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The Future Of Fashion Is Vegan

A blog by Laura Buchenlicht

A casually dressed white young man leans back on a chair in the middle of a green summer meadow

Long-awaited spring is arriving in the northern hemisphere – time to store the winter cloak away and get out the t-shirts!

Of course a vegan’s wardrobe is always cruelty-free, no matter the season. But it seems like the wind of change has started to finally blow through the world of fashion as well.

The recent Copenhagen Fashion Week has added to its 2022 ban of fur (a reaction to ongoing protests by animal rights activists), by also banning exotic animals skins and feathers.

The next logical step of course has to be to ban all animal skins, feathers, and hair. While there already are entirely vegan luxury fashion labels, it is crucial that the mainstream brands follow suit in relinquishing animal cruelty.

Most importantly it reduces animal suffering, but it also sets an example for companies in general, as well as for consumers. This creates a snowball-effect, where change creates more change and escalates after reaching a critical threshold.

So whenever one label takes a step towards going vegan, we can expect others to follow. This is exactly what is currently happening in the fashion world:

Take the banning of fur, for example. Very early adopters of this policy were Calvin Klein in 1994, Ralph Lauren in 2006, and Tommy Hilfiger in 2007. Another big label, Armani, followed in 2016; as well as Gucci in 2017, and Versace and Chanel in 2018.

2019 saw another wave of labels changing their policy, because the whole state of California banned fur in this year (a good example showing how politics and capitalism influence each other). Subsequently big labels like Prada, Burberry, Dolce & Gabbana, and Saint Laurent all banned fur since then.

Of course both the political and commercial changes are due to a falling demand in fur, representing the changing awareness within society, brought on by individual change.

So whenever someone says “One person can’t make a difference”, a good counter-response would be asking “Then what does?”

One person changing is literally the only thing that ever creates change – because individual change adds up over time, inspiring others to change as well, groups inspiring more individuals, putting pressure on the economy and politics, thereby reaching social change.

A person in a big grey hoodie, with their back to the viewer, having the text "Changing Mindsets" on the back of their hoodie

With the demand for products derived from animal cruelty steadily sinking, an interest in cruelty-free alternatives is naturally growing.

It goes to show that all that is needed for innovation is desire and curiosity. All of a sudden all kinds of plant materials have been found to be good substitutes for leather and wool – like cotton, bamboo, pineapple leaves, cactus, or algae.

And plants aren’t the only natural cruelty-free materials on the rise – recently the use of sponge mushrooms as a leather-substitute has seen a lot of expansion.

Stella McCartney was the first designer brand to use these in 2001, and in 2020 it was joined by other brands (such as Adidas and Kering, Gucci’s parent company) to invest in the industry of the new material in order to make it commercially viable.

As modern as this might sound, it’s hardly a new invention. Mushroom leather has been used by humans for centuries - not only as clothing material, but probably also as wound bandages and sanitary pads, due to its water-absorbing abilities (it’s called a sponge for a reason).

However, just like a lot of other prehistoric knowledge, the craft of making mushroom leather has been forgotten over time. Romania is one of the few countries in which the tradition is still alive.

It looks like in order for industrial societies to shift from their current destructive practices to ethical and sustainable alternatives, it is necessary to combine ancient knowledge with innovative, bold thinking.

A black female model poses, wearing a black bustier and black trousers made from mushroom leather
A brown hat, brown handbag, a piece of mushroom leather, and a sponge mushroom

Designer hat and bag made from traditional sponge mushroom leather

made from new mushroom leather "Mylo"

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