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Is Vegan Clothing Sustainable?


The way we buy and use our clothes can have an impact on the planet. While fast fashion and low-quality clothes can have negative impacts on the environment and the way we view our clothes, we ask, could vegan clothing be the solution?
Is Vegan Clothing Sustainable?

by Ellen Hill


We all know that the way we buy and use our clothes has an impact on the planet. Fast fashion and low-quality clothes have negative impacts on the environment and the way we view our clothes. As veganism grows in popularity and availability, many brands choose to make vegan collections or change to use only vegan materials. So we ask, is vegan clothing the solution?  We explore what vegan clothing is out there, what it can do for the planet, and whether vegan clothing really is sustainable.

Is Vegan Clothing Sustainable?

Is vegan clothing sustainable?

Contents:

What is Vegan clothing?

Which materials are vegan?

  • Organic Cotton
  • Linen
  • Lyocell
  • Hemp

Which brands are committing to vegan clothing?

Is vegan clothing really sustainable?

What is vegan clothing?

Vegan clothing is a fashion movement which seeks to remove all kinds of animal products from its production process. This includes any exploitation of animals along the process, from animal cruelty, to containing actual animal products. Vegan clothing therefore supports the development of animal-free alternatives for clothing. The goal is to reduce animal cruelty and the exploitation of animals for human gain. 

what is vegan clothing?

Which materials are vegan?

Vegan materials include fabrics such as organic cotton, linen, and hemp. These materials can be grown and made into garments without the use of animal or animal-derived products. 

Organic cotton is preferred over regular cotton because veganism aligns itself with sustainability and organic cotton takes sustainability into account. Organic cotton is cotton found from suppliers like those committed to the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI). The BCI is an organisation which seeks to make global cotton farming better for those who produce it, the environment it grows in, and the future of the industry. Cotton made using BCI methods uses less water, with no fertilisers or pesticides. This conserves water for human consumption, and reduces the threat of water pollution. Organic cotton is a more sustainable and worker-friendly way of growing cotton and is a good option for brands when making vegan clothing and for vegan shoppers. 

Organic cotton in vegan clothing

Linen is a material made from flax plant fibres. Linen is a very strong material and dries much faster than cotton. It makes a great fabric for warm countries and is thought to be one of the oldest textiles in the world. Flax plants require less pesticides and fertilisers than other crops and because it is made from natural fibres it is both recyclable and compostable. Good quality linen usually comes from Europe or Japan. 

Lyocell is a vegan fabric made from wood. Lyocell is a natural fibre that is softer than cotton, uses less water, and requires no pesticide or fertiliser. The wood from birch, oak, or eucalyptus trees is ground up and then added to amine oxide. This mixture is spun to release the fibres which make up the Lyocell fabric. This process is vegan and uses sustainably sourced wood and the amine oxide solvent can be reused again and again. This means there is no waste to this process. Lyocell is considered an innovative fabric in vegan clothing and the sustainable fashion industry. The fabric itself is also recyclable and biodegradable. 

Hemp in vegan clothing

Hemp is known as the cannabis plant’s “sober cousin” because it does not produce the same effects as its relative. Hemp is a plant which grows easily without the aid of pesticides and fertilisers. Its roots grow deep into the ground which make the plant a great way to preserve soil structures. It doesn’t require high quality soil to grow and therefore doesn’t take away the land space needed for food crops. The fabric made from hemp is soft and breathable and increasing in popularity. Hemp can be used to remove CO2 from the atmosphere. Portuguese brand 8000 Kicks make waterproof vegan sneakers out of hemp fibres. 

Wood pulp lyocell in vegan clothing

These are just a few examples of vegan materials that are available. There are vegan materials that aren’t considered sustainable and therefore most people following a vegan lifestyle are likely to also avoid these products. 

Which brands are committing to vegan clothing?

Vegan clothing brands are leading the way into a more sustainable and animal-friendly fashion industry. Save The Duck make down-free winter coats 100% free from animal products and won PETA’s Company of the Year award. Tentree phased out leather from their clothing and instead use a cork-based alternative. They make casual clothing and activewear out of Lyocell and organic cotton, and plant trees to offset their carbon footprint. Thought is a sustainable fashion brand showcasing natural materials across their prints and patterns and have dedicated vegan clothing collections. Ruby Moon make sustainable and ethical swimwear and activewear and are PETA-approved Vegan. Yatay are a vegan sneaker brand that makes “bio-polyols” made from grains as a synthetic leather replacement. They are PETA-approved and their sneakers include materials made from tree pulp and recycled rubber.

What brands are committing to vegan clothing?

Is vegan clothing really sustainable?

It seems vegan clothing made with vegan fabrics is just the first step. As alternatives to animal products become more popular, oil-based materials such as faux leather made from PVC and PU increase in production. These materials are toxic and fuel global warming because they are made from petroleum. These alternatives do remove the element of animal cruelty that vegan lifestyles look for, but that doesn’t mean they are better for the environment. Similarly, cotton is a thirsty crop that requires large amounts of water and chemicals to grow in the quantities that are needed. The cotton industry is responsible for a large portion of the world’s water usage.

The good news is that there are alternatives to these alternatives! While PVC faux leather is plastic and oil-based, cork-based faux leather is a more sustainable option. When it comes to cotton, organic cotton is becoming more widely available with more brands switching to suppliers backed by the BCI. So, just because clothing is vegan doesn’t mean it is also sustainable. However, finding vegan clothing that is sustainable is possible and it is becoming more readily available. 

Is vegan clothing the future of fashion?

Vegan clothing for the future

Vegan clothing is becoming more mainstream and more accessible. In recent months, with the help of a global health crisis which saw consumers reevaluate their behaviour, shopping habits have changed. While fashion is going nowhere, the way we shop and what we expect from brands has changed. Veganism isn't going anywhere, meaning more brands across multiple markets are branching out into vegan products like vegan skincare, or vegan haircare. Fashion brands making commitments to adapt their products and suppliers means the vegan clothing industry can become more sustainable.

There is a growing demand for businesses to source more eco-friendly materials. Shoppers have the power to reward or punish businesses through the way they buy. By choosing brands committing to using these vegan fabrics and sustainable fabrics you can help to provide a more transparent and sustainable future for the fashion industry.