Cruelty-Free and Sustainable Fashion: It’s Possible!

February 17, 2015

Welcome to the 7th and final post of The Vegan Wardrobe Challenge series. This post series has meant so much to me and this blog: I decided to shift the focus on a conscious lifestyle, cruelty-free and sustainable. This has been a natural shift, because I have been on this path for years now. I haven’t bought any leather since I turned 18, I’ve been vegetarian since my teenage years and I’m now avoiding anything animal-derived in food, clothes and cosmetics.
I also believe that choosing to dress cruelty-free is not enough. Let me explain: I think I chose the wrong title for this post series. I realized it halfway through. I firmly believe that a cruelty-free choice must take account of other human beings and the planet, along with the animals.
This is the reason why I might have done a mistake calling the post series and the book “The Vegan Wardrobe Challenge”. Veganism is strictly about the animals, while I’m interested in a few other factors too.
By the way, The Vegan Wardrobe Challenge is mostly focused on doing no harm to the animals because they are one of the first victims of the fashion industry, so I’ll keep the name (Edit: I have actually changed the name in “Your Cruelty-Free Wardrobe”. You can get it for free: subscribe to our mailing list at the bottom of this post and you’ll get it in your inbox straight away). But today will go a bit further into the sustainability of fashion, especially vegan fashion.

Is Vegan Fashion Sustainable?

Of course it is. But at the same time it can be not sustainable at all. From an environmental point of view it is always better to go vegan when buying clothes, but we need to be careful about what we are buying.
Acrylic and polyester mixes are totally vegan, but are they good for the planet? Pleather is vegan, but is it sustainable? Of course not. These synthetic materials are derived from petroleum, which is not green at all from the moment they extract it to the moment the garment will end up in a landfill.
When buying polyester, one should always go for 100% polyester because it’s recyclable, while blends aren’t (60% polyester, 40% nylon? Non-recyclable!)
The truth is that any plastic material is going to become waste sooner or later. Plastic can only be recycled a number of times before it’s no longer useable, in fact plastic can only be “downcycled”, which means that the material can only be recycled in a lower quality material. Ideally it would be better to go for natural fibers, dyed naturally if possible; natural fibers are not always completely recyclable, but they are always biodegradable and compostable so they won’t stick around on this planet forever like plastic.
Anyway, when buying polyester you could also look into PET polyester, which is a textile made from recycled plastic bottles.

sustainable fashion

If you’re into sustainable fashion I highly suggest you read Greta Eagan’s book “Wear No Evil”. I’m halfway through it and I’m loving it! In the meantime, here’s a list of some recyclable and biodegradable materials you might look into when buying your clothes (many of which I have learned from Greta’s book!)

Recyclable and Biodegradable Vegan Materials

  • Cotton – It can be shredded back to its fiber and respun into yarn, adding a smaller percentage of virgin fiber. If you can choose, go for organic cotton which is environment friendly because it is grown without the use of pesticides.
  • Linen
  • Bamboo – It can be shredded back to its fiber and respun into yarn, adding a smaller percentage of virgin fiber just like cotton.
  • Hemp
  • Cork
  • Jute
  • Modal
  • Lyocell
  • Soy
  • Corn (PLA) – It’s a kind of polyester made from polylactic acid from corn, so it looks like polyester but it’s 100% biodegradable
  • Nettle
  • Ramie
  • Pinatex – It’s a leather substitute made from pineapple leaves: it’s very durable, it feels and looks like leather and it’s biodegradable.

There’s also another factor to add to the sustainability topic: workers. Too often fast fashion clothes are produced in developing countries where salaries are very low and working conditions are not up to our standards. A way to be sure to buy clothes made ethically is to buy local or to buy fair-trade.

Cruelty-Free AND Sustainable Brands

If you’re feeling overwhelmed and you’re thinking “Oh my God I don’t know where to shop now!” I feel you. The process of cleaning our wardrobe from cruelty ridden materials and materials that are bad for our environment and health can feel daunting at first. But it’s actually easier than it seems. Stay with me and have a look at the following brand. They are good for the planet, the animals and the people: it’s a good start for a completely green and compassionate wardrobe!

  • Rapanui Clothing – Rapanui is a company from the Isle of Wight. Their men’s and women’s eco-friendly clothes are made from organic or recycled materials in an ethically accredited, wind-powered factory. It is hand finished in a factory in the UK, where a low waste printing technology is used.
  • Threads for Thought – Threads for Thought is a clothing brand that only uses green materials like organic cotton and recycled plastic for their clothes. They make sure the factories where they produce their clothes have high standards like fair wage, maximum of 40 hours work week, good lighting, windows and fresh air.
  • Mata Traders – Mata products are original designs handmade in India and Nepal by women’s cooperatives and artisan groups that practice fair trade principles. The brand is also certified by a number of green organizations.
  • Neuaura Shoes – 100% cruelty-free and eco-friendly shoes. “A portion of Neuaura’s manufacturing is done in a factory located in Southern Brazil. This factory is part of a union that decided to take the responsibility of solid waste of the entire production process seriously and make it less harmful to the environment.”
  • Amour de la Terre – “Amour de la Terre”, meaning “Love of the Earth” in French, is Chicago’s first all vegan/eco-friendly/ethically produced boutique for shoes and accessories.
  • Coral8 – Coral8 is a fairly new cruelty-free shoe company. They strive to use as much recycled, organic, or biodegradable content as possible in their shoes.
  • Opificio V – Luxury and chic shoes made in Italy. They are 100% vegan and they use materials like Biosole for sneakers (it’s a biodegradable rubber-like material), made in Italy alcantara from a carbon neutral production and they often use recycled materials.
  • TranquiliT – Eco-conscious and vegan clothing company that goes the extra mile to be green. They use recycled paper, soy inks, re-usable shipping option (the package can be turned inside out to be used as a canvas tote), sewn in Washington DC.
  • Repair the WorldSpunNomad Hempwear and many more! See? It’s actually easier than it seems!

Did you enjoy this post? Make sure you check our previous post about second-hand and recycled clothing too. Stay in the know and learn new ways to be good to the planet, people and animals!

Check out all the posts in this series:

  1. Creating a Cruelty-Free Wardrobe (5/01/2015)
  2. Unexpected Cruelty in your Wardrobe (12/01/2015)
  3. How to Read Clothing Labels (19/01/2015)
  4. Top 10 Cruelty-Free Fashion Brands (26/01/2015)
  5. Recycled and Second-Hand: Your Sustainable and Compassionate Wardrobe (02/02/2015)
  6. Top 10 Cruelty-Free Fashion Blogs (09/02/2015)
  7. Cruelty-Free and Sustainable Fashion: It’s Possible! (16/02/2015)
  8. Your Cruelty-Free Wardrobe – Become Fashion ‘Conscious’ With This Comprehensive Guide (17/03/2015)



About the Author


Hey, it's Elisa, founder of I'm a social media specialist by day and blogger by night (honing my multitasking skills since 2006 ;). I'm an atypical Italian, freedom lifestyle advocate and modern spirituality enthusiast. Feel like we could get along? Join me just above this box or get in touch with me on Facebook or Twitter.

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