Vegan Wonder

Unraveling the Truth: Decoding Vegan Claims on Clothing and Fashion Labels

If you’ve ever found yourself staring at a clothing label, mentally calculating how many animals had to die for you to look fabulous, you’re not alone. In recent years, sustainability and animal welfare have become hot topics in the fashion industry. As consumers, we want to look good, feel good, and do good. But with a sea of greenwashing, buzzwords, and certifications, it can be hard to know what’s what.

What Does It Mean to Be Vegan in Fashion?

First, let’s define our terms: vegan clothing is clothing that does not use any animal-derived materials. That means no leather, wool, silk, fur, or even animal-derived dyes or glues. But being vegan in fashion isn’t just about animals—it’s also about the environment and labor practices. So when you see a brand touting that their clothes are vegan, you can assume that they’re making an ethical and environmental commitment.

With more and more brands hopping on the sustainable bandwagon, vegan fashion has become a thing. Consumer preferences are shifting, and people are starting to care about both sustainability and animal welfare. But what does it mean when a brand says their clothes are vegan? Let’s decipher those labels.

How to Read Vegan Claims on Labels

There are a few different ways that brands may certify their products as vegan. Some of these certifications come from external organizations, while others are just claims made by the brand itself. Here are some common ones to look out for:

  • The Vegan Society has a trademarked logo that you may see on clothing labels. The organization certifies that the product and its production process are free from animal products and cruelty.
  • PETA-Approved Vegan is another common claim you might come across. PETA’s approval means that the product is vegan and meets their animal welfare standards.
  • Cradle to Cradle is a certification that looks at the entire lifecycle of a product, including its material health, material reutilization, renewable energy and carbon management, and water stewardship. While not specific to vegan products, many vegan brands will seek this certification to prove that their products are not only free from animal products but also ethically and sustainably produced.

When it comes to understanding vegan claims on labels, it’s important to know that there are different levels of commitment here. Some brands will use the term “vegan-friendly” or “100% vegan” to mean that none of their products contain animal-derived materials. But they might not go so far as to certify all of them. Other brands will slap a “vegan” label on anything that is technically vegan, even if it was made in a sweatshop or with environmentally destructive materials.

How to Spot Greenwashing in Vegan Clothing

Greenwashing is when a brand makes misleading or exaggerated claims about the sustainability or ethicalness of their products. In the case of vegan clothing, this might mean using vegan materials but doing so in a way that is environmentally destructive or exploiting workers. Brands that engage in greenwashing are trying to take advantage of consumers who care about sustainability and animal welfare without actually living up to those values themselves.

Some signs that a brand might be greenwashing include:

  • Lack of transparency about their supply chain and production processes
  • Not disclosing the origin of their materials or where their products are made
  • Making vague or unsubstantiated claims about their sustainability efforts
  • Using recycled materials in a way that isn’t truly circular (more on that below)

What Does It Mean for Clothing to Be Vegan?

When a brand says their clothing is vegan, they mean that the materials used to make the clothing are not derived from animals. But not all materials are created equal when it comes to sustainability and ethical production. Here are some common vegan materials you might come across and what you should know about them.

Plant-Based Fabrics

Plant-based fabrics are often touted as a sustainable and vegan alternative to animal-derived materials. Some of the most common include:

  • Organic cotton is grown without the use of synthetic fertilizers or pesticides. Not all cotton is created equal, so it’s important to look for certifications like GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard) that ensure the cotton is grown and harvested in a way that is good for both farmers and the environment.
  • Linen is made from the flax plant, and is naturally biodegradable and carbon neutral. It’s a great choice for warm weather and is easier on the environment than many synthetic materials.
  • Bamboo is a highly sustainable plant that grows quickly and requires less water than cotton. However, most bamboo fabric is made using a process called viscose, which involves using toxic chemicals and can be harmful for workers. Look for bamboo fabric that is OEKO-TEX certified to ensure that it was made using sustainable and non-toxic processes.

Synthetic Materials

Synthetic materials like polyester, nylon, and acrylic are often made from petroleum and are not biodegradable. They can also shed microplastics that end up in the ocean. However, some synthetic materials are being developed with more sustainable and recycled content. For example, some brands are using recycled polyester made from recycled plastic bottles.

It’s important to note that synthetic materials are not always vegan, especially when it comes to their production. For example, some forms of spandex are made using animal-derived enzymes. Look for vegan-certified spandex to ensure that it’s made without animal products.

Recycled and Upcycled Materials

Using recycled materials is a good way to reduce waste and the environmental impact of new fabric production. But it’s important to understand what this means and how it’s being done. For example, some brands will take old clothes and turn them into new fabric, creating a truly circular economy. Other brands will take recycled plastic or other materials and turn them into new fabric, which can still be a good option as long as the recycling process is sustainable and the new fabric will be recycled again after it’s no longer usable.

How to Be a Conscious Consumer of Vegan Fashion

Now that you know what to look for, you can be a savvy consumer of vegan fashion. Here are some tips for spotting genuine vegan claims and supporting brands that truly align with your values:

  1. Do your research. Look into the brand’s sustainability efforts and see if they have any third-party certifications. You can also check out their about page and see if they make any bold claims about being sustainable or ethical. If they don’t have any information about these topics, that’s a red flag.
  2. Look for third-party certifications. While not all vegan brands will have third-party certifications, it’s a good sign if they do. As we mentioned earlier, there are a few different organizations that certify products as vegan. If a brand has one of these logos on their site, that’s a good indication that they are committed to more than just vegan materials.
  3. Ask questions. If you’re unsure about a brand or product, don’t be afraid to reach out to them and ask for more information. Brands that are transparent about their practices will be happy to answer your questions.

Ethical Vegan Brands You Should Know About

There are a lot of great brands out there doing amazing things in the vegan fashion space. Here are a few that you should know about:

  • Patagonia has been a leader in sustainable and ethical clothing for decades. While not all of their products are vegan, they do offer a range of vegan-certified and sustainable options. They also use recycled materials in many of their products and have a strong commitment to reducing waste.
  • Reformation is a fashion brand that offers a range of vegan and sustainable options. They use a lot of recycled materials in their clothing and have a strong focus on sustainability throughout their supply chain.
  • Rent the Runway is a great option for people who want to wear nice clothes without buying them. They offer a range of vegan and sustainable options in their collection, and renting clothes is a more sustainable way to consume fashion than buying new clothes all the time.

Remember, the best thing you can do is prioritize quality over quantity. Buy clothes that you will wear for a long time and take care of. And when you do buy new clothes, make sure that they will be in your wardrobe for a long time. That means investing in well-made, timeless pieces that will last.

Innovations and Advancements in Vegan Fashion

The future of vegan fashion is looking bright. There are a number of innovations and advancements happening in the space that will make it easier for people to live vegan and sustainable lifestyles. For example:

  • New vegan materials are being developed all the time. Some of the most exciting include lab-grown leather, which is made by growing animal hide in a lab. This eliminates the need for animals to be raised and killed for their skin. Other new materials include pineapple leather and mushroom leather, both of which are grown from plants.
  • Technological breakthroughs are making it easier to produce vegan clothing in a sustainable way. For example, some brands are using 3D knitting technology to reduce waste and make it easier to recycle materials.

However, there are also some challenges and opportunities that come with these innovations. For example, scaling up production of lab-grown leather and other new materials can be difficult and expensive. And there is a need for regulatory frameworks and industry standards to ensure that these new materials are being produced in a way that is truly sustainable and ethical.

Ultimately, the future of vegan fashion is in your hands. By supporting brands that are doing things the right way, you can help drive the industry in a more sustainable and ethical direction. And as new innovations and advancements are made, we’ll all be able to look good, feel good, and do good—without harming animals or the planet.