By Sica Schmitz
Founder of Bead & Reel, frequent speaker, writer, and sustainable stylist.
Our Friendly Guide To Vegan Fashion
As a vegan company we often get asked why we don’t carry certain materials like down, leather, wool, and silk. And it’s a great question!
The truths behind animal textiles can often be uncomfortable and upsetting, and there are plenty of resources out there if you want to see something that can’t be unseen, so instead we would like to offer some gentle reasons and friendly alternatives for those interested in creating a more compassionate closet.
FEATHERS & DOWN
Down is the soft layer of feathers closest to a bird’s skin known for its insulating qualities. While we definitely don’t think ducks want you to be cold, they probably also wouldn’t choose to be plucked alive (we’ll spare you the photos) or become a byproduct of the notoriously cruel fois gras and meat industry. And fortunately there’s a better option: innovative vegan down can provide the same warmth without the suffering, so keep your eyes out for faux and manmade down.
Leather is not only a major environmental hazard, but it also might not be coming from the animal you think it is. Most of the world’s leather comes from China, where due to lower production costs, dogs are often killed in terrible ways (that we won’t show you!) to be used for small leather goods. Dog leather is visually indistinguishable from cow leather, so there is no way for consumers to know which animal they are buying – and consumers deserve to know what they are buying! With vegan fashion, all of our wallets, belts, bags, and shoes are always animal-free so you can always know which animal they are made from (none!). For more information on vegan leather alternatives, check out our Official Guide to Vegan Leather Alternatives or some great facts about the sustainability of vegan leather.
There are a lot of very upsetting undercover videos about where wool comes from – and you can find those elsewhere. Wool, mohair, pashmina, shahtoosh, cashmere, and other seemingly harmless animal hairs are taken from live animals, and as with all mass industrialized animal practices, animal welfare is regularly overlooked in the name of speed and quantity. Animals can suffer anything from nicks to accidental amputations during violent shearings, and many will die from exposure (to both heat and cold) and poor nutrition before ultimately being killed for meat. If that doesn’t feel good to you – not to mention the itch – we have are plenty of warm animal-free sweaters made from natural fibers like hemp and cotton, and innovative alternatives like Tencel fleece. To dive deep into vegan alternatives, check out our Official Guide to Natural Fibers.
When it comes to silk, we agree with Gandhi and avoid it in order to avoid harm. It takes over 2,500 silkworms to produce just one yard of silk, meaning thousands of silkworms are killed for just one dress or top. They will either be boiled alive (as with traditional silk) or starve to death (as with peace silk or “non-violent” silk). That doesn’t seem very peaceful! Luckily, you can still get the feel of silk without the harm through plant-based alternatives like bamboo or modal. For more information on these silky soft fibers, check out our Guide to Semi-Synthetics.