Vegan Fashion and Ethical Fashion are Literally the Same Thing
The movement for a better fashion industry encompasses many different causes: environmental sustainability, garment workers’ rights, animal rights, and shifting our focus from quantity to quality.
However, many ethical and sustainable fashion advocates still believe that vegan fashion, aka the promotion of cruelty-free clothing, actually does more harm than good to the ethical fashion movement as a whole.
It is probably their own cognitive dissonance that makes these otherwise well-meaning people think that vegans don’t care about the working conditions of garment workers, or that the less than 5% vegan population is responsible for the plastic pollution of the whole fashion industry.
In reality, these anti-vegan sustainable fashion advocates are the ones that create the biggest confusion in the movement and put the bar too high for the people who would like to join in.
In my opinion, everyone who’s willing to take steps in the right direction should be celebrated, instead of discouraged. And after all, we all share the same goal: a fashion industry that is kind, inclusive, and sustainable!
Vegan fashion and ethical fashion are the exact same thing by definition
What is vegan fashion?
“Veganism is a philosophy and way of living which seeks to exclude—as far as is possible and practicable—all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose; and by extension, promotes the development and use of animal-free alternatives for the benefit of animals, humans and the environment.” – The Vegan Society
Vegan fashion seeks to exclude all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for clothing.
Since humans are animals, vegan fashion also opposes the exploitation of people which is the foundation of ethical fashion.
There are many fast fashion companies like Nasty Gal that sell “vegan” faux leather clothes and accessories made in sweatshops. And that is false advertising!
Just because the final product doesn’t contain any animal materials it might have contributed to cruelty in a different form. Just like makeup that is vegan otherwise but has been tested on animals, isn’t considered actually vegan. Vegan clothing made in sweatshops isn’t vegan either!
Vegan clothing and accessories, by the definition of veganism, shouldn’t involve human rights violations!
The definition of ethical is “avoiding activities or organizations that do harm to people or the environment.”
This is quite a new definition, and what I don’t like about it is that the ethical movement has already pre-selected what they should care about: only people and the environment. Animals are conveniently left out of this list.
There’s an inconsistency in this definition which is more apparent in the case of circuses. Many people would avoid going to a circus and see it as unethical even though circuses do no harm to people or the environment.
So what if we go back to the original definition of ethical which is “morally good or correct.”
And it isn’t morally correct to kill a sentient being and then wear its body parts, just as much as it isn’t morally correct to use child labor or make people work for 12+ hours a day in horrible conditions for less than a living wage.
Morally correct is what your heart tells you it’s right and all the “yeah, but” excuses are just your mind being too lazy to change.
Yeah, but vegan fashion is made of plastic so it is bad for the environment
Not all vegan clothes are made of plastic and you know it. Organic cotton, linen, hemp, lyocell, just to mention some of the most sustainable materials out there are all vegan.
So don’t try and tell me that it’s impossible to be vegan and sustainable at the same time.
On the other hand, I agree that we shouldn’t keep encouraging people to buy plastic anymore. Vegans especially those who are against hurting animals should know by now that plastic can cause serious damage to wildlife.
Vegan, ethical, sustainable, and slow fashion have the same goal
These terms are often used interchangeably, and the end goal of these movements is basically the same: a fair and environmentally-friendly way of creating and acquiring clothes.
The nuance is based on the main priority of each movement.
Sustainable fashion prioritizes the environment.
Ethical fashion prioratizes human rights. (Although it should also include animal rights by the definition of “ethical”.)
Vegan fashion prioratizes animal rights (which should include human rights as well becasue humans are animals).
Slow fashion prioratizes quantity over quality, creating timeless clothes that last longer, and shopping less and more mindfully.
The real solution, in my opinion, is at the intersection of these seemingly different concerns. On their own, they aren’t effective.
As I said ethical and vegan are basically the same thing. But there’s no point in making ethical, vegan clothes that destroy the environment. And producing “sustainable” clothes on a mass scale again defeats the purpose of sustainability, we need to also take back on quantity.
Unfortunately, ethical brands at the moment usually don’t tick all of these boxes, and we also have to think about what can people actually afford. But if you try to hit at least 3 of the 4, you’re on the right path! And don’t forget about buying pre-loved which is always the best option!