Note from the author. COSH respects all sustainable choices. Veganism is one of those. As a platform, however, we also promote non-vegan fashion where sustainability is their top priority such as certain initiatives working with animal-friendly wool. In the context of the Vegan Fashion Week which should have been happening in June, we wanted to highlight vegan alternatives. We are now looking forward to the new edition of Vegan Fashion Week 2020 in October!

From the catwalks of the Vegan Fashion Festival to the clothes racks in your local shop, there’s no denying it. Veganism is more popular than ever!

But what is vegan fashion? Everyone has heard of the term vegan, but what does that actually mean when it comes to buying vegan clothing? If you’re wanting to shop vegan, then you should be aware that the labels on your clothes are only required to declare materials that comprise over 3% of your garment. This means fibres in smaller quantities and trims might often be overlooked and make your garment not as sustainable as it first appears to be, and maybe not totally vegan.

Don’t be discouraged though. Moving towards more vegan or vegetarian alternatives in your food and clothing choices is important. Every step in the right direction counts. For example, even just being a flexitarian, i.e. you primarily eat vegetarian/vegan but haven’t banned meat totally, can have an impact.

You don’t have to be vegan to buy vegan clothing as it’s so widely available these days. More and more brands are choosing to release full, or partly, vegan collections. So on your next COSH shopping trip, you won’t have to search for too long to find your new favourite vegan garment.

These textiles and materials are not vegan!

There are some textiles however that you must avoid at all costs when you’re shopping vegan because they come directly from animals. Just avoid the following list and you will be on the right track to a vegan wardrobe.

At COSH, we distinguish between textiles that kill animals and materials that keep animals alive but sometimes exploit them.

Tough leather jacket or fancy fur jacket?

Leather is obviously made from animals: cow hides are most commonly used for leather, but also goat and lamb. Another reason not to buy leather is that toxic chemicals are used to tan and treat leather. Top Tip: There isn’t only leather in bags or shoes, don’t forget about the leather patches on jeans and other garments.

Fur comes from animal coats. These animals tend to be kept in poor conditions on farms where they undergo both physical and psychological abuse. Eventually, they will die a painful death by anal electrocution, a broken neck, or even by gas chambre. Surely, nobody would want to support such bad treatment of those animals…

It’s sooo fluffy, but often animals suffer for that soft wool

Sheep wool is especially popular in Australia. Due to the pressure on wool prices from mass production, wool has to be as cheap as possible which in turn puts enormous pressure on the sheep shearers. When shearing, they often handle the animals roughly due to time pressure resulting in many injured animals. Another horrific practice is mulesing where the skin is cut away around the sheep’s tail to prevent the build-up of a parasite. This procedure is usually carried out without anaesthesia.

Angora wool comes from rabbits which often live in China in extremely poor conditions. They are kept in tiny cages, and the process of getting their hair plucked out while alive, puts them under a lot of stress.

Mohair comes from angora goats which live in America and South Africa. Their wool is much softer than normal sheep’s wool. The angora sheep are fully submerged in water before being shaved so that their mohair fur is as clean as possible.

Animal products in accessories

Soft and silky scarf or down jacket?

If you thought that was it for all the animal products, then you’ll be disappointed to discover there are other things animals are made to suffer for.

Despite goose feathers often being viewed as by-products of the slaughter of birds, you are indirectly supporting the meat industry by buying clothing with feathers. Ducks are often used to produce foie gras, and when the birds start to moult they are then plucked alive. Unfortunately, not all birds moult at the same time leading to some birds being prematurely plucked which is both extremely painful to them and leaves their skin loose.

Did you know that just 450 grams of silk requires the death of 3000 caterpillars? A huge number of caterpillars have to be boiled alive before the fibres can be used industrially.

Buttons, jewellery and combs

Horns, hooves and beaks are all used for buttons, jewellery and combs due their keratin-rich dead cells. Extracting nacre (used in mother of pearl buttons for example) from shells or mussels kills these marine animals if they haven’t already died during the breeding process.

What about shoes?

You wear shoes everyday so they have to be good quality. If you’re choosing to shop vegan, then make sure the upper part of a shoe is not leather, and that they will be able to cope with walking through the beautiful nature you live in.

Vegan shoe alternatives are often made of cotton mixes, mushroom or pineapple leather, wood, vegetable felt, cork and algae-based foam.

Soles of shoes

Choose shoes with real rubber soles and no plastic components. If your sole is a mix of recycled rubbers or plastic, then you will leave microplastics behind you with every step. Microplastics are very damaging to animals’ natural habitats.

Adhesives in shoes

All shoes use glue, often combined with stitching. However, many types of glue contain animal products. The only way to guarantee the glue is not animal-based, is to buy from a PETA vegan certified brand, or from a brand that you know has a holistic approach to veganism and who isn’t jumping the hype.

Does your label tell you everything?

The truth behind labels

You might assume that what you read on a label is a full and accurate picture of your garment’s position. Unfortunately, legislation only forces brands to declare textiles which make up over 3% of your garment. This means that the adhesive linings used to reinforce collars, buttons, or even the label in itself are often not included. This is hugely problematic if you wish to shop vegan, but also when it comes to recycling your clothes as recycling works best when a garment is 100% one material.

Collar and waistband reinforcement

Due to its strength, glue is often used in collars, waistbands and button closures. This is something to try and avoid when buying clothes as most brands haven’t even thought about this. When designers send their sketches off to be produced in other countries, they don’t really think about what’s on the inside of the garment, they just get their prototypes back. In luxury fashion, the individual materials are often chosen by the designer however, and generally smaller companies will be able to tell you about all the materials used in their clothing.

Is circular fashion also vegan?

Can circular fashion officially be vegan? Without thorough screening of the recycled products transformed into clothing, it is impossible to say with certainty whether something is actually vegan. Imagine several waste streams of cotton material, you can’t know whether the dye used in the original garments initially contained animal products or not, so it technically cannot receive 100% vegan certifications. However, COSH labels both Belgian circular fashion brands HNST and TROPAS as vegan.

Armed with all this information and COSH’s shopping guide (which allows you to easily filter brands that are vegan), go on a vegan shopping trip! It truly has never been this easy.

Go Shopping With COSH!

Supported by