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10 vegan fashion items to add to your cruelty-free closet

For those of you who have lost track of time, it’s officially April, AKA Earth Month.

It’s a month that calls our attention to all the ways we can help preserve the environment, such as by going paperless, cutting down our use of plastic, or switching to eco-friendly products. After all, wouldn’t it be nice if the clear skies we are seeing now that the world is in one form of lockdown or another were a fixture in our daily lives?

As it happens, now is also the perfect time to rethink our shopping habits. You might have ditched fast fashion for sustainable alternatives, and maybe you’ve recently been initiated into to the world of vintage and pre-loved fashion. But have you considered vegan fashion?

Like the diet, vegan fashion champions practices and products that do not involve animals. Vegan Fashion Week, inaugurated last year, gives us a better picture: clothes that are made from ethical — and often innovative — materials, such as pineapple-leaf leather and other fruit fibres. In other words, no animals were harmed in the making of these garments.

While VFW is relatively niche, vegan fashion itself may soon become the norm. Many luxury brands (including Burberry, Prada and Chanel) have already sworn off fur, leather and exotic skins. Just last month, Hugo Boss added a “PETA-approved” suit to its many vegan offerings, while Stella McCartney, queen of eco-conscious fashion, drove home her message of animal welfare with the furry mascots that walked her Fall/Winter 2020 show.

If you’re ready to go vegan, keep in mind that you don’t have to resort to wearing only fancy fabrics made from mushrooms and apples. Cotton, linen, hemp are all natural, animal-friendly alternatives that are pretty common. You do, however, have to say goodbye to wool, cashmere and silk. Trust us, it’s easier to once you’ve read up on how animals are mistreated for them.

Below, we’ve put together a vegan fashion starter pack that will get you one step closer to a cruelty-free closet.

Oysters are deliberately irritated to produce pearls, so adorning yourself with faux pearls are the better option if you’d like to keep up with jewellery trends. The ones in this Marine Serre necklace even resemble shells, another material to stay clear from as they act as shelter for hermit crabs and small fishes. We’d say this accessory kills two birds with one stone, but it wouldn’t be very vegan of us.

In terms of headpieces, we recommend trading your wool berets for straw ones. Yes, those exist now, and they’ll make a distinctive addition to the collection of straw and raffia hats that we’re sure you already own. This Oséree beret features a lightweight design handwoven with Sicilian raffia, altogether putting a breezy spin on a Parisian classic.

Most people may know Marine Serre for her crescent-print garments that have been worn by Beyoncé and Kylie Jenner, but it’s the French designer’s commitment to upcycling that set her apart from her young peers. This top is one of several pieces from her sustainably-minded collection, Marée Noir (French for “oil spill”), that were fashioned from vintage cotton-crochet table cloths. Eco- and animal-friendly? Sign us up.

For something lighter than cotton, opt for linen. The fabric, made from flax plants, is sustainable and breathable, as we’ve detailed in our guide on how to wear it. Besides its use of linen, this beige Zimmerman skirt screams vegan fashion with its bamboo belt buckle and vintage leaf print. You’ll find even more options in the Australian brand’s Resort 2020 collection.

Going vegan doesn’t mean you have to limit yourself to clothing of the boho-chic variety, despite what the past few items on this list may indicate. You can still look every bit the modern urbanite you are with vegan leather garments, of which Nanushka is a favoured purveyor. The Budapest label’s signature product is its high-rise, straight-leg trousers that are equally wearable and flattering. It’s worth noting that vegan leather, while made of plastic, only leaves one-third of the environmental impact that cow leather does, while being much more durable.

Story mfg. is another brand to keep on your vegan fashion radar. The London label champions the use of all-natural, organic and cruelty-free materials. Its garments are made by ethically-paid craftspeople based in an atelier in the Indian forest, where waste is repurposed as fertiliser. And there’s the brand’s preference for traditional techniques, such as tie dye, which was applied on this cotton frock. The indigo dye used, like the rest of the dress, is 100 percent biodegradable.

Another Tomorrow, too, makes use of natural, eco-friendly fabrics, especially linen and cotton. What we love about the label, though, is how it transforms refined silhouettes (think blazers and button-down shirts) with those materials, replacing commonly-used ones like silk and satin. This elegant maxi dress, made with organic linen, is a prime example.

Barcelona-based Eliurpi took off with its wide-brimmed straw hats, but its array of bags made of the same material is just as charming. This one, featuring a circular wooden handle, is unlike any tote or straw bag that we have seen before. It’s also rather versatile; it would look just as great paired with a summer frock as it would with a more sophisticated get-up like a blouse and wide-leg pants.

If you’re looking for something fun, Telfar’s iconic Shopper bag is it. Dubbed the “Bushwick Birkin”, the bag is not just a symbol of inclusivity, but also a vegan fashion must-have with its faux-leather construction. This Shopper in vibrant orange is an exclusive to SSENSE, and is sure to make you stand out from the crowd.

What’s a vegan fashion story without something from Stella McCartney? Incomplete, that’s what. The British designer has always turned to ethical and animal-friendly materials for her designs, and these espadrilles are no exception. Despite its unfussy appearance, this pair is quite a feat. It’s still extremely hard to find shoes that don’t make use of leather somehow (we’ve looked), but Stella McCartney has again proven herself to be one step ahead of the rest of the fashion industry with these, which are made of faux-leather, jute and rubber.

10 vegan fashion items to add to your cruelty-free closet

Pameyla Cambe

Senior Writer

Pameyla Cambe is a fashion and jewellery writer who believes that style and substance shouldn't be mutually exclusive. She makes sense of the world through Gothic novels, horror films and music. Lots of music.

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