Brand and shopping advice

How to Veganuary your wardrobe

How to Veganuary your wardrobe

It is the time of year for new beginnings, turning over leaves, and generally reassessing the way you go about the world. If you're like an increasing number of Britons, that might mean trying to cut down on how much meat ends up on your plate. For many, that means signing up for Veganuary; launched in the UK four years ago, the charity – as the name suggests – encourages people to go vegan for January. But while it's comparatively easy to tell if your lunch is made from cows, it's not always so simple to tell if what you're wearing was also once part of animal.

We’re not here to pass judgement on lifestyle choices, but we are here to help in all matters sartorial. So if you’re looking to go vegan for Jan, but don’t know what that means for your wardrobe, we’ve tapped Thread stylist Freddie Kemp to help.

First of all, let’s start by pointing out that it isn’t just your leather jacket that’s non-vegan. Your woolly jumper, silk scarf, horn-buttoned coat and down jacket all contain animal products. Secondly, embracing veganism with the environment in mind, then loading up on products made from cheap cotton, which fall apart and end up in landfill, undoes much of your good work (even if they are vegan). That’s why you need products that aren't just vegan, but also come from brands that care about sustainability and transparency.

“There’s a balancing act with ‘ethical’ and ‘sustainable’,” says Freddie. “The two aren’t always the same thing. People tend to think that just not wearing animal fibres is good for the planet — yes, in part, but we now know that washing synthetic materials, like polyester, releases microscopic plastic fibres into the environment. You don’t get that with natural fabrics.”

For Freddie, the answer lies in organic cotton and brands that are smart about their production methods. “Cotton uses a ton of water, but if done in the right way it can be more sustainable than mass-produced synthetics.”

So, how do you dress ethically without resorting to a fair trade, organic hessian sack? One approach is to look for brands that have made a name for themselves based on their style credentials and their ethics.

Take Knowledge Cotton. By using 100% certified organic cotton and other sustainable materials, the company aims to save the environment from “800,000 litres of pesticides, chemicals and fertilisers as well as to have recycled more than 4.5 million plastic bottles into recycled polyester by the year 2020”. It's also working towards becoming 100% carbon neutral by 2025.

“Oliver Spencer is another brand we love that is very much on board with thinking about sustainability and really pushing itself to do better,” says Freddie. However, he’s keen to point out that buying ethically made products doesn’t have to mean shelling out hundreds of pounds. “That’s not always viable for everyone, but there are lots of more affordable brands that also do things in the right way. Novesta trainers are £55, which is an absolute bargain for a great shoe. Colorful Standard does amazing t-shirts for under £30.”

Lastly, it’s worth noting that you can buy all the vegan clothing you want, but if you chuck them out after a few wears, it’s still going to be an environmental nightmare. The key is to ditch our disposable culture. If you’ve got non-vegan items in your wardrobe, the ecological thing to do is to wear them until they fall apart. Like our forebears declared: make do and mend. If not, it all ends up in landfill anyway.

“It’s definitely not a case of being reactionary or assigning blame,” says Freddie. “It’s just we’re all thinking about the environment now and we could all do with shopping a bit smarter — even if that doesn’t necessarily mean just vegan.”


Words: Theresa Harold
Photography: Jon Cardwell
Styling: Freddie Kemp