Long gone are the days when the thought of vegan fashion congers up the smell of a mung bean curry and images of footwear that verge on correctional. Vegan fashion is going mainstream and today it will take the stage at New York Fashion Week with the first ever all vegan, cruelty-free line by Vaute Couture. The consumer interest and demand for cruelty-free, ethically produced fashion is on the rise. This comes as no surprise since widely publicised events like the sweat-shop fire in Bangladesh that killed over a hundred garment workers and PETA’s ongoing international campaigns on the production and use of animal products within the industry, brings to light the unethical way most the industry operates.
Founder and director of Vaute Couture, Leanne Mai-ly Hilgart is a former Ford model and vegan of over 13 years. On quitting her modelling contract and MBA in 2008, Hilgart spent eight months developing a fabric that is recycled, recyclable, warmer than wool and suitable for below freezing weather. As well as being cruelty free, all her coats and garments are ethically produced in the New York fashion district. Hilgart said in a recent blog post that “It’s important to me that the people who make my coats are able to afford to live in the same city I do, and I won’t make a cheaper coat so that someone can afford it if it means it’s not fair to the workers”.
Also, this week in the UK PETA announced the first ever Vegan Fashion Awards. The awards ceremony recognised big industry names like Stella McCartney and Vivienne Westwood for their commitment to advancing animal-friendly fashion, alongside new vegan designers including Bo Carter. The ceremony also launched PETA’s new logo that can be used by designers to identify vegan clothes and accessories in stores and online. Designer Sadie Frost, who helped launch the event last week said “with ethical consumerism on the rise – and its increasing importance to young people – retailers need to respond by using compassionately produced materials if they don’t want to be left behind.”
Stella Mc Cartney, a life-long vegetarian has refused to use leather or fur since she launched her own collection back in 2001. McCartney said in a recent interview that creating her accessories was “interesting to do in luxury fashion because people just don’t do it”. However, in December Tom Ford made headlines as an unlikely designer using vegan leather. The designer dressed vegan actress Anne Hathaway for her recent New York premier of Les Misérable, which included a pair of vegan leather gladiator stilettos that he custom made for the actress.
The fashion industry still relies heavily on the use leather, fur and exotics for collections, but now talented and ethically – minded designers, with industry support, are proving that style and ethics don’t have to be a choice of one or the other anymore. So with a clean conscience we can now stay stylish, and keep our fuzzy friends, fuzzy.