Vegan fashion versus sustainable fashion

Elewisa Young
Producing vegan fashion can be just as harmful to the natural environment as traditional fashion.

There’s a cruelty-free alternative for nearly every piece of fashion material, but if vegan fashion is only the start, what’s next?

Vegan fashion continues to soar in popularity. Aligned with Veganuary, and a popular shift in cultural values, vegan fashion reflects the new generation of conscious thinkers wanting to do more to help save animals from cruelty during the production of fashion and beauty products.

Animal-free fashion materials continue to proliferate, with vegan leather, fur, cotton and silk being mass produced and used by big brands as alternatives to animal-based materials.

Whether it’s a culture-change by the brand - like Tom Ford going vegan and tweaking his product line - or simply small brands like Bread and Reel providing animal-free and cruelty-free clothing, the popularity of vegan fashion is only growing.

Water waste

However, vegan fashion is just the first step. Veganism isn’t always as environmentally friendly as you might think, and vegan fashion isn’t the perfect solution to the crisis.

The production of vegan-based fashion materials can cause just as much harm as traditional production methods. Whilst the material has changed, the way this is developed and crafted may not.

Take PVC for example, it’s vegan, but it’s a toxic material that impacts the environment and fuels global warming: 43 percent of PVC comes from petroleum feedback.

Additionally, cotton production uses 2,700 litres of water for one shirt. To put that into perspective, that’s enough water for you to drink for two years.

There’s a cruelty-free alternative for nearly every piece of fashion material, but if vegan fashion is only the start, what’s next?

The fashion industry alone causes 20 percent of the world’s water pollution. And the worst part? Organic cotton, a more sustainable and environmentally friendly solution is used by under 0.1 percent of cotton manufacturers.

Core values

It’s not all doom and gloom for vegan fashion though. Using vegan leather minimises direct killing. The same goes for other animal-based materials; silk, wool, cashmere, fur etc.

Brands are taking note, and while H&M, Primark, Converse, Topshop and more are providing vegan- based fashion alternatives, brands such as Kuma Design provide products that are solely vegan and sustainable to the environment. 

There’s a cruelty-free alternative for nearly every piece of fashion material, but if vegan fashion is only the start, what’s next?

Sustainable or ‘eco-friendly’ fashion, step forward! Eco-fashion is an anti-fast-fashion design trend that looks to create a system that drastically lowers fashion production's impact on the environment. 

The three core values for this type of fashion align perfectly with the environmentally-conscious consumer in today’s market. These are:

  1. A focus on good quality, rather than quick turnaround.
  2. A clean production system that doesn’t harm or impact the environment.
  3. Fair pay and conditions for employee’s, and fair prices for consumers.


Hot topic

As a result of this style trend, more than ever, consumers are interested in who made their clothes, and what their values are towards animal-cruelty and the environment. In a study by Sustainable Fashion Matterz (yes that’s how you spell it), they found that there is a 100 percent increase in searches for sustainable fashion.

That’s not all – in 2013, the Google Trend score for the search term ‘sustainable fashion’ was 13. Now in 2018, the score is 100/100. 

Eco-friendly fashion is a hot topic with an ever-increasing interest. As newly informed consumers look to buy products that actively help the environment, while staying trendy and stylish, the fashion industry will have to adapt and clean up. 

This Author

Elewisa Young is a professional fashion and beauty writer with keen interests in vegan and eco-friendly fashion. Hailing from London, England, Elewisa has been writing about fashion for nearly 10 years, and has been published in The London Economic, Fashion Gone Rogue, Thomson Local, Medium and more.