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Over the past few years, the fashion industry has been dominated by overlapping movements such as sustainable and vegan fashion. Although these movements have been creating a lot of buzz in this digital age, there is still a lot of confusion that surrounds them. While sustainable and vegan are often considered to be interchangeable, they aren’t. A product that is sustainable isn’t always vegan nor is a vegan product always sustainable.
As a consumer, understanding the difference between both will help you find a brand that aligns to your fashion philosophy.
Veganism has been a buzzword for a while now as a vegan lifestyle filtered into many aspects of life- from clothing to beauty to food. Vegan fashion consists of products that are completely cruelty-free and exclude animal products such as furs, leathers and wool. As the impact of the animal farming industry and fur trade is quite detrimental, vegan fashion has become increasingly important.
It continues to rise in popularity as it is not only aligned with animal rights, but also follows the shift we see in cultures and people. Veganism has today become a benchmark for conscious values for Millennials and Gen Z’s who want to ensure no animals are harmed as a result of their beauty and fashion products.
However, vegan alternatives to leather are not always kind to the environment. The production of vegan-based fashion can cause just as much harm as traditional methods. Materials such as rayon, polyester and faux leather are cruelty-free towards animals but not towards the environment. Plastic-based and extremely toxic in nature, these PVC alternatives are hazardous to our blue planet and lead to an increase in plastic pollution.
While vegan fashion protects animals from harm, it is often not a sustainable solution to the climate crisis.
Sustainable fashion aims to reduce the environmental impact of clothing and create the smallest carbon footprint possible. Brands practicing sustainability may use leather, silk or cashmere in their products and therefore are not necessarily vegan.
Materials such as organic cotton, hemp, wool, recycled polyester, upcycled leather and others are labelled as sustainable. The list includes anything that is environmentally friendly, renewable, organic or recycled and upcycled. Sustainable fashion refers to how the materials are used and the production practices that affect the environment, all the while making sure that the carbon footprint of the product remains low.
Labour practices and women’s rights are also part of sustainability within the industry. When calculating a products sustainability ratio, its socio-economic impact is measured as well. The on-going climate crisis has resulted in the UN issuing a list of seventeen Sustainable Development Goals for companies to achieve. Many brands and corporations are embracing the concept and trying to better their carbon footprint, however it cannot be achieved in a day. The road to sustainability is long and full of curves, but it’s one that leads to a greener earth
Sustainability in the mainstream fashion world is still very new. While progress is being made with plant-based leather alternatives such as those made from cactus pulp, pineapple leaves, apple skin and others, there is also a growing need for more ethical practices. The demand for a new world that has cruelty-free, chemical-free, biodegradable, organic and plant-based materials is rising. The future of fashion is vegan and sustainable together.