Whether you’re currently a vegan or just interested in the lifestyle, you’ve probably come across fashion companies labeled as vegan clothing brands. Of course, you’re not going to eat a t-shirt or pair of sneakers, so what does veganism mean when it comes to the fashion industry?
Actually, it means a lot. The fast fashion industry is responsible for around 1.26 billion tons of greenhouse emissions each year. And that’s on top of its use of animal-derived textiles, unfair labor practices, and unsustainable materials.
So why should you extend your plant-based lifestyle past your diet and into the clothes you wear? And which companies are the best vegan clothing brands currently on the market?
Why You Should Shop Vegan (Even When It Comes to Clothes)
When non-vegans think of veganism, their first thought typically goes to food and what one can and cannot eat. But veganism extends far beyond abstaining from meat, dairy, eggs, honey, and more. It also means avoiding animal byproducts in all the products we consume.
After all, consumption doesn’t just come in the form of eating food. We also consume media, toys, stationery, clothing, and much more. And as vegans, our goal is to avoid consuming anything that causes suffering to an animal.
We are all inherently members of consumer culture, one that is driven by the desire to buy the newest and exciting items. However, that doesn’t mean we need to give into these cultural pressures. Instead, we should do everything we can to minimize the impact our purchases, or consumption has on animals, the environment, and the world as a whole.
Non-vegan textiles and how to avoid them
Even if you don’t purchase from exclusively vegan brands, you can avoid most (but not all) non-vegan garments by looking at the fabric content. Typically, animal fibers or hides are the reason why clothing isn’t automatically vegan.
Some of the most popular animal-derived textiles include silk, wool, cashmere, fleece, leather, mohair, and suede. These common textiles are also used to make fabrics like tweed (contains wool), chiffon (sometimes contains silk), and bunting (contains wool).
However, choosing a vegan lifestyle doesn’t have to mean doing without these classic fabrics. Instead, you can opt for synthetic alternatives. These alternatives might be sold under a different name or under the name of their animal-based counterpart.
Other fabrics, like moleskin or duck, sound like they come from animal sources but are 100-percent vegan. Ultimately, research is your friend when it comes to avoiding animal-derived textiles.
What Makes a Clothing Brand Vegan?
So what sets vegan clothing brands apart? On the most basic level, vegan clothing brands avoid using animal-based products in their goods. This might seem like an easy task, but fabrics, dyes, and other common garment materials often contain hidden animal byproducts.
Technically, this is all it takes to be a vegan clothing brand. However, we feel that these brands should also strive to limit their impact on the environment, not support unethical sources of labor, and contribute to a great good throughout their community and the communities they source their items from.
Why Not All Vegan Clothing Brands Are Good
When shopping for vegan clothing, or any vegan item, we urge you to look beyond the label.
Ideally, we’d love to see vegan clothing brands step up to the plate and deliver on the principles we listed above. Yet, like any segment of the fashion industry, things often aren’t how they should be.
Yes, you should avoid animal byproducts in the items you purchase and use. But is a vegan t-shirt really doing good if it was made by child laborers? Or if the cotton within was farmed and harvested unsustainably?
As Alden Wicker so succinctly put it, the word “vegan” is not automatically synonymous with ethical or sustainable.
One of the most cited examples of this is synthetic rayon. While rayon is a popular alternative to silk, the production process often leaks large amounts of toxins into the local ecosystem. While this fabric is, by definition, vegan, does it really align with the goals we collectively agree on?
And because veganism and plant-based lifestyles have gained traction in pop culture, many companies are eager to cash in on this segment of the market. As educated and ethical consumers, it is our job to weed these companies out and focus on the big picture.
The Best Vegan Clothing Brands for Ethical Fashion
If you want to fill your closet with vegan, ethical fashion, then oftentimes the best course of action is shopping exclusively with vegan clothing brands. Plus, most of the major vegan clothing brands currently on the market also focus on extensive environmental issues and use fair labor.
The vegan clothing brands listed below are barely a scratch in the world of vegan clothing and designers. However, they’re great examples of the fact that you can wear vegan clothing while still expressing your inner style. You don’t need to sacrifice one for the other.
Beyond Skin is a Spain-based footwear company that uses only vegan materials in their products. Their designs mimic the look of high-quality leather or suede without the use of animal hide. And on top of avoiding animal-derived products in their designs, they also avoid synthetic textiles that have a negative impact on the environment.
Beyond Skin manufactures their shoes locally in Spain. They don’t create their products in a sweatshop or use unethical labor. The company even sources its textiles and other materials as locally as possible to limit their carbon footprint. Despite their home in Spain, you can order these shoes worldwide.
As far as vegan clothing brands go, Beyond Skin is an excellent alternative to other mid- to high-end shoe designers like Michael Kors or Kenneth Cole.
Plant Faced is a trendy, street style-inspired clothing brand with a loud and proud vegan message. If you like vegan clothing brands with a message, this company might be your new favorite.
At Plant Faced, you’ll find all types of beanies, hoodies, t-shirts, and pins with slogans like “Eat Plants” or “Plant Life.” In addition to using vegan and eco-friendly fabrics, this company also prints all of its designs using vegan inks.
Susi Studio is another vegan shoe brand making waves in both the fashion and animal rights worlds. Founded by Bianca Moran Parkes, the brand’s goal is to inspire ethical living in the form of veganism and sustainable consumerism. Like many other vegan clothing brands, Susi Studio came about when Parkes couldn’t find stylish vegan designs from existing companies.
They make these shoes in Los Angeles but manufacture them in Hong Kong and Portugal. However, the owner of Susi Studio maintains a relationship with these factories to ensure they follow ethical and sustainable practices.
With a winning combination of style and affordability, Susi Studio shoes do sell out fast when they restock.
Insecta Shoes is another innovative vegan footwear brand, that combines functionality with fashion. Based in Brazil, Insecta Shoes is woman-owned and operated and uses only vegan and sustainably sourced materials in their designs.
While Insecta Shoes does use 100-percent vegan textiles, earning them the seal of PETA-Approval, their efforts don’t end there. The company also advocates for and supports the local communities that produce their shoes and participates in fair trade agreements.
As a holder of the Eureciclo certification, Insecta Shoes vows to manage their waste products in their product packaging. Not all vegan clothing brands focus on consumer waste reduction, so this is great to see.
And Insecta Shoes has possibly our favorite tagline of all-vegan clothing brands: Ecosexy.
In The Soulshine
In The Soulshine is one of the biggest vegan clothing brands in Australia. With lines for women, men, and kids, you can find pretty much anything you need for casual wear from this company.
Of course, In The Soulshine doesn’t use any animal-derived materials in their garments. But they’re also a powerhouse when it comes to ethical labor and sustainability.
In The Soulshine works with a production house in Bali to ensure their garments are made inhumane conditions and for a fair wage. As far as their choice of materials is concerned, the brand recently did away with all plastic and is switching to Organic Cotton for their goods.
If you love a company that puts its money where its mouth is, you’ll be happy to know that In The Soulshine donates to a range of causes like PETA, Mino Valley Farm Sanctuary, and Edgar’s Mission.
Quality menswear doesn’t have to mean wearing leather and wool, as Brave GentleMan has proven with their luxury line of vegan suit jackets, shoes, belts, and more. Touted as the first fully vegan men’s fashion line in the world, Brave GentleMan uses vegan materials, ethical labor sources, and sustainable practices. All without jeopardizing the quality of their final goods.
Most items from Brave GentleMan are constructed in New York City using vegan textiles from around the world. Everything is sourced as sustainably as possible, including the brand’s low-impact fabric dyes.
One of the standout qualities of Brave GentleMan versus many other vegan clothing brands is their use of state-of-the-art textile alternatives. From “future-leather” to the ivory-like tagua nut, you won’t even miss their animal-derived counterparts.
Do Good While Staying Stylish
As you can see, following an ethical, vegan lifestyle doesn’t need to mean sacrificing day-to-day luxuries like fashionable clothing. By taking the time to shop smart, you can support do-good companies like the ones above and many more.
Do you have a favorite vegan fashion brand you love? Or do you own garments from any of the vegan clothing brands we listed above? Let us know what you think in the comments below!