Is Vegan Fashion Really Better For The Planet?

Is Vegan Fashion Really Better For The Planet?

Vogue Arabia, February 2019. Photo: Fernando Gomez
We’ve all heard the reasons why a vegan diet is better for the environment, but what about when it comes to fashion? Animal-derived materials such as leather, wool and silk have long been mainstays of the luxury fashion industry, but growing sustainability and ethical concerns have led to the rise in the popularity of vegan fashion in recent years.
So, is vegan fashion really better for the planet? When looking purely at the greenhouse gas emissions of animal-based materials compared to their vegan alternatives, the answer is generally yes. “The available lifecycle assessments (LCAs) do show that leather from cattle has higher GHG emissions than, say, polyester or cotton production,” Ashley Gill, senior director of standards and stakeholder engagement at materials non-profit Textile Exchange, tells Vogue. “Some of those emissions come from the methane from cows’ digestion, emissions from food production, and deforestation happening in the leather supply chain.”
It’s a similar story for wool and silk (the latter requires a vast amount of energy to produce) – both materials have a larger impact on global warming compared to synthetic alternatives such as polyester and acetate (often used as a replacement to silk), according to the Higg Materials Sustainability Index, a tool that uses LCAs to measure the impacts of different materials.
These impact assessments don’t necessarily tell the whole story, however. “The LCAs don’t tend to capture that sometimes a leather good [for example] may, in most instances, last longer than something made from synthetic material,” Gill continues. Indeed, a 2018 study comparing the impact of four sweaters – made from wool, cotton, polycotton and acrylic – found that the wool sweater had the least impact when taking into account the use phase.
It’s also important to remember that many vegan alternatives often contain at least a degree of synthetics – with some so-called vegan leathers actually being 100 per cent plastic (hence the term pleather, which was commonly used to refer to “fake leather”). When it comes to materials like polyester, acrylic and acetate, which are often used as alternatives for wool and silk, there’s also the issue of microplastics being released into our waterways when you wash them, not to mention the fact that they’re derived from fossil fuels.
“Vegan does not equate to any direct sustainability outcome. It can in some instances, of course, have environmental benefits but that’s not the aim of the vegan definition,” Gill comments. “Something that is called vegan could be made from virgin plastic using highly toxic chemicals – that’s a really important thing to understand.”
Veja co-founder Sébastien Kopp, whose eco-conscious sneaker brand offers both vegan and non-vegan products, agrees. “If you replace leather with plastic fabrics that come from petroleum, can you claim you are more ecological? If you follow the path of plastic, you end up drilling petroleum,” he says.

Even plant-based alternatives, such as Piñatex, made from pineapple waste, and Mylo, made from mushroom roots, contain some synthetics, leading to questions about what happens to these materials at the end of their life, considering they’re not biodegradable. The same applies to the coated cotton fabric used by Veja for its vegan trainers. “We creat[ed] an alternative to leather based on our Fairtrade and organic cotton,” Kopp continues. “CWL is composed of 60 per cent organic cotton and 2 per cent corn. The rest is still plastic but it is a great move forward.”

Of course, these materials are still in their infancy and will undoubtedly continue to improve (100 per cent plastic-free alternatives, such as Slow Factory’s Slowhide, are also in the works). It’s also worth noting that not all animal leather is biodegradable, depending on the tanning process used to treat the hide.
On the other hand, there are also growing efforts to make animal-based materials more sustainable, whether that’s via recycling fibres or sourcing fibres that have been produced using regenerative farming practices, such as natural grazing. Creating a more transparent supply chain will be crucial, as seen with the recent report linking leather to deforestation in the Amazon.
“I think in the next few years you will have a proper leather supply chain that is ticking the boxes, from the processing to traceability to high animal welfare,” Nina Marenzi, founder of non-profit The Sustainable Angle, which is behind the Future Fabrics Expo, comments. “We’re starting to think about how [materials] can actually have a positive impact. Shouldn’t we have materials that nurture the soil; that are helping to increase topsoil biodiversity? When you’re looking at that, then actually you’re having a different approach to these materials – [materials like] leather actually do have a role to play.”
Originally published in

The Model-Approved Ways to Wear a Vintage or Vegan Leather Jacket

The Model-Approved Ways to Wear a Vintage or Vegan Leather Jacket

Mona Tougaard. Photo: Acielle/Style Du Monde
At just 18 years old, Danish model Mona Tougaard is already something of a runway veteran. The latest catwalk entry on her impressive CV? Storming Versace’s vertical maze as part of the house’s FW21 unveiling, alongside Adut Akech, Bella Hadid and Irina Shayk.
Off the runway, the ascendant fashion star’s personal wardrobe is also brimming with covetable style cues. Take the faux-croc coat she sported between socially distanced appointments at Paris Fashion Week (teamed with a Mulberry knit, low-slung flares, sparkling white sneakers and Prada’s geometric bucket hat).
Tougaard isn’t alone in her love of the cruelty-free leather topper. The brightest new model faces from Milan and Paris are likewise backing the wear-anywhere staple as 2021’s ultimate transitional outerwear — pairing everything from vintage car coats to polished trench coats and oversized vegan shirts with pinstripe suiting, inky bell-bottoms and slouchy checked skater pants.
Whether you’re looking for ways to reinvigorate the jacket you already own or scouring Depop for fresh, pre-loved options, we’ve got you covered.
This is Vogue’s guide to wearing vintage and vegan ‘leather’ jackets now, with a little help from our favorite model friends.

Embrace longline

Our key takeaway from Paris’s street-style roundup? Don’t shy away from the drama of a calf-grazing vintage leather silhouette. If you’re looking for ways to re-energise your well-worn 501s, the oversized proportions of a wrap or ‘princess’ coat will do the trick. Just add loafers and pristine white socks.
The vegan ‘leather’ blazer you already own is still it

There’s literally nothing to dislike about a cruelty-free ‘leather’ blazer (foremost the practical pockets), but the right cut is key. Look out for slightly oversized fits — take your measurements when you’re wearing a chunky sweatshirt to guarantee a size that you can cinch in with a belt over eveningwear or lightweight shirting and team with a knit for casual everyday outings. We’re also fully here for how good a modish blazer looks with bare legs and chunky boots (a rollover from 2019 that we’re not saying bye to anytime soon) in Milan’s early spring sunshine.
Work a car coat

Imagine a shortish trench coat that skims the body like a blazer and hits about the same length as a miniskirt — that’s the car coat. A fully genderless vintage cut that makes everything from a Brandy Melville sweater vest to Nike sweatshorts look as intentional as a Tarantino costume department moodboard. Wear it with classic black Dr Martens, wear it with dad slacks, wear it with striped cotton pyjama bottoms. You do you.

Chances are you already own a cruelty-free ‘leather’ shirt. The ultimate transitional layer is paying dividends in easy-to-pull-together looks for the days when you don’t want to think about what you’re going to wear. Our 2021 update? A sorbet-pink polo neck and high-waisted wide-leg jeans.
Read Next: Everything You Need to Know About Buying Vegan Fashion
Originally published on

This Qatari Label is Empowering Arab Women with its Contemporary Abayas

This Qatari Label is Empowering Arab Women with its Contemporary Abayas

If Qatari ready-to-wear label 1309 is looking beyond its shores, it’s only after strengthening bonds with Arab women at home.
Photo: Courtesy of 1309

Qatar’s only ready-to-wear brand, 1309, is pushing sustainability and fashion forward. Its founder and creative director, Ghada Al Subaey, shares that its textiles are vegan, packaging is biodegradable, and it practices zero waste. “I want to empower the Arab woman,” states Al Subaey of her vision. “Throughout the years, we’ve dressed in brands from the West – but what do we want to wear? And how do we make it contemporary and even futuristic?”
Photo: Courtesy of 1309

Also Read: How the Abaya is Giving Saudi Women Identity Ownership
She started with conceptualizing the abaya, which she notes, in Qatar, was historically very traditional. “Teenagers who transition to women and start wearing the abaya – it’s something no one talks about – it’s very hard. It was black, and personally, I felt like it put me down,” she shares. “I want to put it on and feel feminine; like it adds to my outfit.” Her brand, established in 2015, embodies a cool, contemporary vibe that celebrates women through empowering silhouettes, bold colors, and hand embroideries. “I’m trying to speak to women of every age. Western designers want to get into the Arab market but it’s time for us to reach the global market and make abayas fashionable.” She doesn’t hesitate to collaborate with regional counterparts, with a recent collection created with Jordanian brand Nafsika Skourti. “You see designers from around the world trying to redesign the kimono – that’s what I want to inspire with the abaya.”
Photo: Courtesy of 1309

The designer comments that today, women are “very different.” Arab women are “ambitious, with big dreams, and are on the go. They want to evolve and take care of themselves.” Her desire to reach out to women saw the birth of the 1309 community, launched during lockdown. “Everyone’s mental health had become affected,” she notes. She hosted Saudi Nouf Hakeem, who spoke about maneuvering a fast-paced life, and recently held a beach cleanup, as well as hosting meditation sessions. “Women don’t need another fashion brand,” she states. “What we need is a solid brand with values that heal, rather than add to the toxicity of the world.”
Read Next: Qatar’s Sheikha Reem Al-Thani on Bringing Arab Art and Museums Into the Future
Originally published in the February 2021 issue of Vogue Arabia

PHP Code Snippets Powered By :