Why I Make Sure My Fabrics Are Vegetarian!
I know what you're thinking. What do you mean vegan fashion? You don't eat fabric! But, think about all the fabrics that are derived from animals: fur, silk, varieties of wool (Angora, Alpaca, Mohair), etc. A host of ethical, moral, and environmental issues can arise with the use of these.
What is Vegetarian Fashion?
Vegetarian fashion is briefly summed up as fashion that does not include animal products, such as leather, exotic skins, fur, and silk. Current statistics report that an excess of 50 million animals are killed annually for fashion. This is not only unnecessary cruelty, but it also has large environmental impacts. The mass factory farming of animals used solely for fashion increases atmosphere-warming methane emissions, uses large amounts of energy and water, and often is preceded by the clearing of forests that help soak up CO2. Although it is argued that leather is a by-product of the meat industry, it still supports animals being slaughtered for human consumption. Furthermore, the fur trade sees the capture, breeding, and death of millions of animals, such as minks, foxes, and rabbits, solely for the sake of clothing.
Vegetarian fashion therefore seeks alternative resources and to remove all animal products from its production. One of the movement’s most famous designers, Stella McCartney, sources environmentally-sound leather alternatives for her luxury shoe and bag ranges. While Stella's range may come with a hefty price-tag, thankfully, you don’t need a lot of money to be able to source stylish vegetarian fashion. Brands such as Matt & Nat, Wilby and Beyond Skin (to name but a few) offer affordable, high-quality bags and shoes that feel and look as sumptuous as leather and have ethical production values.
While vegan fashion does come under "eco fashion", eco fashion is a broader term. This includes apparel made from sustainable materials that don't contribute to global warming, the damaging effects of pesticides, and poor working conditions. There are a variety of retail companies offering fashionable, ethical clothing made with sustainable materials including hemp and organic cotton.
What Is Available?
It’s not difficult to source great vegetarian alternatives for sewing. Cottons, satins, denims, and stretch materials are all available made from bamboo, organic cotton, hemp, recycled polyester, and even banana (all available on Offset Warehouse we should add)! If you really want to use silk, you can source peace silk, where the silk worm is left to emerge naturally from the cocoon.
I found it particularly useful that Offset Warehouse lists the eco credentials of each fabric, including whether it’s animal-friendly, sustainable, not sourced from genetically-modified crops, produced with low-energy and low-impact dyes, as well as whether the material supports fair wages or was produced in a co-op. Although some may consider eco fabrics as more expensive, your purchase is paying for high quality material as well as social welfare and a significantly smaller impact on the environment and our animal brethren.
Elk & Draper
Recently, I launched my own business, Elk & Draper, making contemporary bow ties for the modern man. In recent years, bowties have enjoyed a resurrection in menswear with help from iconic wearers such as Matt Smith in Dr Who. The Elk & Draper collection is made by hand in London, featuring bespoke British-made metal size adjusters that add to each tie’s unique and masculine appeal. Self-tie only, our bowties are constructed from contemporary fabrics, such as heavier wovens in golds and checks, vintage repurposed fabrics, and our luxury collection of eco silks. In our vegan range, we use two stunning peace silks sourced from a co-op in Cambodia. These materials are cruelty-free (boiling the silk moth’s cocoon after it has emerged, not before), and yet are rich in quality of fibre and colour. The Royal Elk and Green Elk (pictured) are made from stunning burgundy silk taffeta, which is lightweight and crisp to the touch, making both ties perfect head-turners at any party this season. Our floral Chelsea Elk bowtie has been made from repurposed vintage fabric and looks stunning against a white or denim shirt. All our bowties are packaged in recycled Kraft boxes and wood shavings.
Why We Chose to Be Ethical
Whether you follow the latest trends or have your own style, you’re influenced by fashion. There’s that wonderful scene in The Devil Wears Prada, when Meryl Streep so gracefully sweeps down with passive scorn upon Anne Hathaway’s naïve character to remind her that the “lumpy” jumper she’s wearing is a shade of blue that “represents millions of dollars and countless jobs … selected for you by the people in this room from a pile of stuff.” Colours, textiles, silhouettes; they make their way from catwalk to department store, from the high street to our homes. Yet, as pleasing as this cinematic scene was, do we really accept what we’re told? Why do leather and silk represent high quality and luxury? Why do plastic sunglasses with logos symbolise what’s cool and stylish? Worse yet, are we ignoring that the production of these items contributes to the degradation of the environment and global working conditions, as well as inadvertently supporting cruel practices?
Thankfully, both awareness and the number of viable ethical alternatives are growing. The Green Carpet Challenge (GCC) is one high-profile example where glamour and ethics are combined to promote sustainability. Its list of participating designers boasts huge names such as Armani, Prada, and Stella McCartney, all producing exquisite red-carpet-ready gowns made from eco textiles such as recycled plastic bottles or organic silk. These endeavours prove that luxury does not have to be cruel and damaging to the environment, nor does style have to be compromised!
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