Eating according to vegan guidelines is difficult enough, but when ethical fashion comes into play, the conscious consumer can experience a whole new level of frustration. Some designers may claim to be eco-friendly, but use leather and fur in their clothing. Others use materials that appear to be organic and rough-hewn, but actually involve a number of animal products we never even knew existed.
In hopes of discovering a perfect union of style and the vegan lifestyle, we did some digging to discover if chic, animal-friendly designs were even possible. To our delight, we found ten labels that are eco-friendly, vegan, and produce high-quality, adorable pieces. It seems that fashion and mindfulness can — and do — coexist.
Matt & Nat
Though the brand name may sound like an adorable melding of two designer names, Matt & Nat actually stands for Mat(t)erial and Nature, which are the line’s two biggest concerns. The line was created in 1995 in Montreal, with the motto “Live Beautifully.” The line eschews the use of animal products and materials that aren’t environmentally friendly, but you wouldn’t know it to look at their clever, multifunctional designs. Offering wallets, handbags, and accessories in a range of lightly worn styles and faded shades, the line has your accessories needs covered. Since the line’s inception, stars from Charlize Theron to Natalie Portman have become patrons.
Umasan is a relative newcomer to the fashion scene, but the brand is determined to make eco and vegan designs into the new couture. Designed by Anja and Sandra Umann, the line looks like a cross between Ann Demeulemeester and Helmut Lang with its draped, edgy designs and muted colors. Umasan’s website declares that the brand only uses materials from European mills, and “is very dedicated not to use any animal products”. When asked about the impetus behind the collection, the sisters simply stated, ”we’re creating a brave new world combining high end taste with the latest innovation regarding the longevity of planet earth and its inhabitants.”
Stella McCartney may just be the ultimate vegan couture darling. The designer started her eponymous line in 2001 after designing for Chloe straight out of school, and has since dedicated her line to eco-friendly, vegan designs, culminating in a Natural Resources Defense Council award in March 2009. McCartney’s designs range from peekaboo dresses to studded, rocker-inspired handbags. In reference to her conscious designs, McCartney’s website declares ”We do not use leather, skins (i.e. python, crocodile and other exotics). McCartney’s designs may be pricey, but her attention to detail and body-consious styles are fit for the environmentally-minded fashionista.
Melie Bianco’s story is a simple tale of a designer wanting to create an affordable, chic, and animal-friendly line. Created by design duo and couple Melissa and William, the handbag brand has taken off since its launch in 2003. From pastel messenger bags to petite, neon clutches, Melie Bianco has a chic, bohemian consumer in mind–but one who values the environment as much as her couture.
Called “the Rebel of Fashion Week” by CNN, Leanne Mai-ly Hilgart began Vaute Couture as a cross between the vegan lifestyle and that of a couture fashion maven. Hilgart launched her collection in 2009 with the goal of creating the ideal winter coat without any animal products from fur to leather. After achieving immediate notoriety, Hilgart focused her designs on “high ethics, high function and high design”, which translates to an ultra-chic line of functional clothing with a quirky, feminine twist.
If you covet sporty pieces from labels like VPL and Alexander Wang, Loomstate should be the next name on your wish list. The company uses only organic cotton to make its chic, relaxed pieces, and eschews both animal products and harmful chemicals during the production of its line.
Elizabeth Olsen put her FIT Accessories Design degree to good use in 2008 when she decided to launch her own label. With a focus on products which are animal product-free and ”consciousness for planet earth and all of mankind,” Olsenhaus offers shoes footwear and accessories which are made without leather but manage to look trendy, contemporary, and stylish. Shoes sell within the $100-$250 range, but look as if they walked straight off the runway.
For utterly comfortable loungewear and basics, new vegan label Miakoda has you covered. The clothing brand was launched with “triconsciousness” in mind, which the company website describes as “the protection of the rights of animals, humans, and the earth” which the company upholds as production standards. If you love cozy cotton shirts and loose, relaxed dresses in a a neutral palette, you’ll adore Miakoda.