The strong presence of plastic in vegan products is a sore point. British supermarkets are required by law to charge for plastic bags, while single-use plastics such as straws and cotton buds will be banned in the UK from April 2020, and in Canada from 2021. Eight countries, including the US and Italy, have banned the production and sale of microbeads. But as plastic faces a public backlash elsewhere, it’s having a moment in fashion. In a bid to chime with sustainably-minded customers, many brands are swapping animal-derived fabrics like leather and fur for synthetic alternatives. According to sustainable consultancy Common Objective, synthetic fabrics, derived from non-renewable fossil fuels, now make up more than 65% of fibres used in the global textile and apparel industry.
New York-based journalist Sophia Li is keen to point out that vegan leather is not the only tactic employed by big businesses to divert attention from deeply-ingrained issues with sustainability: reusable coffee cups and canvas tote bags are equally surface-level changes that facilitate guilt-free consumption without actually altering much. Speaking at the Slow Factory x Study Hall symposium in London back in April, she said: “I don’t need my shampoo to be vegan. I need sustainability to be a reality.”
Most commentators agree that veganism is not a long-term solution to the environmental crisis fashion faces, and nor is it viable in every community or corner of the world. Luxury conglomerate Kering is now advocating regenerative agriculture, meaning that it will develop a new network of farms that use grazing animals to restore biodiversity. In a similar vein, trend consultancy Stylus has suggested that tomorrow’s planet-positive diet will be “post-vegan”.
So, before you sink your teeth into a PETA-approved spending spree, consider the reality of vegan fashion. It’s not easy being green, and brands need to work a lot harder.
This article was published on Fashion Unfiltered. Feature image: @project_stopshop by Elizabeth Illing.