Understanding Vegan Fashion: Cruelty-Free Style for a Conscious Wardrobe


What Does Vegan Mean In fashion?

In recent years, the term "vegan" has transcended its association with diet and infiltrated various aspects of our lives, including the fashion industry. Vegan fashion, much like its dietary counterpart, is deeply rooted in ethical and sustainable principles. This article will delve into what vegan means in fashion and explore its core values and materials. We will also look at some noteworthy examples of brands doing it well. By the end, you should be able to make informed choices to build a compassionate and conscious wardrobe.

The growth of the vegan fashion movement

The vegan fashion movement has been experiencing substantial growth over the past five years. According to a report by Grand View Research, the global vegan leather market size was valued at USD 29.16 billion in 2020. The same report projected a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 49.9% from 2021 to 2028 1 , indicating a significant increase in the adoption and demand for vegan alternatives in the fashion industry.

The Essence of Vegan Fashion

At its core, vegan fashion is a commitment to cruelty-free and eco-conscious practices in the creation of clothing, footwear, and accessories. This means abstaining from animal-derived materials like leather, wool, silk, and fur. Instead, vegan fashion embraces innovative alternatives that are both sustainable and ethical, ranging from plant-based fabrics like organic cotton and hemp to synthetic and plant-based faux leathers and recycled polyester and Tencel.

Key Materials in Vegan Fashion

  1. Organic Cotton:
    Organic cotton is grown without synthetic pesticides or genetically modified organisms (GMOs). It is a staple in vegan fashion due to its softness, breathability, and minimal environmental impact.
  2. Hemp:
    Hemp is an incredibly versatile and eco-friendly material requiring minimal water, pesticides, and synthetic fertilisers. It can be woven into durable, breathable fabrics that are naturally resistant to mold and UV rays. Hemp can have a beneficial effect on soil by replenishing vital nutrients. In some areas, it is grown on land to extract such pollutants as zinc and mercury from the soil. Its root system minimizes soil erosion. It can be planted repeatedly on the same land and is often used as a “rotation crop” to heal the soil between growing other crops. Hemp produces 250% more fibre than cotton and 600% more fibre than flax on the same land and has the highest yield per acre of any natural fibre.2
  3. Tencel (Lyocell):
    Tencel is a type of rayon made from sustainably harvested wood pulp, often sourced from eucalyptus trees. It boasts excellent moisture-wicking properties, making it a popular choice for activewear and casual clothing.
  4. Bamboo:
    Bamboo is a fast-growing plant that requires little water and no pesticides. When processed into a fabric, it delivers a soft, breathable, naturally antibacterial material.
  5. Piñatex:
    Piñatex is an innovative alternative to traditional leather made from pineapple leaf fibres. It provides a durable and versatile material that reduces agricultural waste and supports farming communities.
  6. Mushroom Leather (Mylo):
    Mylo is a sustainable leather alternative made from mycelium, the underground roots of mushrooms. It offers a realistic leather texture and is completely biodegradable.

Noteworthy Examples of Vegan Fashion Brands

Stella McCartney:
Renowned for her commitment to sustainable and cruelty-free fashion, Stella McCartney has pioneered the vegan fashion movement. Her collections feature innovative materials like vegetarian leather, organic cotton and recycled materials. Stella McCartney takes environmental responsibility seriously and was the first brand to produce and publish an annual Environmental Profit & Loss (EP&L) report.

Veja is a footwear brand that prioritises transparency and sustainability. Their trainers are made using eco-friendly materials, including organic cotton and wild rubber sourced from the Amazon rainforest.

While not exclusively vegan, Patagonia is a leader in sustainable outdoor apparel. They offer a range of vegan options, utilising materials like organic cotton, recycled polyester, and hemp to create durable and environmentally friendly clothing.

Vyom London:
This brand specialises in creating high-quality, formal footwear for men. Each pair is designed in England and crafted in Italy using innovative vegan leather made from grapes. Vyom embraces sustainability and the slow fashion ethos by offering pre-loved Vyom shoes as part of their collection.

Watson & Wolfe:
We couldn't write about vegan fashion materials and sustainability without mentioning our efforts. Ethics and sustainability run through the core of what we do here at Watson & Wolfe. The collection is made with low-impact plant-based faux leather and recycled materials, and each item is delivered in bespoke packaging made from recycled materials and is 100% plastic-free.

The Importance of Vegan Fashion

Animal Welfare:
By choosing vegan fashion, consumers contribute to the reduction of demand for animal-derived materials. This, in turn, helps alleviate the suffering of animals in the fashion industry.

Environmental Impact:
Vegan fashion reduces the environmental footprint associated with traditional fashion practices. It requires fewer resources, produces fewer greenhouse gas emissions, and mitigates the pollution associated with livestock farming.

Innovation and Sustainability:
The rise of vegan fashion has spurred innovation in material science. Brands are increasingly exploring eco-friendly alternatives, pushing the boundaries of sustainable fashion.


Vegan fashion represents a significant stride towards a more compassionate and sustainable future in the world of style. By understanding the core values, key materials, and notable examples in vegan fashion, as consumers, we can make informed choices for a more conscious wardrobe. Embracing cruelty-free alternatives not only benefits animals and the environment but also encourages the fashion industry to prioritise ethics and sustainability in its practices. In this way, we can all play a part in shaping a more compassionate and eco-conscious fashion landscape.

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Main image: Image by Olexy @Ohurtsov

  1. Grand View Research. (2021). Vegan Leather Market Size, Share & Trends Analysis Report by Product (Polyurethane, Polyvinyl Chloride, Microfiber), by Application (Fashion, Furnishing, Automotive), by Region, and Segment Forecasts, 2021 - 2028. ↩︎
  2. Council of Fashion Designers of America, Inc. (CFDA), Hemp, https://cfda.com/resources/materials/detail/hemp#:~:text=Organic%20hemp%20is%20one%20of,%E2%80%93%20the%20best%20possible%20rating). Last accessed 21.09.2023 ↩︎
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