Veganuary: A Reflection and an Augury


As January comes to a close so do the numerous January challenges that accompany it: amongst the ever-growing list of January restraints, Veganuary has been the longest standing, and this year recorded a massive 440,000 people signing up, and the actual number is probably larger than that. It comes at a time where the vegan lifestyle seems to merely be rising in popularity and as the numbers grow, so do the alternatives; from milk, to meat, to other animal products, the vegan logo is becoming increasingly commonplace in the supermarket aisles. However, the success in food is at least matched by other areas including the fashion world. 

The so-called vegan fashion revolution has had a huge impact, influencing even the most esteemed designers to acknowledge their role in facilitating animal rights and likewise attempting to combat the environmental crisis. So, while the world may have suffered at the hands of Corona, it was a good year for animals: let us not forget that 2020 saw the return of dolphins to the Venice canals. 

Let us have a look at the biggest advancements in the world of vegan fashion this year, in honour of Veganuary, and reflect a moment on how far we have come, as well as how far we can expect to go in the coming year:

  1. The British Retail Consortium (BRC) developing new guidelines for Vegan fashion. 

As a nod to the greatly increased importance of vegan fashion, at the beginning of 2020 new guidelines were put in place. They stated that companies must not only cut out material such as leather, wool etc to call themselves vegan but also all other components, such as glues, dyes and chemicals, must equally be vegan. The BRC phrased the rise of Veganism as coupling the ethical and environmental standpoint as well as suggesting that ‘many people – some who don’t even identify as vegan – seek out vegan products in order to lessen their personal impact on the planet.’ The pressing nature of these dilemmas and their complexity means that anyone who wants to buy vegan should have the assurance that ‘any vegan product can be purchased with confidence.’ 

Needless to say, this is a huge step forward as well as a relief to all who partake, to a greater or lesser extent, in the world of veganism; but I would also like to add that this is a sign that the vegan alternatives can only expand. With greater regulation comes a greater belief in its longevity and as the alternatives grow, hopefully, vegan or at least sustainable clothes will be more commonplace and more affordable.

2. The Decline of Fur…even by the staunchest of fur supporters. 

When Anna Wintour began the year in a faux fur coat, the whole world seemed to follow. Many luxury brands have banned the use of fur in their clothes, and companies like Calvin Klien and AllSaints joined the throng of companies, such as Burberry and Gucci, who were fur-free. Even Canada Goose, renowned for its stance on fur announced that they would not be using virgin fur and would instead be recycling fur. Their group’s chief executive spoke to the Financial Times, adamant that they were not bowing to pressure: ‘We’re absolutely not switching for any other reason than we believe switching from new fur to reclaimed fur makes something sustainable more sustainable’. 

3. Developments in Vegan Leather (yes, other than pineapple…) 

We have already several inventive and imaginative vegan leathers in use; some made from pineapples, apples and teak leaf. Yet, a huge advancement was made with the biotechnology company called Bolt Threads, who have created a new leather made out of mycelium (the roots of mushrooms). Equally, more brands chose to incorporate vegan leather into their collections. Most notable H&M lanced its ‘Conscious Collection’ which included products made with wine byproducts. All this is also a huge step in moving away from alternatives that might be cheap but are not sustainable, namely Polyurethane. This goes for cars too, Peta notes that ‘Tesla recently became the latest luxury automaker to offer vegan leather seating, joining BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Lexus, and Ferrari.’

4. Progress against animal testing 

According to the website ‘LiveKindly’, ‘more than 40 countries have full or partial cosmetic animal testing bans, and soon, Mexico could be joining them.’ There is still a long way to go, a huge contributor is China who requires animal testing for its products. The statistics and pictures are heart-wrenching so let us hope that even more progress can be made in 2021. 

5. The second Vegan Fashion Week in LA 

 ‘The relationship between fashion, factory farming, and climate change cannot be ignored. A vegan and sustainable lifestyle is the ultimate answer to climate change and waste pollution. I created an inclusive and collaborative movement dedicated to redesigning the industry and the consumers’ daily habits’

—Emmanuelle Rienda, Founder and CEO, Vegan Fashion Week™

Vegan Fashion Week first began in 2019 and showcased an array of vegan creatives. Once again, though such events are fairly superficial in terms of their real impact in the fashion world, they do bode well. Such events are making sustainable options something that we can all partake in and not simply something reserved for those who can afford it. 

So what can we look forward to this year? I think this year will bring further vegan alternatives, such as different faux leathers, furs and silks. Yet, there are also great changes in the beauty industry where the market is the most lucrative. However, the real advancement is in our habits by shopping small, supporting local and being more conscious of our buying decisions and we should be always be doing our bit to contribute to wider change, it doesn’t matter how small our contribution may be. Coronavirus has meant that many of us have had to readjust our priorities so it would be nice to think that we can continue to breathe positives in a world where masks are our greatest accessory. 

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