Fashion revolution: Who made your clothes?

Today is one of those days where I think I should combine my fashion blog and my vegan blog. The topic on both is the same. See, it’s Fashion Revolution Day today. This day marks the second anniversary of the Rana Plaza factory collapse in Bangladesh, which killed over eleven hundred people and injured thousands more. Spotting vegan clothing is easy. No animal products? Check. But look behind the scenes and the human and environmental ramifications are big too.

I’m joining others as we ask, “Who made my clothes?” Check out Instagram hashtags for #fashrev, #whomademyclothes, #fashionrevolutionday, and #whomadeyourclothes for lots of inspiring photos. You might see photos of people wearing their clothes inside out to show the labels–transparency in fashion!

who made my clothes?

I know who made my clothes!

Lois Eastlund label

Lois Eastlund made my dress. It looks fantastic (even inside out) because it’s handmade and she paid a lot of attention to detail. She’s a NY-based vegan fashion designer and one of the founders of La Fashionista Compassionista–an awesome (and free) online magazine that you should get your hands on!

Lois Eastlund dress

Moses made my boots. They’re handmade in a factory in LA. The all-vegan company, Nicora Johns, is helping to keep the US shoemaking industry alive. When I bought my boots, I got a photo of Moses in the shop where he made these. No animals or humans harmed!

Nicora Johns boots

Crystalyn Kae made my purse. It’s glazed fabric. Another great leather alternative. I met Crystalyn when she was located in Seattle. She’s based in NYC now, but you can find her amazing bags in stores nationwide and on her website.

Crystalyn Kae purse

Roque from Get Hell Bent made my cuff. It’s made from recycled bicycle tires. I have three of her cuffs. They’re so edgy and tough!

accessories

I made my earrings! It’s fun to create. My simple drop-chain earrings were easy to make and have become my go-to pair. They match everything!

I don’t know who made my tights. So it’s not a perfect outfit. But thinking about where my clothing comes from has opened my eyes. I heard 1 in 6 people is employed in fashion. But who are they? What are their working conditions like? How environmentally friendly is the factory? Animal skins require so many chemicals to turn them into leather and not decompose. And leather is an inherently cruel industry.

Fashion isn’t perfect, but I love knowing where my clothes came from and who made them. My goal is to buy exclusively from sustainable, ethical companies. Sometimes that means things cost more. But do I really need thirty $8 tank tops? What if I had eight $30 tanks? They’d last longer, and I’d be putting my dollars where my values are.

Let’s start a revolution!

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The Seed NYC

Today my parents and I visited The Seed NYC, a plant-based event featuring vegan food and wares, speakers, cooking demos, and more! Even before I arrived, I knew I was almost there. Mercer Street turned into Vegan Street.

vegan cars

The Cinnamon Snail was out front–what a great place to grab a bite. I’d heard excellent things about this award-winning food truck and never had the chance to try their dishes (until today).

Cinnamon Snail

I made a grand entrance:

the seed

Then, I looked at fantastic companies–from artichoke water (very refreshing) to chocolate truffles (deliciously decadent). I saw Upton’s Naturals–makers of my favorite vegan bacon–and Taft Foodmasters, a new-to-me company that makes great seitan for gyros.

Seed food collage

The Regal Vegan, a company that makes great dips and spreads, had a booth too. Their Faux Gras is fantastic!

regaln vegan

I jumped on the chance to buy a Gunas handbag for a fraction of the original price. I liked all their bags, especially this little cross-body bag. My mom liked a neat white purse with a combo-lock closure. I ended up with the yellow and cream number on the rack.

gunas

I said hi to Lois Eastlund, a fantastic NYC-based designer (and of course I bought one of her dresses–that makes four!). I saw Miakoda clothing too (I’ve been following them on Instagram for a while now). Michelle Leon Vegan had fantastic vegan belts made of recycled plastifc bottles. They were soft as suede and included a cool buckle. She carries a line of vegan jewelry too. Gorgeous!

seed clothing collage

There was message gear too, from a number of organizations. Animal advocacy groups I know well were there too: Sea Sheppard, Mercy for Animals, Evolve for Animals, Farm Sanctuary, Catskill Animal Sanctuary, Woodstock Animal Sanctuary. Others, like Darwin Animal Doctors, I didn’t know before today, and I was glad to learn about the great work they do.

Darwin Animal Doctors

I got to hear Jenny Brown, cofounder of Woodstock Animal Sanctuary, speak about farmed animals and why veganism is the compassionate answer to the cruelty in our food system. Earlier this year, I reviewed her book, The Lucky Ones, on this blog, and it was an honor to meet her.

jenny brown

I even got to meet Tha Vegan Dread, who happened to be visiting NYC for his birthday. He said I was cute <blush>. Of course, I asked for a photo with him and his vegan bodybuilder friend.

Tha Vegan Dread

I always love meeting other vegans and learning about new products, sanctuaries, and organizations. If you’re in NYC this time next year, check out The Seed. For more about the experience, check out my mom’s account on her blog.

Vegan motorcycle jackets

I’ve already written about motorcycle safety gear for the avid rider, but what about the moto look for fashion? You won’t need to be protected, but if you want to look good and steer clear of leather, you’ve got options!

Here’s the classic James Dean style jacket–with a twist: The pleather is quilted. I love this jacket and recently got it on sale at Aeropostale. You can find a lot of faux leather options at this place. And unlike leather, you won’t have to worry about a little rain.

classic jacket

For guys, how about this faux suede moto jacket? It’s a Perry Ellis design from Nordstrom. My husband didn’t mind the faux. He was happy actually, and pointed out that a lot of high-end cars use Alicante (a durable, water-resistant faux suede) in their interiors.

faux suede

If you don’t need to replicate the look of leather but love the moto style, check out a few other options like this brown velvet version and a bright yellow cotton one. The velvet jacket is from Forever 21 and the cotton one I found (new) on eBay.

velvet and cotton

I couple of other takes include a blush pink number from JC Penney and a fabric and pleather one also from Forever 21.

leather alternatives

I recently spotted a slew of great motorcycle jackets in the Macy’s juniors department. These are by American Rag and come in a lot of great shades.

faux leather jackets

So far, most of the jackets I’ve shown are lower end, often juniors, and they’re likely faux because faux is often cheaper (for the younger demographic). But you don’t have to go cheap to go faux. Vaute Couture, the vegan fashion house out of Brooklyn, makes a great classic moto jacket in v-wool for men and women and waxed canvas, also in men’s and women’s sizes.

Vaute jackets (photo c/o Vaute Couture)

You can check out Alternative Outfitters too, a vegan online retailer, to find jackets that are cruelty-free. Other stores like Free People and ModCloth are good sources too and carry cute vegan options. Do a search on their sites for vegan or faux and you’re bound to find something.

No matter what price point or style you’re looking for, you can avoid animal skins easily, thanks to the abundant choices we have these days. Happy shopping!

No warm fuzzies with angora

I’ve often wondered about angora production. The soft, fuzzy sweaters, mitts and hats that pop up in stores each fall seem so cozy. I’ve never bought angora though.

Angora can refer to cats, goats, ferrets, but it’s the angora rabbit that people use for wool. To get angora, the animals don’t need to be killed, which is why many people don’t think about it as a cruel industry. Angora can be combed, shorn, or plucked.

What? Yes, I wrote that. Plucked! Shearing results in shorter hair, so often plucking is preferred. Angora molt every few months, and in theory, pulling loose hair from a rabbit shouldn’t hurt, but as with everything, care and welfare is abandoned when volume goes up and there’s money to be made.

Angora Rabbit from http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:White_Satin_Angora_Rabbit.jpgNinety percent of angora comes from China, where there are no animal welfare standards and no oversight into the angora industry. Recent undercover video shows rabbits screaming in pain as they’re plucked. I didn’t even know rabbits could scream. It’s heartbreaking. And after being plucked, they lie in shock in their filthy cages. After 3 to 5 years of this abuse, they’re killed). You can read more about the developments here (the video is embedded but won’t play automatically, so you don’t have to watch it).

If 90% of angora comes from these conditions, it makes sense that 90% of the angora in the stores is cruelly sourced. Frankly, even shearing doesn’t look humane to me. In this video, a woman boasts about how well her rabbits are treated, but she ties up one rabbit’s legs, stretches him and rotates him like a spit pig (minus the skewer).

The video isn’t graphic per se, but it’s not how I would like to be handled on a quarterly basis. Kind or cruel, why should they live in cages to be wool-making machines? Rabbits need to forage and burrow. It’s another example of commodification. These rabbits are slaves for our fashion and treated like nothing more than money-making machines.

animals are not fabric

To quote the slogan on my new favorite sweater (from The Tree Kisser’s website), animals are not fabric.

If you want to help, here’s how:

  • Don’t wear or buy angora.
  • Ask the stores you shop at not to carry angora.
  • Sign the petitions linked to in this article and tell stores like The Gap and Zara to stop carrying angora

(Update: Zara and The Gap, along with Tommy Hilfiger and Calvin Klein, suspended further angora purchases pending investigation. H&M and ASOS have vowed to stop selling it permanently. Pressure works! Keep on these retailers. They make money from us, so we have a say!).

Wool-free winter wear

Whenever I write about what not to do/eat/wear, I like to provide alternatives so we have ideas for things we can consume. I recently wrote about what’s wrong with wool. Well, I’ve found some great, cruelty-free products that are made of wool alternatives and I have to share!

My favorite winter wear company is Vaute Couture. Vegan-owned, Vaute (pronounced vote) is the brain-child of model-turned-entrepreneur Leanne Mai-ly Milgart. Her men’s and women’s designs are made in New York’s garment district using recycled and recyclable fabrics that are windproof, snow- and rain-resistant, warmer than wool, and heat retaining.

Vaute is stylish too. They’re the first all-vegan line to show at New York’s prestigious Fashion Week–and they rocked it! The media picked up the story and vegan fashion went mainstream!

vaute image (c) Vaute Couture

I recently learned about another cool company, Hoodlamb. Based in Amsterdam, Hoodlamb makes men’s and women’s coats and other apparel from hemp–arguably the most environmentally friendly fabric out there. It’s strong and durable and requires no pesticides or fertilizer to grow. Hemp warms you up when you need it and keeps you cool when you’re hot.

Hoodlamb carries stylish, warm winter clothes with a conscience. Love the faux shearling linings!

hoodlamb image (c) Hoodlamb

For budget-conscious fashionistas, I recommend Lulu’s and Modcloth. They both carry a wide assortment of winter coats, many of which are wool-, down-, and leather-free. Not all their products are vegan, so read the descriptions before you buy.

Modcloth and Lulu’s focus on showcasing independent designers from around the world. That might not sit well with localvores, but if you’re like me and are primarily interested in animal-free clothes, you’ll find something adorable at these online retailers.

In fact, if you look around, you’ll find non-wool coats in other stores too. For example, American Apparel, known for their sweatshop-free made in LA clothes, carry some vegan winter items, like a wool-free cape and a unisex parka made with faux shearling.

American Apparel images (c) American Apparel

Do you have any other tips for finding cruelty-free winter wear?

Down with feathers

It’s fall. The weather is cooling off, and you want to get cozy. Dreaming of curling up under a down comforter? Thinking of sporting a down-filled jacket or vest? Think again.

Feathers in clothing or bedding are an oft-forgotten animal product. Many people don’t think about the way down and feathers from ducks, geese and chickens are harvested. Often, they’re slaughterhouse byproducts–and profitable ones! Sometimes, they’re even plucked from still-living birds.ducks

Not all countries live-pluck birds, but Hungary and China are two that do. Plucking is painful for the birds, who often undergo the process many times. Egg-laying geese must endure being plucked 5-15 times in their short lives–before they’re sent to slaughter. Geese raised for meat are killed much younger and are plucked about 4 times.

Birds are raised in crowded conditions and when it’s their turn for plucking, they’re caught and held down. The forceful plucking leaves their exposed skin raw, bruised and bloody. I can’t imagine someone yanking out the hair on my head, but that’s what it must feel like.

Even ostriches suffer from plucking. Their feathers are used for decorations, feather dusters, and boas. And roosters are raised and killed for so-called fashionable hair accessories–I’ll write a separate post about that soon.

Money from the sale of down and feathers lines the pockets of foie gras producers and companies that confine birds for their eggs and kill them for their meat. They’re not simply a byproduct.

Alternatives:

Fortunately, synthetic options are available–and they’re superior to down! So next time you’re looking for a sleeping bag, comforter or parka, make sure to avoid ones made with real feathers. Primaloft, Thermal R and Omni-Heat are examples of high-tech, synthetic materials that trap in heat and keep you warm. image of woman in pink parka c/o Vaute Couture

Patagonia, Marmot, Columbia and Northface are just some brands that carry coats made of those materials. But be sure to check the labels–not all the coats they carry are down-free. That’s why I particularly love Vaute Couture, an all-vegan fashion house with really warm wool- and down-free coats.

Most departments stores and specialty shops carry a variety of comforters. Ask for a synthetic option or check the labels before you buy so you–and the birds–can rest well.

Resources:

Visiting Vaute Couture

One of the highlights of my New York trip was visiting Vaute Couture, a vegan-owned, compassionate clothier in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn.

Fellow blogger Jesse Anne O lives in Brooklyn, and although it was a hike from her neck of the woods, she met my mom, dad and I at Food Swings, near Vaute. My mom is a blogger too, so it was great for the three of us to compare notes while my dad, patient as always, enjoyed his coffee.

We loved the vegan fast food at Food Swings. It’s a great diner-style establishment with a terrific brunch menu. We chose from sandwiches, burritos and scrambles. They use Daiya vegan cheese in their recipes too. Yum!

Walking from Food Swings to Vaute Couture, we passed Skinny Skinny, an organic, sustainable bath and body store, and Bliss, a vegetarian restaurant down the street. It’s a veg-friendly ‘hood!

brooklyn collage

Seeing Vaute’s flagship store was a thrill! I’ve been a fan for a while and I finally got to be a customer. Owner Leanne Mai-ly Hilgart is a passionate animal advocate and she’s put her heart and soul into creating sustainable, eco-friendly, made-in-New-York clothes that are free of animal products and oh-so stylish. I didn’t buy my wool-free coat this particular day, but I did jump online a week later for the Fall 2013 presale.

I got a Friends not Fashion tank top and a Vaute necklace. Jesse picked up a dress she had preordered. And of course we had to do the obligatory “blogger pose” on our way out. Sure was nice to have our own personal photographer on hand!

three bloggers

Next door to Vaute Couture is Eco Closet, another sustainable shop. I found a gray and black tunic there. and I’ll be blogging about that on my style blog soon.

The four of us enjoyed walking through Williamsburg. We ended up at a flea market, but that’s a story for another day.

walking through Williamsburg