Before putting together this ethical buying guide I asked 3 top sustainable brands for their advice on shopping for ethical clothing. Where do you start? What materials should we look for? How can we gain a quick and thorough understanding of vegan fashion quickly? Here is your 5 minute ethical buying guide, aimed to make sustainable fashion shopping easier!
If Somebody Was Looking for Vegan Leather Products, What Material Do you Think is Best? What Should We Look out For?
Contrado: There are plenty of vegan leather alternatives available, and it really depends on how you plan to use the fabric. For faux leather jackets or coats, we’d recommend trying a super warm alternative such as our new Warm Leatherette fabric. Made from a combo of soft, ribbed polyester and PVC, it has a great textured leather effect and is lovely and warm to the touch – perfect for keeping cosy in Winter and emulating the feel of genuine leather. It’s also perfect for upholstery as it is quite structured, and fire rated for safety. When you’re shopping for faux leather, look out for cheaper products with laminated surfaces which may crack over time. www.contrado.co.uk
Friendship Shoes: Vegan leather is becoming more and more sought after and so there is a lot of developmental work going on in this area. We have pineapple (Pinatex) mushroom (MuSkin) cork and leaves.
There are some issues around these in terms of cost and processing. So we have stayed with our new generation microfibre which behaves very much like hide, is fully breathable and much more sustainable than previously. Our vegan leather is made in Milan and is specially bonded for us, we worked on a finish as close to calf leather as we could get and this has proved very popular.
We sell to non vegans as well as vegans, that was our aim as we wanted to show that you can have the traditional look without hurting anything in the process, most people would say they are happier without causing suffering. The great news is that the development work continues as the demand increases, it’s our belief that a totally environmentally sound product will be available soon, so depending on what aspect is important to you, there will be something for everyone. www.friendship.shoes
What ONE Thing Would You Tell People to Do in Order to be More Ethical and Sustainable?
Deakin and Blue: Fashion brands who take sustainability (ethical, environmental and social) seriously will have a statement on their website to that effect. Research and buy from fashion brands who do this in order to support practices you are comfortable with, for example, paying fairly, minimising use of chemicals, minimising water wastage, reducing their use of plastic, regenerating and recycling waste materials and more. www.deakinandblue.com
Friendship Shoes: Animal agriculture, of which most leather is a bi-product, is the singularly most destructive activity on the planet. It is also responsible for extreme cruelty, most people choose to ignore this and there has been a trend towards claiming “humane” practices. This is a PR exercise, there is no such thing as humane killing.
The best thing anyone can do is remove animals and animal exploitation from their daily lives. It’s no longer difficult and the options increase year on year, veganism is the fastest growing justice movement on the planet and is very well reflected in slow and ethical fashion choices.
Contrado: Know where your products come from! Fashion which is both fast and cheap is often that way for a reason – the materials and labour are outsourced from countries where we have no control over creating happy and healthy working environments for employees, and the fabrics are generally sub-par and cheap. By knowing where your fashion comes from, you’ll get a sense of its journey and how its created, and can make informed choices about your purchases.
What Interesting Things Have You Learned On Your Ethical Journey?
Friendship Shoes: The most important and interesting discovery we have made on the journey of our ethical business is that things are changing, people are changing. It is now very difficult to ignore the facts of the damage we have caused to ourselves, our fellow beings and the planet. We speak daily to very aware and conscious people who are driving the trend towards compassionate and socially responsible living.
Change is essential and it can’t come a minute too soon.
Contrado: One of Contrado main values Contrado is eco-friendly practice. We work hard to ensure our supply chain is ethical, sustainable and short. Producing everything in-house and working with local suppliers gives us a low carbon footprint, helping us to manage our energy consumption efficiently. To protect the environment further, we only use non-toxic, eco-friendly inks in our printing process, which contain no harmful chemicals. This ensures our working conditions are safe and healthy, and any post-manufactured discarded fabric can be recycled, upcycled or donated to our local clothes bank as well as schools and universities. This, combined with a rigorous waste management scheme and reduced excess from printing-on-demand, allows us to cultivate an environmentally conscientious workplace. We buy the best ink and from different sources, but to be honest other inks on the market are great, but the real key to their benefits is in the environment, calibration and colour management. We use no water in our production.
Deakin and Blue: Since founding Deakin and Blue I have become aware of how easily small changes can make a big difference. For example the #2minutebeachclean project which asks beach visitors to spend two minutes at the end of their visit picking up litter on the beach has been adopted by thousands of people across the globe and is a small way that everybody can help take care of our planet.