
Where do you stand?
It looks like answering this question is harder than I thought although I believe that a good balance between vegan, ethical and used clothes may be the answer. From sustainable, ethical or vegan, where do you stand? I really want to know your thoughts on this topic.
Do you think about vegan or ethical clothing before buying? If so, do you tend to buy from more vegan or ethical brands? Please let me know on the comments below ☺️
Photo credits to Charles Etorom, at Unsplash.