Vegan and vegetarian food is everywhere these days. You can find animal-free clothing products in many places, but it will take an effort to determine which items are 100% vegan.
Vegan clothing may be produced by major manufacturers, home-based businesses or environmentally-conscious companies. It can be hard to identify animal-friendly clothing without studying manufacturing methods and brands. With a little research, you can have an all-vegan wardrobe.
Animal Materials in Clothing
Wool, leather and other materials derived from animals result in their death or suffering. The manufacturing process used to make these materials also harm and pollute the environment.
Animals raised in fur farms are crammed into cages with hundreds of other animals and then suffocated, gassed or electrocuted so their costs can be removed. Minks, rabbits, foxes, beavers, and bears are a few of the animals caged in fur farms.
Wool comes from lambs and sheep. Angora wool is sheared off rabbits and cashmere comes from goats. Shearling is lambskin with fleece attached. Distributors obtain wool by punching holes in sheep's ears and cutting off their tails. Goats, rabbits, and lambs suffer a similar fate.
The leather is skin from pigs, cows, kangaroos, goats or animals, but it is usually made from cows after they've been killed for food or milk. Snakes, crocodiles and other reptiles may also be killed, and their skins used to make shoes, belts or handbags. The toxic by-products of leather production harm the environment.
You may have already known how leather and wool are made, but few people think about the cruelty associated with silk and down. Clothing and bedding producers pluck feathers off live birds to obtain down.
Silk is made by boiling worms alive in their cocoons. The silkworms don’t simply weave silk and then return to freedom.
How to Select Cruelty-Free Garments
It’s not always possible to find a material tag on vegan clothing at the store, especially if you’re in a vintage shop. Here are a few tips on how to find vegan-friendly clothing at most retail stores.
Learn as much as you can about the materials used to make clothing. You don’t have to study fashion design, but familiarize yourself with the common animal and vegan components used in clothes and shoes. Most clothing items can be made from cotton, and this material is found in clothes from all price points. Other vegan materials include
It’s easy to identify clothing made with animal products, as they often contain the animal’s name. Wool, leather, down, suede, alpaca, cashmere, silk, angora, and shearling are a few commonly-used animal products.
You may need to use the "feel" test to differentiate between faux fur and real fur. Faux fur feels like shag carpet when you run your hands through it. The animal fur feels like your hair and has a distinct growth direction. Faux fur (and leather) is sewn onto the backing in straight rows, and you will be able to see the white background and stitches.
Vintage clothes are beautiful, and you can find great bargains at Goodwill or thrift stores, but animal fur and other animal products were used more often in past decades. Coats and sweaters were usually made of wool, shoes were made of leather, and even buttons were often made of Mother of Pearl.
You can find vintage-style clothing made from vegan material online from Etsy or companies such as Daddy-O Clothing.
Buy from companies specializing in vegan clothing if you have the budget and the time. If you do your research, regardless of your budget, you can find great deals on vegan apparel and shoes. Contact a local environmental or animal-rights group to learn more about where to buy vegan clothes in your area, or check online shops.
Some brands sell exclusively vegan and cruelty-free clothing, while others sell some vegan products. Always read labels (or product descriptions if you’re buying online).
H & M, Urban Outfitters, Doc Martens, Nasty Gal, Express, and Free People are the most popular and affordable brands that feature vegan products.
High-end brands, like Stella McCartney, Matt and Nat, Vaute, and Olsenhaus offer ethically-produced clothes, handbags, and shoes without sacrificing the luxury design and feel.
Clothing made from animal sources including designer leather and cashmere are some of the most expensive apparel in the world. Vegan apparel is either reasonably priced or somewhat expensive, while animal-sourced clothing is available at all price levels.
Alternatives to Animal Products
Rayon and nylon are the perfect artificial substitutes for silk, and they are relatively inexpensive unless you’re buying a designer brand. Mercerized cotton and several types of polyester are manufactured to look and feel like silk.
Sweaters and other clothing that you might think are made of wool may be made from hemp, bamboo, cotton acrylic or linen.
Organic cotton is the most environmentally-friendly choice for this vegan material. One-third pound of chemicals and fertilizers is used to produce a cotton T-shirt. Choosing organic cotton is an extra step you can take to protect the environment.
"Pleather," vinyl, PVC, latex, neoprene, and microsuede are just a few of the man-made materials resembling leather.
Be careful when buying vegan leather clothing, as most faux leather is plastic with a layer of fabric. Dioxin and other toxic chemicals may be created during the manufacturing process, making it a poor environmental choice.
Vegan Materials Used for Specific Clothing
Vegans need to pay more attention to clothing labels to ensure no animal products were used in any part of the garment, including trim or lining. Look for lining, quilting, the outer shell or upper when reading labels to determine what materials were used in different parts of the garment.
Look for a “Care Instruction” tag if you can’t find a list of materials used in the garment. Wool and other animal materials need to be dry cleaned or washed by hand. Synthetic and vegan materials are usually safe for the washer and dryer.
Look for blends on clothing labels. Some items are mostly synthetic but have a small percentage of animal material. Cotton/wool, acrylic/mohair, and silk/cotton are popular blends.
Check for trims, buttons, feathers and other accents on clothing. Zippers may have leather pulls and hats or purses may contain real fur pom-poms. Read the online product description or as the salesperson, if you're not sure about the material source,
Here’s what to look for, and what to avoid, when buying different types of clothing.
When you buy shoes, be sure to check inside the shoe to find out what materials were used during the manufacturing process. The list is usually found under the tongue or close to the heel.
Vegan materials used to make shoes include cork, paper leather, pineapple leather, microfiber, mushroom leather, faux leather, biofabricated leather, polyurethane, Ultrasuede, man-made materials and waxed canvas.
Men's and women's suits should be made with modal, polyester, cotton, linen, rayon or viscose. Avoid silk, cashmere and any kind of fur trim, unless the material is listed on the label as fake, faux or synthetic fur.
Handbags and Wallets
Check for a tag inside one of the pockets with a material list. The materials used to make vegan shoes are often used in wallets and purses. The eco-friendly materials are all synthetic materials, man-made materials, cork, waxed canvas, "mock croc," faux suede, Ultrasuede, paper leather, pineapple leather, microfiber, and polyurethane.
Shirts and Blouses
Many shirts and blouses from top companies are made from polyester, cotton, rayon or viscose. You can usually find tops in all price ranges consisting solely of man-made materials. A few of the vegan materials not normally associated with blouses and tops are Tencel, Cupro, bamboo, and hemp.
Coats and Jackets
You may be unfamiliar with many of the materials used to make ethically vegan jackets and coats. Aside from the usual suspects (faux fur, hemp, polyester, polyester fleece), other materials are Thermolite, Polartec Wind Pro, PrimaLoft, down alternative or synthetic down, Thinsulate and waxed canvas.
Look for material tags behind the neck or near the hem of the coat or jacket.
Look for polyester fleece, cotton, Microfiber, Tencel, linen, viscose,rPET, cotton flannel and acrylic on material tags or in online descriptions. Avoid pashmina, shearling, silk, mohair, alpaca, and wool.
Scarves and Bandanas
You won't need to worry about buying an animal-friendly bandana, as most of these head and neck coverings are made from cotton. Vegan scarves are made with Tencel, polyester fleece, linen, cotton, satin or acrylic.
Many high-end ties are made with silk, cashmere or wool, but you can find vegan alternatives pretty much anywhere since lots of vegan materials are used to make ties. Hemp, rayon, cotton, linen, nylon, polyester, acrylic, microfiber and Tencel are the most common materials used in ties.