One of the most common critiques of the fashion world is that it’s not the most animal-friendly of industries, and (additionally) that the fast fashion trend wreaks havoc on the environment. We’ve all seen the campaigns from the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA)—like the naked women who showed up in coffins protesting leather at Toronto Fashion Week. And just recently, PETA’s revelatory campaign about the harming of rabbits for angora sweaters was so convincing that H&M has started letting shoppers return their sweaters containing angora for a full refund.
In light of the bad rap the fashion industry gets as it pertains to certain materials, we called up an expert from PETA—Katie Arth, a Los Angeles-based manager of campaigns for the animal rights organization—and got her to dish 5 tips for shopping vegan goods if you’re totally new to the game.
“People are going vegan every day. It’s not just what you eat, it’s also what you wear and where you shop—we’re trying to help people find cute, trendy clothing items that don’t support cruelty to animals,” Arth tells StyleCaster. “We want to make it really easy for them. Nobody wants to support cruelty to animals when they buy shoes, but if you buy and wear the leather shoes, you are.”
Read on for her tips!
1. Read labels thoroughly.
“Check to make sure labels that all the materials are man-made,” Arth says. “Some of the common things aren’t necessarily items that you don’t know come from animals—things that you don’t know hurt animals.”
A product like a shoe might look like it’s not made of a leather or any other animal by-product, but it might contain secret animal-born ingredients in the upper or lower segments. The label should be free of products like leather and suede, and obviously anything that directly references animals, like snakeskin or croc.
2. Do a price-check.
It should come as no surprise that, typically, vegan products are a lot cheaper than real animal by-products. Arth recommends that, if you can’t confirm the materials on the label, just do a price check. In other words, if it’s a fur jacket for $50, there’s no way it’s real.
3. Avoid materials that are made from more unknown animal products, like suede, leather, and even wool and silk.
“People commonly would never wear fur, but people don’t know about the other industries that are just as cruel—like the wool industry,” Arth says. “Every time we see that animals are being used for clothing, it’s cruel. The down industry, coats, comforters, they’re not thinking about the fact that geese are often live-plucked to fill comforters and coats.” In other words, everyone knows fur is anti-animal, but so are a number of other materials. Here’s PETA’s full list of animal-unfriendly materials.
4. Know some well-regarded vegan brands to shop.
Half the battle is just knowing exactly where to shop. “You can find cruelty-free items on both ends of the spectrum, from places like Target to high-end designers like Stella McCartney,” Arth says. “You can pretty much walk into any store in the mall [and find vegan items], it’s just up to you to look at the labels, and choose to buy this sweater that has 5% angora, or this other sweater that doesn’t. There still aren’t very many completely vegan retailers, but most places have so many options now, and it’s just a question of asking or reading labels.”
Here’s a starter list of great brands that offer vegan options:
5. Do your research.
If all else fails, Arth urges, just whip out your smartphone and start googling. PETA just set up a convenient, all-in-one landing page with more tips and educational tools for how to shop vegan. Check it out at How to Wear Vegan.