The rapid growth of the vegan food movement is starting to drive demand for vegan furniture, fashion and homeware. Designers working to make cruelty-free products mainstream say an industry-wide shift is being led by consumers. Many believe that, as alternatives to animal products like leather and wool become more readily available, vegan designs will go mainstream.
Designers producing vegan products claim the movement is lagging a few years behind the food scene, which has seen an explosion around the world.
"I think design-wise we are slightly behind the food movement in veganism, which has become crazily popular over the last two years," said Emily Turnbull of London-based Studio Can-Can, which specializes in vegan interior-design projects.
"The food industry is leading the shift," agreed Laura Stageman, founder of vegan watch brand Votch. "We eat at least three times a day and everyone wants their food to be delicious. Then they start to question: these boots, this coat..."
But now things are changing and it is a good thing too. With more and more vegan recipes online and enough more and more vegan restaurants popping up, the reality of vegan fashion is getting closer to the mainstream.
The market research data agrees: "In most recent years there has been a rise in demand for trend-led vegan clothing, as many items seemingly animal-product free contain small parts of animals such as leather labels, for example on jeans, or angora wool in jumpers, rendering them undesirable to the young vegan consumer," according to Retail Insight Network.
This is having an impact on designers and retailers, who are starting to ditch certain animal products from their offerings - notablyASOS, which has announced it will phase out mohair, silk, cashmere and feathers by the end of January 2019.
Vegan charity PETA praised the move, saying: "Consumers are changing the face of the industry by demanding that designers and retailers ditch animal-derived materials in favour of cruelty-free alternatives that look great without causing suffering.”
Vegan fashion designer Tom Ford is now cutting back on its use of fur and leather in its ranges in order to improve its footprint on the agricultural industry and wants to remove it completely. Tom has referred to the film ‘What the Health’ as for his reasons for switching to a vegan diet personally, and how the brand's strategy has been influenced by his personal decisions.
There are plenty of brands out there that are also switching to vegan alternatives. For example, Stella McCartney now uses a vegan fur alternative that looks just as good as animal fur, if not better. Additionally, high-street fashion designers Topshop, Zara US and H&M are all providing vegan fur alternatives in a bid to also improve their agricultural footprint while also targeting and retargeting audiences that are or have now turned to veganism within their daily lives and diets. But why is this import?
First and foremost, the main reason why using vegan materials in the fashion industry is a better alternative is down to animal rights and welfare. The Animal Welfare Act was passed in 2006 in the hope that animals would be protected from cruelty and animal owners would be reprimanded for improper conduct towards these sentient beings. However, not enough is being done to fully remove the use of testing on animals and using their materials for fashion materials.
Second, vegan fashion causes less pollution. Tanning leather releases toxic chemicals into the atmosphere and is also part of the meat and dairy process seeing as the animal skin is taken from the carcasses leftover after the meat and dairy factories are done with them. ccording to Scientific American, the tanning of leather is one of the top 10 pollution problems in the world, directly affecting a shocking 1.8 million people – a pretty epic stat! Hides are tanned using a cocktail of dangerous chemicals, which produce gallons of waste with a high concentration of pollutants.
It seems there is no way to safely tan leather, either. Of the three methods chromium, aldehyde and vegetable tanning, according to the BLG Technology Centre “none of the three tanning technologies offers a full environmental advantage over the others when considering all the key criteria that characterise the impact on the environment. Many assume that vegetable tanned leather should have a preferred environmental profile, but the evidence does not support this”. The most popular way of tanning leather is using chromium, used to tan more than 80% of all leather produced.
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