“Let’s back off this endless, constant purchasing and invest in clothes we love” – The True Cost director, Andrew Morgan
Veganism is often described by activists as extending one’s realm of moral concern to include all sentient beings, in an effort to construct a more just, compassionate society which does not discriminate on the basis of these arbitrary differences between individuals. In this way, I believe that it only makes sense for vegans to not simply reject animal exploitation in its multiple permutations but also to extend their protest to the cause of human exploitation; to apply their conviction that discrimination is morally wrong in the case of both humans and animals. As we all know, the belief that some lives matter than others manifests itself in multiple forms within the context of the current world system. Just as some animals are confined to the status of the other, so are some humans seen as lesser, subhuman, disposable. This power struggle has steered the course of time, charging some of the world’s most devastating crimes from the mass extermination of the Jewish in Nazi Germany, to the present day exploitation of sweatshop workers for the sake of western society’s demand for cheap luxury. I have always viewed human and animal rights as two domains which are “inextricably intertwined” as was once asserted by Gary Francione. This is informed by the fact that both human and animal exploitation are bred on the basis of arbitrary differences between groups, whether that is defined by race, species or gender. These criteria are utilized by ruling classes in order to justify its oppression of the vulnerable and voiceless portions of civilization; the vehicle that steers that relentless oppressor-oppressed complex which constitutes all that is evil and morally reprehensible in this world.
Moreover, the issue is bigger than merely believing that discrimination is wrong as we have learned in the case of “animal lovers” who continue to consume animals and the by-products of their exploitation. By participating in industries such as the fast fashion business we are contributing to the exploitation of workers whose only crime is their geographical placement which defines them as being of a lesser race, we contradict ourselves as agents of justice, succumbing to the same moral schizophrenia which plagues the lives of most animal consumers; we experience the same mental conflict which we so harshly criticise and scorn non-vegans for engaging in.
Funnily enough, Chandler from Friends aptly surmised my convictions this morning on television as I was composing this article by way of his retort to Phoebe’s histrionic outburst at the idea of wearing a mink jacket.
Phoebe: Yeah! Why would my mother send me a fur? Doesn’t she know me but at all! Plus, I have a perfectly fine coat that no innocent animal suffered to make!
Chandler: Yeah, just some 9-year-old Filipino kids who worked their fingers bloody for 12 cents an hour.
To aid individuals in their effort to make more compassionate, animal and human-friendly wardrobe choices I have compiled a comprehensive list of some of my favourite ethical, fair trade and/or vegan fashion sites below. Included is each store’s strengths, a rough estimate of the price range, the cost of shipping to Europe and Ireland (so if you are Irish like me you have come to the right place, otherwise my apologies), and finally what each site is “good for”.
Please Note: Some of the following websites may include garments which contain animal by-products if not otherwise stated. This list will be updated regularly as I receive notification from those clothing lines which have not confirmed whether they have garments suitable for vegan consumers (labelled with an Astrix).
Those stores which contain all or some clothing free from animal derivatives are clearly labelled in the table below
Please Note II: The shipping costs displayed below are catered for Irish consumers (as I am Irish) and are displayed in their original currency (e.g., dollars if an American site) as exchange rates are liable to change.
Ethical Souls Boutique €€–€€€
Have Vegan section
- Lives by the moto
“There is no beauty in the finest cloth if it makes hunger & unhappiness” Mahatma Gandhi
- Based in Cork, Ireland
- Certified fair trade, sustainable and Organic
- Quality fashion pieces
- Children’s clothing
- Also has a beauty section
Free to Ireland
€10 to rest of Europe
- Longstanding members of the Ethical Trading Initiative
- Working with BSR as part of their Women’s empowerment initiative – the HERproject.
- See their statement on modern slavery
- Work Clothes
- Formal wear
- Casual clothing
Approximately €6 to Europe
Have vegan collection
- Sustainable Fabrics
- Proud supporters of slow fashion
- Founding partners of the Ethical Fashion Forum (EFF)
- No animal derived ingredients aside from garments with leather and wool.
- Casual Contemporary Clothing
Rokit Clothing* €€-€€€
- Upcycled vintage clothing
- Vintage Clothing
(To Ireland) Approximately £9.00 (weight dependent)
Annie Greenabelle * €-€€
- Made in England
- Ethically made in a factory that complies with the Ethical Trading Initiative base code.
- Contains GOTS Certified Organic Cotton
- Affordable high street-style clothing
- Akin to an “ethical” Primark
Approximately €6 to Europe (Ireland)
People Tree €€
All clothing aside from wool is vegan
- Fair Trade
- High street fashion alternatives
Approximately €4.20 to Europe (on orders over 70€)
Symbology Clothing €€€
All garments (aside from wool and cashmere) clothing vegan
- Employs women artisans from India and the West Bank
- Preserves traditional art forms in each garment — from Indian block printing to Palestinian weaving and Native American embroidery.
- Elegant block print designs
- Patterned maxi dresses
$10 to Ireland
Saint Basics €€
- Against child labour, unfair trade, harmful chemicals and pesticides
- Uses Organic Fabrics
- See https://www.saintbasics.com/en/blog/2017/thoroughly-approved for more information
- Basics (tops and underpants…)
€3.50 to Ireland
- The World’s largest collection of online Vegan clothing Stores-dozens of vegan brands (shortlinks shoppers to their websites)
- Donate 1% of profits to pro-animal organizations and are a Public Benefit Corporation and social enterprise
- Dedicated to making the world a better place for animals
- Colourful contemporary clothing, accessories, cosmetics, household products etc…
- Vegan cook books
- Gifts for your vegan friends
Varies from brand to brand
All garments vegan except those made of silk
- Ethical trading and sustainability at their core.
- Member of the Ethical Fashion Forums
- Works in partnership with Mayamiko Trust, a charity designed to provide training, education, nutrition, sanitation and fairer trade practices to all of those involved.
- Colourful contemporary clothing inspired by African artisanal traditions and prints
Free (note that taxes added on payment).
Vegan (but not certified)
- Fairly traded
- Hand embroidered
- 100% cotton
- Contemporary-style clothing
- Embraces the rich
artistic traditions of Oaxaca and Chiapas, Mexico.
n.b. 22 $ to Ireland
Viva La Vegan €€
- Eco friendly clothing
- Organic fabrics
- Quirky vegan graphic tees
- Vegan merchandise
To Ireland £5
Vegan shoe section & all clothes (aside from those made from animal materials) vegan
- Organic sustainable fabrics
- Vegan Shoes
- Clothing glue synthetic and certified cruelty free
- Small-scale, safe family run factories-fair wages
- Invest in charity projects
- Fusion of eastern and western styles
Under £50 = £5
Over £50 = FREE
All 100% vegan
- Sustainable Fabrics (hemp, bamboo, organic cotton…)
- Garments handmade by company’s small team
- Vintage-style lingerie
- Garments made of pin fibre fabric derived from sustainable pine forests.
- Pine trees need 50% less water than cotton to grow, for the same plot!
- A lot softer than cotton and better for the skin (non-allergenic, antiperspirant and non-itchy)
- Made in France
- Elegant, and affordable lingerie
- Free delivery over €100 (6.60€ if under to Ireland)
Please see the Project section of their site for more information on their practices
Free on orders over €50
- All shoes made in Spain
- Uses sustainable fabrics
- Stylish contemporary footwear
- Formal footwear
Noah Shoes €€€
- Worker-friendly conditions, eco-friendly
- Shoes breathable, resistant to scratch and wear, non-toxic, partly recycled and recyclable.
- Made in Italy by handcrafted shoe-factories that guarantee fair working conditions.
- Quality faux leather
- Stylish, classy footwear
€12.95 to Ireland
Vegetarian Shoes €€-€€€
- Huge collection of vegan footwear
- Made of synthetic microfibre material used for yachting upholstery; ‘breathable’, unlike other plastics.
- Clothes produced in European and English factories
A wide range of boots and shoes
n.b. £17.00 to Ireland
- Ethically sourced
- Sustainable Materials (recycled)
- Has an informative information page on leather and the alternatives
- Shoes for all the family
- Brand names
- Differs from brand to brand
Vivo Barefoot €€-€€€
- Sustainable production methods and materials
- Vegan running shoes and sneakers
- Free standard
All 100% vegan
Find on: Naturisimo.com
- Ethical handbag collection
- Strive for a great work environment and a fair wage. against child labour.
- Donate to animal shelters
- Stylish luxury designer handbags
Free delivery worldwide on Naturisimo
- Ethically sourced
- Sustainable production methods
- Support charities and associations that are either vegan, fight against animal cruelty, promote animal welfare, rescue and provide sanctuary for animals, or promote environmental and conservation causes”
- High quality, designer handbags
$ 10 (Free Euro shipping for orders over 200$)
“Matt and Nat stands for Materials and Nature”
- Use sustainable materials such as cork and rubber.
- Clothing factories are closely monitored and abide by the SA8000 standard
- The lining of bags made of 100% upcycled plastic bottles
- Any kind of bag whether that is a diaper bag, a handbag, a school bag or even a dog bag
- Also sells bag accessories, vegan shoes, purses and wallets
Approximately €10 to Ireland
Some Final Tips
Choose Quality over Quantity
This is an obvious but nonetheless vital point to make. With the rise of the fast fashion industry, it has become the norm to buy cheap and often. Thus, paying 50euro for a t-shirt may seem ridiculous in the context of a world where cheap alternatives are so readily available. These alternatives, however, have little durability; take for example the seemingly dirt-cheap, attractive blouse you purchased at your local Pennies or Primark which has become worn and disfigured in a matter of washes and finds itself briskly converted into yet another pyjama top. As it begins to crowd your wardrobe over time, becoming tattered to the point of rags, where does it carve out its destiny but in the dump or at best in textile recycling, that is if your town is fortunate enough to provide such a service. According to the documentary The True Cost (which I highly recommend), only 10% of the clothes people donate to charity or thrift stores get sold. Thus, while we may feel we are doing our part for the world and for charity as we make our annual journey to the thrift shop where we casually dump truckloads of clothing, the truth of the matter is that such actions compensate little for the damage already done. This leads me to my second pointChoose Quality over Quantity
Shop Second Hand and Vintage
You would be surprised what gems you may find in your local vintage or charity store. You will also avoid the potential crisis of seeing another person style your exact outfit, opting for authenticity over convenience. The fashion industry is also one of the world’s worst polluters (between the 2nd and the 5th worst according to multiple researchers)**. Thus, while we may be reducing our carbon footprint as vegans, avid recyclers and hybrid car owners, we are nonetheless making a significant contribution to global warming through our whimsical, half-hearted impulse purchases.
Become Part of the Slow Fashion Movement
See fashion not as an opportunity to plough through thousands of lifeless garments in your lifetime but instead as a form of self-expression; an investment; an opportunity to construct a collection of authentic glittering gems which are given the chance to develop a story, a narrative of their own over time. Nurture your garments with care and ease, finding the beauty in less rather than becoming overburdened by an excess of meaningless pieces of fabric crowding your wardrobe; clothing deprived of love and care in the hands of both the maker and the consumer. Resist the urge to blindly conform to the vast majority who fruitlessly seek happiness and fulfilment in material possessions, finding themselves chained to the hedonic treadmill of insatiable human desire. The path to true happiness does not lie in the perpetual accumulation of meaningless garments briskly forgotten but in the deeper more conscious purchases, the investment pieces which reassert your capacity of intellect, reaffirming your status as a conscious, living human being with a greater awareness, and a greater appreciation and admiration for the wondrous beauties of the universe, such as fashion whose dignity as an art form you restore through your investment in the real thing, not some phoney replica.
Fair Trade/Ethical Assessment Tools and Resources
- Fashion Revolution’s Fashion Transparency Index 2017
- 5 tools to check if your clothing is ethically made
- Baptist World Aid’s Ethical Fashion Guide
- The Good Shopping Guide
- Ethical Consumer
- The Green Hub
- Ethical Fashion Initiative
- Moral Fibres