Veganism has today become a trend that is rapidly expanding to capture design inspirations around the globe. The percentage of complete vegans– people who pledge not to consume any product/service derived from animal sources – is rocketing in the entire world. Fashion is not untouched by this phenomenon. Today, more than approximately 250,000 men and women from US alone are demanding for vegan fashion to be available around them, apart from that in the luxury catalogue.
According to an estimation by The Vegan Society, there were more than 600,000 reported vegans in the UK in the year 2018 – and the number has been continuously multiplying every year since 2013. Moreover, a record amount of more than 200,000 people took part in the ‘Veganuary’ organised in the UK alone, during first month of every year since 2019. The Veganuary is meant to encourage participants to adopt a balanced vegan diet for the first few months of every year.
Vegan accessories and footwear is one of the fastest-growing categories of vegan fashion around the globe. As fashion brands are increasingly introducing cruelty-free options to suede, fur and leather, the portion of footwear labelled as ‘vegan’ boosted by 27 per cent in the USA, and by 36 per cent in the UK, with each year after 2018.
In the UK, vegan accessories sector also saw a rise of about 56 per cent stocked year-on-year. The data is found in the report titled Veganuary: Strategies For Success that measures the growth of veganism as a fashion trend, and multiple ways in which retailers can capitalise on the concept. On this report The Edited said, “Outside of these areas (accessories and footwear), incorporation of vegan materials into categories is minimal, showing an apparent gap in the market for retailers to test the water with alternative fabrications.” When asked about veganism in apparel categories, they added “Animal-friendly outerwear is starting to gain momentum in the mass market. Vegan leather jackets are a no-brainer, andare also considered alternatives to wool and down.”
Many fashion brands are realising the strength of vegan population as a potential market. For instance, Marks & Spencer is vastly promoting its new line of vegan footwear and accessories with more than 350 styles of vegan footwear starting from Spring 2019 collection across women’s, men’s and kids’ footwear ranges. According to Stephen Lawson, Product Development Technologist, Footwear & Accessories, M&S, the surge of more than 200 per cent searches for vegan accessories on the brand’s website has inspired M&S to introduce this product line. “Over the last nine months, we have analysed our products and worked with our suppliers to form a process that ensures that all the components used in our synthetic shoes are free from animal derivatives and therefore offer a clear alternative to leather,” he added.
E-commerce is not far behind to jump on to the bandwagon. The luxury e-retailer Net-a-Porter has announced a boom in sales of clothing from vegan fashion brand, Nanushka. The categories of luxury leather items that led to exceptionally high sales include shirts, dresses and skirts. The e-retailer reported a ‘sold-out’ within just a few weeks of launch of Autumn-Winter Collection by Nanushka. The response has prompted many other retailers, including Net-a-Porter to up the reorder by 200 per cent for the upcoming Spring/Summer collection, and they are more focused now on promoting more of vegan leather and sustainable clothing. Not only that, awestruck with the demand for veganwear, Net-a-Porter is also calling out for its own vegan clothing brand, Ochi and more vegan outerwear for S/S collection from Oresund Iris, a New York-based brand.
Amber Chapman, Founder of Matt& Nat, the Canadian vegan accessories brand, expressed that vegan fashion is rising as an ‘added sales point’ and is a concept for differentiating a brand from the rest of the competitors.
“Vegan fashion is developing – becoming something that can be luxurious and cool. People’s mentality towards veganism has changed so much in the last few years. It feels like it is not just a niche movement anymore – it’s something that’s being talked about widely” she noted.
As a result of the fad that has been created in the masses, luxury handbag and accessories brands such as Hermès, famous for its alligator skin accessories including the Birkin Bags, are facing continual criticism. A year ago, the news headline flashed the terrible treatment of reptiles at a farm that supplies alligator skin to luxury brands. The footage was secretly taken by PETA’s sting investigators in order to expose the brutality behind the luxury accessories that are being globally craved for.Mimi Bekhechi, Director of PETA expressed her views by saying, “Every Birkin bag means that a beautiful, sensitive animal suffered a miserable life and a gruesome death.”
As a potential solution, PETA even designed and presented Victoria Beckham (luxury designer) an exclusively made ‘Virkin Bag’, from a US-based vegan leather brand, Freedom of Animals. “We hope the gorgeous Birkin bag will inspire Victoria Beckham to embrace vegan fashion and leave all exotic-animal skins out of her wardrobe and clothing line, as she’s already done with fur,” added Mimi Bekhechi.
Whether it’s the luxury brands, premium handbags or a clothing line for the masses, it is not easy for fashion brands to make a switch to vegan all of a sudden. Particularly when it comes to sourcing the raw material, such as fabrics, the challenge is heightened.
Launched in Autumn 2018, Kitri, a womenswear e-retailer revealed the extent of challenges faced to strike a huge success with its vegan leather shirts and dresses. Haeni Kim,Founder of Kitri explained, “It took us a long while to get the quality of vegan leather that we wanted. Vegan or fake leather has a bad reputation for looking cheap or being brittle. It took us a good year to find the quality of leather that we wanted. We found that many options were just not of high enough quality.” Adding to that, she exclaimed that finding the right fabric which does not compromise on quality of product comes at the cost to a vegan brand. “It’s more costly than other synthetic fabrics that we use, but that gives us a fantastic-quality material and we feel that our customers really notice the difference,” she added.
Fuelled by the conscious and connected modern consumer, the demand for vegan apparel and accessories seems determined to grow. With the rising demand, brands are taking inspirations as a signpost to create suitable alternatives to conventional products, as a smart choice for acing ahead of competitive retailers and brands. Although the sustainability credentials of some vegan products are still being questioned and investigated, the market is set to develop quickly. With innovations and creativity across the horizon, even for the most dubious buyers, veganism is a trend to watch out for.
Conscious and a pro- environmental alternative is the upcoming wave of the fashion industry.