In preparation for Saturday’s Vegan Fashion Show, part of the 11th Annual World Vegetarian Festival and the first fashion show of its kind to take place in San Francisco, we caught up with show promoter Kara Ashe, also publisher of the GoVee blog, to get schooled in what vegan fashion is really all about.
Read on for our chat about cruelty-free fashion, shopping vegan and designers such as Pansy Maiden (pictured above), Cri de Coeur and Reco Jeans.
What defines vegan fashion? How is it different from other eco-friendly or sustainable fashion?
In the vegan fashion industry, designers utilize no animal products in the creation of their goods. Rather, they use plant based or synthetic materials. Think cotton, soy, bamboo, recycled polyester, etc. That’s not necessarily the case with regard to sustainable fashion.
What are the advantages of vegan fashions? We are assuming there are advantages for the producers of the clothing, as well as for consumers and the world in general. Can you tell us a little about the benefits for each?
For consumers who are concerned about the impact their wardrobe has on animals, the advantage lies in building a repertoire of clothing that reflects their desire to live cruelty free. There is no dissonance between the clothing, bags and shoes they wear, and the cruelty-free lifestyle they live. They can also, in many cases, own fashion forward pieces that are a fraction of the cost of similar animal-derived items in the market. Depending on materials used and methods of production, producers of vegan clothing and accessories can also save money. They also reap the emotional and ethical benefits of not utilizing animals in their products.
What are the biggest challenges facing designers who want to produce vegan apparel and accessories?
I think the biggest challenges facing vegan companies are a) adhering to standards of sustainability and b) getting past decades of misconceptions about vegan products. The assumption is that your clothes will be frumpy, or that they will be poor quality, or that they will look “fake” across the board, but that’s not the case. Designers today have taken strides both in the quality and look of their vegan goods, and in ensuring that their products have limited environmental impact.
How can consumers who want to buy vegan fashions be sure that an item of clothing or an accessory is, in fact, vegan?
They just need to look at what it’s made with. No hide, fur, wool, silk, other animal body parts or bi-products? It’s vegan.
How new is the idea of vegan fashion? Is this something that you think is gaining traction and visibility? Is there any evidence that you can point to that suggests this is a growing sector of the fashion industry or a growing trend?
Cruelty-free and eco fashion aren’t new, but they have become increasingly visible. For example, you’ve got the success of preeminent veg designer Stella McCartney, who has produced a number of vegan pieces. You have the Chanel Fall/Winter 2010 show, where Karl Lagerfeld sent faux fur down the runway with a backdrop of arctic glaciers as a statement about global warming. You have designers like Rodarte testing the waters of eco accessory creation. And then you have the success of vegan designers like those we are featuring in the San Francisco Vegan Fashion Show, some of whom have celebrity following. “Green” fashion is gaining traction. And as consumers become increasingly eco-conscious, designers have to adapt. As a result, vegan and eco are gaining foothold in the fashion industry.
Where can consumers who want to shop vegan find vegan fashion? Any great shopping destinations or web sites you’d recommend?
Well, our designers are a great place to start! Pansy Maiden, Reco Jeans, Lion’s Share Industries, Vaute Couture, Melie Bianco, Cri de Coeur and Mission Savvy. You can find cool items at Juleselin.com and VegetarianShoes.com. Lots of folks like Eco Citizen boutique in San Fran. There are a ton of great vegan fashion blogs and websites, like animalfriendlyshopping.com, with a wealth of information on where to find vegan pieces as well.
Photo: Pansy Maiden clutch, $45.