In this new article series, we wanted to dive right into our current rationale around each of our EMPATHY values to provide you with more transparency but also helpful information that you can take with you on your next purchase.
This is also a great exercise for Ethi as we’ll be able to set a baseline to continue to improve our knowledge and criteria for each value as we grow. As with sustainable fashion in general, we are a work-in-progress so any feedback will really help!
This week we look at our Animal-free value, which we define as brands that produce their products without any animal-derived materials at any stage of production.
Like our previous article, we’re going to highlight some issues caused by the fashion industry that make this an important area for our brands to address:
The problem with fashion (among many)
- Every year, billions of animals are killed for the global leather industry (PETA).
- 110 million animals are killed on fur farms every year (Animal Defenders International, 2017)
- 85% of the fur industry’s skins come from animals living capture in fur factory farms (PETA)
- The amount of energy needed to produce a real fur coat from ranch-raised animal skins is approximately 20 times that needed to produce a fake fur garment (PETA)
- Fur is not biodegradable, thanks to the chemical treatment applied to stop the fur from rotting.
- Many people die from cancer possibly caused by exposure to toxic chemicals used to process and dye leather. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that the incidence of leukemia among residents in an area near one tannery in Kentucky was five times the U.S. average.
The video below highlights what is absolutely wrong with skinning animals for their fur (Warning: Extremely graphic images):
How does this affect YOU?
- If you live close to a tannery than you may be putting yourself at risk of exposure to toxic chemicals used to process and dye leather.
- Chemicals from dying leather and treatments of fur find its way into waterways which may eventually find its way in you from food that you eat or from drinking the contaminated water.
- The leather industry shares environmental impact with the meat industry, which according to World Watch, accounts for 51% of all human caused greenhouse gas emissions.
- If you weren’t affected by the video earlier, than any suffering from a living creature isn't really going to affect you.
How fashion can help solve the problem
Innovation in synthetic leather alternatives
A variety of manmade or synthetic materials are available that are alternatives to animal leather. Some of these synthetic materials include vegatan, lorica, kydex, and PVC. It needs to be noted that synthetic materials such as PVC also use toxic chemicals to produce and are harmful to the environment.
Vegan alternatives exist that include cork, barkcloth, paper, and your favourite staple organic fabrics such as cotton, hemp, and linen. However, there are new vegan alternatives that are appearing thanks to the exciting world of fashion technology, such as the use of seaweed and pineapple leaves!
SeaCell is the material made from crushing dried seaweed that is simultaneously introduced into cellulose fiber. The brown algae used in this material supposedly activate cell regeneration, re-mineralize skin, limit inflammation, soothe itchiness and detoxify the body!
Pinatex is made from pineapple leaves that undergo an extraction process where the fibers transform into different textiles replicating the most desired fashions. Pinatex looks similar to canvas that can be dyed, printed, and treated to give different types of texture. A great alternative to authentic leather!
Fashion collaborations with Animal cruelty-free organisations
What does it mean for a brand to qualify for our ‘Animal-free’ value?
Basically if there was no animal involvement in the production of the clothing or any other products. This is especially applicable to brands that have chosen to use animal fabric substitutes such as vegan leathers or alternatives to fur. Brands can also get certified by organisations such as Vegan Society and PETA.
Animal-free materials that are also sustainable and free of PVC also avoid harmful chemicals that do damage to workers and the environment.
Bourgeois Boheme - Brand example at Ethi
Bourgeois Boheme is an independent vegan footwear company that are ethically made, using the best innovative, eco-friendly, and vegan material by hand-picked artisans in Portugal. All of their shoes are Vegan Society trademarked and PETA approved. Founded by Alicia Lai, they have established themselves as a go-to vegan footwear brand, with vegan celebs such as Natalie Portman, Bryan Adams and Torrey DeVitto spotted in their footwear!
Constantly on the lookout to find sustainable animal-alternatives, these are the materials that Bourgeois Boheme use for their shoes:
- Cotton-backed Microfibre (Polyurethane)
You can find Bourgeois Boheme pieces here on Ethi.
So, what can we do?
- Look for clothing that have been made from the animal-free materials outlined earlier.
- Share what you know or have learnt to others - simply present the facts. Awareness is the first step!
- Head onto our Animal-free values products page on Ethi to browse through clothing that have been made animal-free.
A Final Note:
Ultimately, we want to encourage people to buy sustainable because of its quality, its aesthetics, accessibility, and affordability - not because they have been guilt-tripped toward buying sustainable. We honestly hope that the words “sustainable” or “ethical” will be dropped in the future because that will be the new norm and fashion will simply be “fashion”.