February 8, 2007
New York is currently in the grip of Fashion Week, when designers decree what’s a “must have” and what’s a “toss out.” There’s one fashion trend, however, which wants to remind us that while fashion may be disposable, clothing materials aren’t (or shouldn’t be).
It’s being called Vegan Fashion, though it’s basically an attempt to bring the principles of sustainable agriculture to clothing production. (Did you know it takes almost 1/3 of a pound of pesticides and fertilizers to grow the cotton for a T-shirt?) The rule for materials is: if it isn’t sustainable to grow, or causes cruelty to living things to produce, don’t use it.
Examples abound: eco-minded brands like Matt & Nat (handbags), Moral Fervor (clothing), and Novacas (shoes – their name comes from the Spanish for “no cows”) and MooShoes (all of the above). Mass marketers are getting in on the act, too: hip youth footwear brand Vans now features Geoff Rowley vegan skateboarding shoes made from synthetic nubuck and rubber. Juniors sportswear retailer Rampage now advertises “cruelty free” imitation leather styles in their mall stores.
Here in New York one buzzworthy boutique is Organic Avenue (OrganicAvenue.com
) which features everything from bamboo tank tops to suits made from ahimsa, a kind of silk created without injuring the silkworms. Only six months old, it has already been profiled in The New York Times, and been featured on morning TV. (Check out a clip of the TV story on YouTube
.) Another chic shop is Kaight, five-months-old, which offers hand-stitched dresses of recycled cashmere, dresses made from Lyocell (a biodegradable wood pulp fiber), and belts made from Vegetal, a canvas coated with tree sap.
Of course, even the best vegan fashion leaves some sort of environmental footprint. But a married couple in the UK is trying to change that, attempting to make what they call “the perfect shirt,” one that would have no environmental impact whatsoever. Check out their ongoing struggle at BetterThinking.co.uk
So, what’s behind the trend? Have vegans like Natalie Portman and Joaquin Phoenix made eco-friendly glamorous? Or is it the increasing numbers of vegetarians in this country (nearly 5 million at last count, almost double the number from a decade ago)? Whatever the reason, let’s hope that this is one fashion trend that sticks around.