A Short Guide to Vegan Products
In the last few years, designers and industry innovators have experimented with many fibres and fabrics to create sustainable materials.
The purpose is to mainly diminish animal cruelty and unsustainable practices. However, developing and creating new 'Vegan' or 'Sustainable' products is still relatively new. Ultimately, there is so much to understand but little information communicated to mass audiences. So, we have put together a short guide to understand more about Vegan products vs non-vegan products.
So, What Are Vegan Products
Like the reasons people stop eating food sourced from animals over time, this has been transferred to the clothes we buy.
Essentially, fashion claims that 'vegan' products should contain no animal, or animal-derived, substances. However, unfortunately, this does not mean that animal cruelty is removed from the process. More companies and people are concerned about biodiversity's well-being, so its communicated 'cruelty-free, a product which has not been tested, and whose ingredients have not been tested, on animals’. Many industries have been accused of being cruelty-free; for example, the beauty industry, however, regarding fashion, it’s not always stated. Therefore, being aware of the labels is important to look out for.
There are only a few materials that spring to mind when we refer to non-vegan materials. This includes fur, leather and skin (sheepskin, crocodile skin and snakeskin).
Although there is a rise in eco-leather (when companies use recycled leather or use the output of the by-product of meat), large companies are still mass-producing leather. The challenge is mass-production may lead to unethical treatment of animals. Unfortunately, many companies have been exposed to the mistreatment of animals for fashion. So, if we know the issues with non-vegan products, why is it still available?
Why Are Non-vegan Products Still Popular?
Essentially non-vegan products are not illegal even though there are still many debates against non-vegan products.
Generally, materials like leather have been recognised for over a millennium. The material is a protective layer against harsh weather conditions and carries numerous qualities such as strength and versatility. Natural non-vegan materials such as leather will also biodegrade in 80 -100 years compared to 'faux leather' that may take 1000+ years. Additional, skins like snakeskin and have been labelled as a form of wealth within the industry, so it has continued to sell. But there are alternatives on the market.
Synthetic Vegan Materials
A few large organisations, Zara, Newlook and H&M, are stating that their products are vegan free; although this may be true, there are still some challenges. Vegan products often mimics leather because it has numerous qualities such as strength and versatility, which is excellent for multiple uses i.e. a leather bag or boots.
Essentially, companies need to look at materials that can efficiently deliver the same qualities as non-vegan materials. In some cases, vegan products are often made from PVC or a synthetic/ plastic material, for example, 'Vegan leather', which is not biodegradable. Did you know that every year, about 8 million tons of plastic waste escapes into the oceans from coastal nations? Essentially, non-biodegradable materials are destroying not only the environment but biodiversity too. Although Vegan products are generally better than non-vegan product as the process excludes any harm to animals, this may not mean it’s better for our planet.
Biodegradable Vegan Materials
After years of research and experimenting within the fashion industry, we are now better positioned where more biodegradable materials have been introduced.
Biodegradable materials are better for the environment as it can biodegrade much quicker than synthetic materials. Additionally, it mimics the quality of leather and 'synthetic' leather. For example, strength, versatility, and texture; these materials could be derived from Cork, Pineapple leaves, Mushroom and other plant-based ingredients.
Biodegradable solutions are generally better regarding sustainability; however, this solution is still new to the industry than a material like leather. Therefore, it may be a while until it is sold to mass-audiences. Additionally, further conversations need to commence about plant-based materials produced on a mass-scale.
So, Are Vegan Products Better?
In a nutshell, yes, vegan products are generally better for biodiversity as it puts a stop to unethical treatment on animals.
However, unfortunately, not everyone is aware of the long-term effects of synthetic-vegan products on the environment. Therefore, if you purchase a vegan product, research the material, rethink whether it's plastic-based and potentially look at other biodegradable alternatives.
Hopefully, one-day eco-friendly vegan products will become just as popular as vegan products, so all sustainability areas are covered.