Fashion + Cruelty is Like So 1990s! Designer Vegan Leather is All the Rage.
Totally Crushing on MATT & NAT = MAT(T)ERIAL + NATURE, Peta Approved, Ethical, Sustainable, Lux + Fashion Forward
Handbags, shoes, belts, the iconic little leather jacket - those are the fashion essentials without which no outfit is complete. But they come at a high price when it comes to animal welfare, social justice and global sustainability. The truth is leather is just as cruel, wasteful and polluting as meat… Can it ever be truly fashionable, or is it time to find designer vegan leather you can wear with pride?
What are you wearing?
We all know that leather is basically the skin of a dead animal. But which animal isn’t always clear. Since it isn’t normally labeled, you might be wearing cow leather, but it might be from a pig, sheep, goat, or even dog or cat. The majority of leather comes from India and China, where animal welfare laws are lax and seldom enforced. These animals are malnourished and sick, they often collapse from exhaustion on their way to the slaughterhouse. Workers break their tails and rub chilis into their eyes to get them to keep walking to their death.
In the US, leather is a byproduct of the animal farming industry, and in fact is the most profitable aspect of their business. That means when you buy leather, you are directly contributing to keeping this industry alive. The animal whose skin you are wearing had to go through the same horrors as the animals killed for their meat - living in squalid, overcrowded conditions, abused, branded and castrated without painkillers, and finally murdered.
Vegan Leather Is Super Cruel
When it comes to the environment, leather has a heavier carbon footprint than meat - who knew that was even possible! That’s because after the animals have been skinned (and often skinned while they are still conscious), the skin needs to be tanned - this is a process that stops the leather decomposing by stabilizing the collagen and protein in the skin. Without it, that leather handbag would soon turn to slimy mold in your closet. Tanning and leather-processing involves a ton of toxic chemicals that pollute the environment and harm health, like arsenic, chromium and even cyanide. People who work in leather processing plants or nearby have a higher risk of cancer because of this.
Add these chemicals to the already very serious issue of water contamination from slaughterhouses and feedlots, and you’re looking at an environmental catastrophe waiting to happen. Cattle produce 130 times more excrement than the global human population…. But there are no waste treatment plants to manage this, and waste runoff ends up contaminating ground water. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, livestock pollution is the greatest threat to our waterways, it accounts for 70% of water pollution in the US. Leather processing has the biggest impact on something called eutrophication - which is where waste runoff triggers the growth of algae which deplete the water’s oxygen levels, suffocating all sea-life and leading to ocean “dead zones”, like the one in the Gulf of Mexico.
Don’t be afraid to make the switch!
Clearly, leather is something we all need to turn our back on - for the animals and for our planet too. There’s nothing fashionable, elegant or stylish about wearing something that’s been obtained through cruelty, that wastes so much water, and that ruins the health of the person making it.
What IS fashionable in 2019 is choosing ethical clothes and accessories that look and feel great and are made with the animals and the planet in mind.
Trust me, I know that the thought of giving up your collection of Louboutin’s, Chanel and YSL might make you quake in your boots, but going leather-free is not as scary as it was. Look, I am/was scared too and the process has been slow for me. While I will not buy more leather, designer pieces, I have not found the strength to give them all away or ship them off to The Real Real for consignment either! Even just a few years ago, vegan fashion was limited to shoes that looked orthopedic, and bags made of canvas (O.K. maybe I’m exaggerating a little but you get the picture). The thing is, once you go vegan, you have to learn the truth about the insane cruelty of animal farming and fashion industry as it relates to leather, feathers etc. When I realized what went into making my designer leather handbags, belts and shoes, I no longer felt “joy” when I looked at them. Instead, it went from being a gorgeous, luxury fashion items I was proud to wear, to something ugly.
I knew I had to find some designer, vegan leather accessory brands that I could get behind, because let’s face it - going vegan should not mean having to give up your deluxe style!
Vegan Leather 101
Thanks to the rise of veganism, we’re now spoilt for choice when it comes to cruelty-free fashion. I’ll share three that get top spot for their flawless combination of high-end looks and ethical mission.
LaBante London is a so lux and completely sustainable, offering designer vegan leather handbags and backpacks. Their bags are made from recycled plastic bottles, are packaged in 100% recycled and recyclable packaging… and are sweat-shop free!
Huntd, designer vegan shoe brand gets my vote for striving to be three things: Kind (by not using any animal products at any stage of manufacture), ethical (by using environmentally friendly materials and treating workers fairly) and last but not least, fashionable (by offering luxurious shoes that rival Jimmy Choo, Christian Dior and even those iconic Louboutin’s).
Matt & Nat use recycled plastic, rubber, cork, and even bicycle tires to create stylish bags, shoes, and sunglasses. Their motto, which is one close to my heart, is “live beautifully” - that means appreciating the beauty that is all around us, and protecting it. Their collections are inspired by the textures of nature and are PETA-approved. Famous ambassadors of have included Nathalie Portman, Fearne Cotton, Olivia Wilde, Charlize Theron, Rory Freidman, Emily Deschanel, Tobey Maguire and Adrian Grenier.
There you have it, three ways you can rock your fashionista look while feeling like you’ve done a good deed for the animals and the planet.
Most of us have some leather items in our closets. Of course, you don’t have to throw these all away, but next time you need a handbag or a pair of shoes, treat yourself to designer vegan leather. Because even the way you dress has the power to make a positive difference in the world… and vegan fashion never looked so damn good. It might be time for a shopping cruelty-free spree!