Looking for a more sustainable approach to fashion I decided to look for clever concepts rather than new brands. As a busy instagramer I came across Noveaux magazine and one of its authors, Franziska Schmid. Franziska practices the vegan lifestyle and has been blogging about it since 2010. If you have read my post on “The Fashion Industry in Numbers” and watched the video by Lucy Siegel, you learned that intensive leather production is one reason for deforestation in places like the Amazon rain forest, and therefore going vegan in fashion would mean less support for industries that source their materials while financing the destruction of natural habitats. I decided to ask her a few questions about how it was to go vegan and especially vegan fashion.
What is vegan fashion, what makes fashion vegan?
Vegan in terms of fashion simply means that no animal fibres are used in and for the clothing. A t-shirt made of cotton or a polyester sweater are vegan by definition. But a cotton tee in consequence is not sustainable, fair produced or good for the environment just because it is vegan. You can get a vegan piece of clothing at any fast fashion store.
Ever since I have started writing about vegan fashion, I always brought organic and eco-friendly materials as well as fair working conditions into the conversation. Fashion is not supposed to harm anyone: the workers, the animals, the environment – for me these three factors are equally as important when we talk about sustainable and eco fashion.
Vegan is often viewed as the more extreme version of vegetarian. I can imagine vegan fashion to have some extreme views as well.
The question “how vegan can we live” pops up quite often. For example I have a lot of books about vegan living, cooking and fashion but I couldn’t say what kind of glue was used to create these books. At Noveaux Magazine I know we use vegan glue but otherwise it is really hard to know if things are 100% animal free. I think in the end it comes down to living vegan as best as you can with all the research you do by reading the list of ingredients, checking the labels and writing to companies for further details. Someone once said to me that she lives as vegan as possible. I guess that is what all vegans do.
What were your ecological reasons for choosing vegan fashion?
For me the vegan lifestyle came from thinking about the environmental aspect of it, the ethical part of veganism became important later on. The pollution created by the fashion industry as shown in the True Cost movie, the water pollution, the situation of the people in places like Bangladesh or China where many have no access to clean drinking water makes me really unhappy. In our every day lives we don’t see any of this and don’t get confronted with the truth behind clothing production. I think it shouldn’t be possible that we get our clothes cheap and without worries while others pay for it with their health and lives.
Which role does vegan fashion play in this way of thinking?
As humans we leave an environmental footprint – this is a fact and not something we can change. But I personally want to keep my footprint as small as possible. Not exploiting other humans is one path I take, but I also don’t want to exploit and kill any animals for food, fashion and beauty.
Did you experience any restrictions when shopping and choosing your clothes after deciding to go vegan?
When I started to consider topics like conscious consumerism and vegan living, I was working full-time in a PR agency. I started to read a lot about conscious consumerism and sustainable fashion, which was a very small field back then. For some time I was wearing only jeans, T-shirts and sneakers. After a while I was really frustrated, especially because I had to restrict myself to a certain style. Currently there are more and more brands and designers entering the market that offer feminine and stylish vegan fashion and it has become easier to dress chic and conscious.
What about vintage, is vintage fashion an option?
Vintage is a great option, but I don’t get the chance to shop vintage very often as I do not go shopping very often in general. I really like vintage shopping and buying second hand is the most sustainable form of shopping there is. Besides vintage shopping I also like to swap clothes with my sister or friends or take over a piece of clothing they don’t wear anymore. I made the decision to wear only vegan fashion, so even if it is vintage or a hand-me-down, I still stick to veganism. Some of my friends have a different view and they do not mind buying vintage wool sweaters. In my experience everybody makes their own rules when it comes to vintage.
Living minimalistic and with the environment in mind is often restricting but for many people it also has a kind of liberating feel to it. Did you experience anything like that?
When I started with vegan and conscious consumerism and sold and donated a lot of my stuff, I felt extremely relieved and free. It was also a phase where I found what I really wanted to do in my life. Those two things came together and the feeling of freedom came more from the latter. When I look around me right now (laughs) I don’t feel very minimalistic, but for me it is about living sustainable rather than minimalistic. A great concept I would like to apply more for myself and bring more attention to would be that of a “sustainable wardrobe” by Vanessa Friedman.
Franziska Schmid founded her vegan lifestyle blog Veggie Love in 2010, and is a freelance fashion and beauty writer for Noveaux Magazine, Les Mads and Fuck Lucky Go Happy. She is also the author of a green detox guide, her second book about local superfoods, which will be published in October. She currently lives in Berlin and works on the relaunch of her online magazine.
How do you like the idea of vegan fashion? I think the concept of not buying products that do not need animal materials is very interesting and has a great environmental impact. Normally I get most of my handbags vintage and in my every day life I use straw handbags in summer and a Freitag bag in winter. I never thought about deforestation or the killing of animals for leather production before but taking this into account when buying a random leather item makes me rethink my way of choosing bags and shoes.
image source: instagram via @veggie_love and @v_hendrik_v