Vegan fashion dilemmas (and how to solve them!)

Author: Sascha Camilli

Read Time:   |  17th March 2022

Sascha Camilli throws the doors open on our wardrobes and takes a long, hard look at what isn’t vegan and how you can deal with with common vegan fashion dilemmas.

My passion for crueltyfree clothing was born as soon as I decided to transition to vegan living.

As someone with a degree in fashion and a background of working in the industry, I made it my mission to merge my interest for style with a desire to make the world a better place for animals.

I have often found myself inundated with questions about vegan fashion: why is it so expensive? How can I find shoes that last? Why is wool unethical?

Here are some of the most common vegan fashion dilemmas problems that vegans face, with some simple solutions that make cruelty-free dressing easier than ever.

What do I do with non-vegan clothing I already own?

This is perhaps the most common question I get (aside from “where do you get your protein?”).

New vegans inevitably find themselves with a wardrobe full of animal-based materials – there’s leather and wool, perhaps some cashmere, that jumper that may contain 8% angora.

All of a sudden, you have nothing to wear, as your old clothes don’t match your new ethics.

What not to do

Don’t chuck it all away. Seriously. Whatever you do, don’t gather all your clothes in black bags and set off towards the bins.

Textile waste is incredibly harmful to the environment (did you know the equivalent of a garbage truck of textiles is burned or sent to landfill every second? Yes, you read that right) and needs to be stopped.

How to solve it

There are three main ways to go with this one. Either you sell the offending garments – and while I personally believe that it’s completely fine to keep the money, some people may prefer to instead donate it, for example to an animal shelter or sanctuary.

The second option is to donate the clothing. Give it to a friend or take it to the charity shop. And lastly, there is the choice of keeping it.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with continuing to wear a perfectly good garment until it breaks, and then replace it with a vegan version.

It doesn’t make you less vegan. It just makes you less wasteful, and that’s what the planet desperately needs us all to be.

Don't be tempted to throw away any pre-vegan clothing you might own. Instead, you could donate them, give it to a friend or continue to wear them until they need to be replaced with a vegan version.

Don't be tempted to throw away any pre-vegan clothing you might own. Instead, you could donate them, give it to a friend or continue to wear them until they need to be replaced with a vegan version.

What if I have to wear non-vegan clothing for work?

This happens more often than you’d expect. In many workplaces, as well as many schools, uniforms require items that have been pre-approved (and in some cases, provided) by the company or institution, and sometimes those garments and footwear include leather or wool.

While this isn’t the employee’s choice, and once again, this does not make you less vegan, some vegans understandably feel uncomfortable about having to wear animals as part of their uniform.

What not to do

This differs from workplace to workplace, but in many instances it may be best not to refuse to wear your uniform or bring in your own vegan alternative without consulting your employer.

Rather than stirring the pot in a confrontational way, there are methods that could see the company or institution part ways with the cruel materials altogether (if you’re lucky, and patient).

How to solve it

Firstly, talk to your employer or school. See if they would be willing to accommodate an alternative.

Current UK law sees ethical veganism as a protected belief – and the Vegan Society’s guide to veganism in the workplace suggests companies provide vegan alternative clothing where possible.

Bring this up with your employer and see if other vegans on the team will advocate for it with you. You may be given a vegan uniform, or the company may decide to implement vegan uniforms for everyone –a win for animals.

Got more burning questions about vegan fashion? Find the answers here:

What to do if you receive a gift or inheritance that isn’t vegan.

Picture this: you’re unwrapping a glossy gift containing a luxurious looking box. Inside the box, nestled in a satiny dust bag, is a beautiful winter jumper.

As you unfold it, you can already imagine all the outfits you will wear with it… until you feel that familiar itchiness.

A glance at the label proves that in fact you were correct: it’s made with wool. And the person gifting it to you is sitting in front of you, smiling enthusiastically.

This is a situation many vegans have had to face, along with some that have received a fur coat as an inheritance or a gift.

If you receive a non-vegan gift, don't get upset with the recipient. Instead, use it as an opportunity to educate or simply donate it to a charity shop for someone else to enjoy.

If you receive a non-vegan gift, don't get upset with the recipient. Instead, use it as an opportunity to educate or simply donate it to a charity shop for someone else to enjoy.

What not to do

Don’t take your disappointment out on the gift-giver. Your immediate reaction may be to feel like they aren’t respectful of your vegan beliefs, but very likely what actually happened is that they were buying the gift with their own parameters and criteria in mind, not yours.

You could take them aside and gently explain that you don’t wear animal-derived fabrics – that might plant a seed in their minds.

How to solve it

If you received a fur coat, you can donate it to PETA’s fur-donation programme – it will get used in educational displays, donated to homeless people or given to animal shelters.

If you’ve received a present containing leather or wool, you can gift it on to someone else or donate it to a charity shop.

But the only alternative is polyester!

A walk around the high-street shops or a scroll through the most popular online shopping destinations while label-reading for vegan fabrics might bring a depressing realisation: most animal-free clothes seem to be made from textiles that are anything but planet-friendly.

Polyester, polyurethane, acrylic, and other petroleum-derived materials abound in mass-market shops, making it seem like ‘animal skins or plastic’ are our only choices.

What not to do

Don’t fall for it. Step away from the polyester, and reject the belief that there is nothing better out there.

To discover new materials that are kind both to animals and the environment, we have to widen our horizons and see beyond the big high-street chains – and for many other reasons, including workers’ rights and overproduction, that is a great thing to do.

How to solve it

Check out smaller brands that focus specifically on ethical fashion. They are often mindful of plastic and do their best to avoid it entirely.

Materials to look out for include Tencel, organic cotton, recycled fibres, and leather made from plant-derived fibres such as pineapple, mushroom, apple, wine grapes or corn.

Take the time to find smaller brands creating clothing from eco-friendly materials instead of opting for fast-fashion items.

Take the time to find smaller brands creating clothing from eco-friendly materials instead of opting for fast-fashion items.

I can’t afford any of these eco-friendly clothing brands

Now that you’ve found all of these awesome sustainable vegan fashion labels, you’re faced with yet another depressing reality: they are all quite pricey.

There is a good reason for this – we live in a world where a T-shirt is expected to come at the price of a cappuccino, which means that somewhere along the line, someone was exploited for it.

Paying attention to more sustainable materials, as discussed in the previous point, is another reason why fashion might cost more.

But as noble as those goals are, they won’t help the fact that your wallet just cannot take the strain of those super-innovative yet eye-wateringly expensive shoes.

What not to do

Don’t go into debt for fashion.

Be wary of ‘buy now, pay later’ schemes unless you can actually afford to buy now and pay later.

As gorgeous as that vegan leather jacket made from fruit waste is, it’s not worth racking up a huge overdraft.

Not only is second-hand shopping eco-friendly, it's always a great way to find one-of-a-kind pieces at an affordable price.

Not only is second-hand shopping eco-friendly, it's always a great way to find one-of-a-kind pieces at an affordable price.

How to solve it

As someone who has known financial hardship more than I’d like to admit, this just happens to be my speciality. The way to solve this conundrum is simple: shop second-hand.

Aside from being the most eco-friendly way to shop, second-hand fashion is also incredibly rich in options and opportunities.

Download apps like Depop and Vinted, check out Facebook Marketplace and have a regular browse in your local charity shops.

With a little patience and effort, you’ll find yourself amazed (and I mean it: amazed!) at all the gems you’ll find. Both the planet and your wallet will thank you.

Fur is falling out of fashion, but have you ever wondered is faux or real better for the environment?

Written by

Sascha Camilli

Sascha is a writer, an award-winning author, and the founder of the world’s first digital vegan fashion magazine, VILDA. She's also a professional animal rights activist and podcast host.

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