Veganism for many people starts as a way of eating to reduce animal suffering or alleviate health issues. It tends to evolve into a full-blown lifestyle of compassion. For many, this lifestyle of compassion also begins a journey into more sustainable living as a way to help our planet and the people and animals that live on it.
Seeking out vegan apparel and shoes is a natural and monumental step in living a fully vegan lifestyle. Although it can seem mysterious at first as if it must be complicated or perhaps as if it is extremely simple. The complexity of understanding vegan apparel is neither easy or hard, it lies somewhere in the middle.
Vegan clothing and shoe companies are on the rise. And so it begs the question, what does it mean for clothing to be vegan, what materials aren’t vegan? Aren’t some none vegan sources more sustainable, and therefore, better for the Earth than their plastic counterparts?
What Materials Aren’t Vegan
Perhaps the easiest place to start in defining vegan clothing is understanding what is not vegan. The following list is comprehensive and covers all the main offenders standing in the way of a cruelty-free wardrobe.
It’s important to acknowledge a commonly held false belief that somehow animal products are simply by-products that would go to waste and are more sustainable because they don’t actually have an environmental impact. All of the following animal products are not simply throw-away materials, but are lucrative business commodities and highly sought after. These materials are in demand. They do not only directly contribute to animal suffering, but contribute to the pollution of our environment via factory farming.
It’s also important to note that some vegans choose to continue wearing previously bought non-vegan pieces or to purchase second-hand non-vegan pieces, as it doesn’t directly contribute to the demand for leather products. While this option is ethically sound for some vegans, and in fact is sustainable in that it doesn’t contribute to the manufacturing of new products, some find it problematic as it may send the message that animals are commodities and it’s okay to wear them.
Leather is made from a variety of animal skins from cows to ostriches to alligators. Contrary to popular belief, leather isn’t simply a by product and certainly is not sustainable or eco friendly. As we shared in an article on Vegan Fashion:
“Leather and suede are both lucrative commodities from animals, mostly from those that are victims of the meat industry. As it is well known, factory farming and animal agriculture are cruel practices to the animals whose lives they claim and carry a massively negative impact on the environment. Leather is also environmentally unfriendly due to some of the tanning solutions and dyes. These have known pollutants and carcinogens that end up back in the ground, in the water and on our skin.”
Suede is made from animal skins but it processed slightly differently than leather for a unique finish and feel.
Fur comes from a variety of animals, mainly minks and foxes, although rabbits and other animals are also used. Many faux fur coats have been found to contain actual animal hair. So be sure to buy from a vegan company if you seek out faux fur. This industry has notoriously cruel practices as PETA outlines here.
Wool comes from sheep, rabbits and alpaca. It is often just thought of as just the by-product of a haircut. The living conditions of the sheep in conjunction with how the wool is obtained, which is often extremely roughly and results in varying levels of injury, are often overlooked and are indeed cruel and unnecessary as The Ethical Man points out.
Silk is produced by silkworms to make their cocoons. These worms are often times killed in the process of harvesting, although not always. While not all worms are said to be killed in the production of “peace silk”, there is still much controversy over their quality of life and how many worms are allowed to live.
Down and Feathers
The down and feather industries rely primarily on birds intended for slaughter, whether that's for more traditional meat or particularly cruel practices such a foie gras ducks. The animals can be plucked prior to slaughter or several times throughout their lives. It involves extreme amounts of force resulting in varying levels of injury such as broken limbs or skin injuries that require stitches.
While pearls are products of oysters naturally, the current pearl industry forces pearl production. There is concern that this is bad for the environment and all while exploiting a living creature.
Now that we’ve covered what materials aren’t vegan, it’s easier to understand what vegan clothing is. Materials like cotton, hemp, bamboo, polyester, and various plastics and vinyls are considered vegan. They are used in the manufacturing of cruelty free clothing.
Vegan Clothing Companies
The following are some of our absolute favorite vegan clothing companies. Most of these companies have a specifically vegan mission, while a few happen to be vegan. Almost all of the following companies make an effort to use sustainable practices whether that means using organic materials, recycled materials, and sustainable fibers or simply making sure their employees are paid fairly and are given good conditions to work in. We love these companies because they offer amazing cruelty-free clothing. And they are pushing fashion forward in the direction of sustainability.
Company: Groceries Apparel
What They Offer: An extensive variety of eco friendly and sustainable women’s simple clothing styles such as dresses, outerwear, bras and tank tops as well as men’s t-shirts.
Why We Love Them: This company makes sourcing high quality, sustainable fabrics a top priority while omitting animal by products. Groceries Apparel promises to use "100% GMO-free, Pesticide & Herbicide-free, Recycled, & Fair-traded Ingredients,” including organic cotton, hemp, eucalyptus, recycled plastic and recycled cotton. We love this company because it prioritizes the earth and its customers. And they compromise on nothing, including paying workers in their California factory fair wages. Their simple yet fashionable styles can work in a variety of wardrobes and make sustainable fashion a worthwhile investment for not only the earth, but also for fashions sake.
Company: Delikate Rayne
What They Offer: A woman’s contemporary luxury fashion line featuring clean lines and asymmetrical cuts that are minimal yet glamorous.
Why We Love Them: Delikate Rayne was founded on the premise of offering cruelty free, ethically and consciously made fashionable women’s clothing. While making sure that cruelty-free is a top priority within their line, they also care about the environment. The materials they use, promising no PVC in their products. The company also seeks ethical working conditions, using a manufacturing company that is USA based and promises clean and safe working conditions, fair wages and a respectful workspace for its employees. The company works hard to create ethical clothing and their styles are unique ranging from much younger, hip pieces to edgy styles and even more minimal, sophisticated styles that work great for a woman of any age.
Company: Brave GentleMan
What They Offer: A variety of organic and sustainably made men’s clothing and accessories such as shirts, tops, suits, shoes, and bags.
Why We Love Them: We’ve written about Brave Gentlemen before because this is an exceptionally thoughtful and sustainable company creating truly high quality products. Brave Gentlemen was founded by a longtime vegan who truly understands that veganism extends beyond just omitting animals and involves working towards a more sustainable future for all. Brave Gentlemen embraces a slow fashion model. Thy use a variety of sustainable materials such as organic cotton, recycled polyester, fabric made from plastic bottles, and bamboo. The company seeks to create high quality, fashionable clothing in an ethical and sustainable manner and does so exceptionally well.
Company: Hiraeth Collective
What They Offer: High end women’s apparel and accessories.
Why We Love Them: Actress Mara Rooney and her friends designed this high-end women’s clothing line as a cruelty-free option for women seeking high-quality high-fashion designs without causing animal suffering. This line is not for most people’s everyday wear. But for those looking to invest in some higher end pieces or unique pieces for their wardrobe, they offer a variety of beautifully designed styles that are both elegant, edgy and simple.
What They Offer: A wide variety of organic, fair trade women’s, men’s and kids clothing styles.
Why We Love Them: This one hundred percent organic cotton line promises to be free of pesticides, and toxic dyes while ensuring their products are fair trade factory certified. Not only is this company leading the way in sustainable clothing, it’s offering it at extremely affordable prices. This makes it accessible for many people. Affordable, organic clothing in a wide variety of colors and styles makes this a great go-to company for comfortable clothing that is super soft and doesn’t promote animal suffering, planet suffering or people suffering.
Vegan Clothing Companies - Vegan Message Clothing
These are our favorite all vegan companies that share loudly and proudly vegan message apparel. Most of these companies were founded by vegans passionate about making a positive change in the world. Some of these companies donate to animal charities and some even consider sustainability when making their clothing. Regardless of the exacts, each company we share has unique and awesome qualities along with great thought-provoking clothing that is completely cruelty-free.
What They Offer: Womens, mens, kids and babies clothing as well as stickers, bags, totes, and bracelets.
Why We Love Them: This vegan company is on a mission to raise awareness about veganism and inspire others. Created by a passionate vegan mama, this company focuses on ethical working conditions in their small production house. They pay their employees above minimum wage, offering a nice work environment and free lunch daily. The company is seeking to convert their entire line to organic cotton and have started doing so recently. The company has even stopped using plastic and packages in biodegradable bags. This is one more testament to their dedication to the environment. We absolutely love their ethics and their messages, whether it’s “Eat Fruit Not Friends” or simply “be kind”. They offer up inspiring messages that offer a compassionate perspective.
Company: Crazies and Weirdos
What They Offer: A variety of womens and mens tops and hats with vegan messages.
Why We Love Them: This vegan focused company runs 3-month campaigns focusing on one animal group. During these campaigns, they create shirts highlighting and bringing attention to what these animals are going through. They donate a portion of profits to groups working hard to alleviate the specific suffering they’re highlighting. This company is serious about ending animal cruelty through highlighting it and donating to causes ending it. And we can think of no better way to spend our money.
Company: Compassion Co.
What They Offer: A variety of women's, men's, and youth tops with vegan messages as well as sticker and pins.
Why We Love Them: This company was cofounded by an animal rights activist with the vision that the best way to enact change is by being a positive example and allow for opportunities to have meaningful conversations. Compassion Co. produces its vegan message shirts on either recycled or organically grown cotton. It promises that they are sweatshop free. On top of the message and focus on sustainability, the company donates 5% of profits every month to an organization that promotes animal rights or a cruelty-free lifestyle.
Company: Everything Vegan
What They Offer: A variety of men and women's vegan tops, hats and stickers.
Why We Love Them: A plant-based animal lover founded this company, and it shows. The apparel has a wide array of messages such as “vegan vibes" and “powered by plants”. Some messages are just sharing that kindness matters or plant-based living is your thing. While others directly showcase speciesism and that animals are not for food. Whatever message you want to share with the world, this company most likely has it and in a cool print so you can show it off.
Company: The Herbivore Clothing Company
What They Offer: A wide variety of women's, men's and children’s vegan message apparel as well as accessories, stickers and totes and more.
Why We Love Them: This company was founded by two ethical vegans who eventually helped found a vegan mini mall in Portland. The founders care deeply about living a fully compassionate lifestyle. They believe that animal liberation and human liberation are one in the same. Besides supporting awesome people, this company has a wide variety of great vegan messages that are positive and empowering.
Company: Vegan Power Co
What They Offer: Vegan tops for men and women, magnets, tote bags, stickers and patches.
Why We Love Them: A longtime vegan opened this Etsy shop and donates a portion of profits to animal welfare charities. The shirt designs are super unique. Their vegan message is typically a cool retro style look that can’t be beat.
Where to Shop: Online Vegan Clothing Stores
There are a few online vegan retailers that offer a variety of vegan clothing companies as well as shoes and accessories. Buying from an online retailer with multiple companies can help you purchase a few different options to tr. And usually, you can save on shipping while still supporting the vegan companies of your choice. The following are some of our favorite vegan retailers:
Petit Pour is an all cruelty-free online retailer with an extensive array of products from women's and men's clothing to accessories, makeup, skincare and more. They offer a lot of unique products that aren’t as easily found with a simple web search. So it is totally worthwhile to check out their selection when looking for clothing.
Alternative Outfitters is an all vegan shop featuring primarily women's shoes, clothing, bags and accessories as well as a few accessories for men. They offer a variety of popular vegan brands. Best of all, they offer free shipping over $25. This means you can stock up on your favorite vegan items and save big.