The V word boom

Being vegan is as hot as ever, especially when it comes to the clothes worn by Generation Z.

 Veganism is alive and well, especially in the fashion world, where animal-free clothing products are flying off the shelf. .
Veganism is alive and well, especially in the fashion world, where animal-free clothing products are flying off the shelf. .

The Future Laboratory says that “42% of vegans in the United Kingdom are aged 15-34 so Gen Z is a key driving force in this movement. They are conscious shoppers who want to know where and how their products are made.”

From cookbooks to our closets, the V word has exploded – and there is no sign that the movement is going to lose momentum any time soon. This January saw a record-breaking 250,000 people worldwide sign-up to Veganuary , a UK-based nonprofit whose mission is to encourage people to go vegan for a month.

Meanwhile, Glamour UK reports that beauty products have also had a vegan overhaul with a huge rise in brands offering animal-free make-up, skincare and perfume. In response to a 73% increase in online searches for ‘Vegan Beauty’, Liberty London has just launched a dedicated vegan beauty hub, stocking products from Herbivore, Hourglass, Pixi and Le Labo.

February saw the very first vegan fashion week take place in Los Angeles, while the undisputed street style hit of New York Fashion Week was a vegan leather puffer jacket by Budapest-based ‘it’ label, Nanushka. “Nanushka successfully launched for Cruise 18 and has continued to perform exceptionally well ever since”, says a spokesperson for Net-A-Porter who explains that the brand’s vegan leather styles (such as the Ania croc-effect vegan leather pencil skirt, Naum croc-effect vegan leather shirt and Penelope vegan leather wrap midi dress) have been driving sales. Said puffer jacket (worn by street stylers Xenia Adonis, Danielle Bernstein and Christine Tyler has nearly sold out in several colors.

 Vegan shoes are a hot commodity in fashion.
Vegan shoes are a hot commodity in fashion.

Not only are wardrobes riding the vegan wave, but the movement has extended to shoes as well. In fact, one of the biggest growth areas is in footwear.

Last year, vegan footwear accounted for 16% of the total UK market – a number that is surely set to rise in 2019 thanks to both high-street and designer shoe brands offering more stylish vegan options than ever before.

After seeing a 200% increase in online searches for vegan related products, this spring Marks and Spencer has launched a 350-strong vegan-friendly shoe collection.

The styles, which span women’s, men’s and kidswear, are a development on its existing synthetic shoe offering, with all components now not including anything animal-derived.

“After increased customer interest in veganism and a rise in online searches for related products, we decided to investigate the possibility of expanding our vegan-friendly offering into footwear and accessories. Over the year we have analyzed our products and gone the extra mile to ensure we offer a great selection that comply with all vegan requirements,” says Senior Footwear Technologist, Rachel Smith. The M&S Collection almond-toe court shoe is currently a best seller.

Elsewhere on the high street, Office has launched an online vegan destination stocking brands such as Dr. Martens and Blowfish. “We are excited to be stocking vegan product through our brands and are sure that there will be more coming in the next few seasons, as we are seeing ‘vegan shoes’ as a popular search term across the board and know there is demand,” explains PR Manager, Hannah Bearryman.

So, is the vegan revolution a passing fad in shoes or something that is here to stay?

 “This is definitely a growing and evolving trend” says one vegan expert, “textile technology will continue to drive the vegan trend further as genetically engineered fabrics are developed that not only imitate the properties of animal-derived fibers but also transcend them.” Gone are the days when ethical fashion meant compromising on aesthetics, we’re now entering a world where the sustainable alternative looks even better.

But, as was also explained, the fashion industry needs to wholeheartedly get on board, “If fast fashion brands took time to support and develop such alternatives, they would boost global production and access… The fashion industry needs to combine technology, research and major companies’ capital to revolutionize material innovation and ethics.”

Speaking of vegan products, vegetarian designer Stella McCartney will produce new, animal-free apparel using recycled plastic fibers sourced from the ocean., according to Vegan News.

 Stella McCartney
Stella McCartney

McCartney partnered with conservation organization Parley for the Oceans to obtain a yarn fiber, which the company creates from old fishing nets, bottles, and other trash that pollutes the oceans. McCartney will replace polyester with the recycled plastic yarn in designs for bags, shoes, and outerwear which she plans to begin rolling out this July.

“Leather is cheaper than some of the non-leather alternatives,” McCartney told the New York Times. “It’s less interesting, it’s less modern. Every element of it, to me, is not particularly luxurious or fashionable.” While the designer still uses wool and silk, she launched her brand in 2001 with the intent to create luxury fashion without the use of animal fur or leather. “Is a recycled plastic ever going to be something people think is a luxury?” McCartney said. “If they don’t notice it and if they feel that living on this planet longer is a luxury, then yes, to me … that’s my idea of luxury.”

Over the years, the designer has been paramount in changing the perception that animal skins are necessary to creating luxury apparel, and debuted a “Skin-free Skin” collection—made from a vegan suede-like material—during this year’s Paris Fashion Week in March.