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Should vegan fashion styles imitate animal-based products? There’s something that has had me thinking for some time now. While the vegan diet is strictly plant-based, it usually imitates popular animal products made of meat and milk.
And, similar to a vegan diet, vegan fashion styles are imitations of animal-based products, such as faux leather and faux fur.
One of the most debated questions on Quora is why some vegans consume plant-based imitations of animal products and not just plant-based foods. I feel that the same problem can be posed to buyers of vegan fashion.
That is, should vegan fashion styles used in garments and accessories imitate creations made of animal origins such as leather and fur?
Understanding the Foundation of Veganism
Answering such a complex question requires one’s understanding of the principles upon which the veganism movement was founded.
Veganism was first defined by the founder of The Vegan Society, Leslie J Cross. He defined veganism as:
“The principle of emancipation of animals from exploitation by man, to seek an end to the use of animals by man for food, commodities, work, hunting, vivisection, and by all other uses involving exploitation of animal life by man.”
Leslie’s definition was later expanded to include clothing derived from animal products as well. Therefore, the underlining principle of the interpretation is – protecting animals from cruelty, suffering, and exploitation for human benefit.
On the face of it, the usage of imitations in the vegan fashion industry helps to promote a cruelty-free society. However, some argue that the usage of imitations of leather, faux fur, or any other form of reproduction of animal products have an impact on animal welfare by further promoting that type of consumption.
The Possible Negative Impact
It can be argued that the rise of imitation fashion products, whether vegan or not, has given a selling point to entities that use real animal products.
The latter describe their products as ‘real’ or ‘genuine’. In the mind of the impartial consumer, these terms can be very persuasive. Vegan fashion articles using imitations of animal products stand the danger of being viewed as knock offs by such buyers.
Moreover, it can drive up the demand for real animal products and therefore, perpetuate animals suffering.
And sadly, the branding of some vegan fashion styles feed these distorted narratives. As such, I feel that vegan fashion as a whole needs to have an identity of its own, radically different from any other animal products.
For example, the makers of Pinatex, a vegan-leather alternative obtained from discarded pineapples has made the wise decision of avoiding the use of the word ‘leather’ in the branding of Pinatex.
Imitation leather or imitation fur should not have been branded as faux leather or faux fur respectively. Vegan fashion styles should be able to stand independently without having to be mentioned or described in reference to animal products.
Verdict on Vegan Fashion Styles
The danger of using imitation animal products is that they may give a subtle impression that it is okay to wear animal products.
Moreover, as a new wave of experts craftsmen are getting involved in the usage of vegan-friendly materials, the advanced artistry involved in creating such ‘imitations’ makes it increasingly difficult to differentiate the vegan from the leather.
With this said, however, there are a lot of debates surrounding the subject. One of the most persuasive arguments pro leather and fur imitations is that we, humans, are evolutionarily conditioned to recognised leather and fur as a symbol of status.
Back in the early days of humanity, the defender of the tribe against animals of prey was hailed as the tribe leader. If successful, one had the honour of wearing animal skins as a symbol of his capabilities.
Similar Read: Vegan Leather – Why Do We Still Call It Leather?
Another argument is that fashion is art. It is the nature of art to find inspiration in almost anything. It follows, therefore, that animals can act as an inspiration in the fashion industry.
A fashion designer can use alligator skin pattern as inspiration for a handbag, without necessarily having to use real alligator skin. Imitations, therefore, protect animals, as such, it is fine to wear vegan fashion creations made of animal products imitations.
However, when brands that sell fashion made of animal-based materials use terms like ‘real’ and ‘genuine’ in their marketing messages, I feel that vegan fashion labels should counter-attack with ‘cruelty-free’. The future of the world is kind and compassionate; therefore, being ‘cruelty-free’ will win in the end.