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A Guilt Free Guide to the Fashion We Love

Love fashion, but don’t love how they’re made? Or you might just be unaware that some of those sexy siren outfits come from animal testing and products. Got a favourite pair of leather boots that you think goes with everything? We all know how leather, wool and silk are extracted but have we ever thought about the conditions the animals are reared in to provide us with these jolly treasures of fashion?

Dear sister-in-arms, “sustainable” fashion goes beyond the fabric and asks us to consider the cost of our choices. The use of animal products and animal testing for fashion is not a new trend.

Images of early human civilization will tell you that at some point, the use of animal fur was not a fashion choice but a functional one. Today, it's less about function and more about convenience and appearance, and those helpless animals cannot truly defend themselves, so here we are!

As advocates for a better world, we can make a difference. As consumers, we can bring more consciousness to this farm-to-fashion segment by opting for alternatives and creating demand for such innovative holistic solutions. We have put together a list of sustainable alternatives to help you get started on your journey without causing further harm to our planet and all its inhabitants, which includes our fur babies and misunderstood arthropods.

Sustainable Silk

Yes, please! Indian fashion, while at strides with global fashion, is unique in itself. Our colours and fabrics are unmatched. We all have a few of our mom’s silk sarees earmarked for future use.

What if we told you that when curating your dream silk collection, there are alternatives you can consider? From bamboo silk to microsilk to ramie silk, the resources and technology exist to stop the over-farming of silkworms. FabIndia, Kala Niketan, Soch and Nalli, if you’re listening in, please do us, your sustainable peeps, a solid and see if we can bring this technology to our traditional wear.

Plant Based Leather

Not to be confused with Pleather - which has plastic derivatives. While pleather can be sustainable IF recycled plastic is being used for its manufacture, currently, there is just not enough transparency to give us that confidence to label pleather as sustainable.

Do you know what is? Vegan plant-based leather alternatives! There are so many brands globally that are working towards re-imagining leather: from mushroom-based leather and pineapple leather to leather made from cacti, some pioneers have not only understood the assignment of sustainable fashion but are also setting new benchmarks to aspire to. The adoption of vegan leather is picking up in India, which is encouraging. Cranking it up a notch, we have fashion accessories brands that have embraced the new material and are PETA certified Vegan brands: PAIO, Aulive, Broke Mate, Zouk

Sustainable Wool

Wait! I thought wool was already sustainable! *confused in fashion*. Ideally, yes. The way our ancestors used to farm and rear sheep for wool was sustainable. In our overcrowded and mass-produced era, it has gotten a bit knotted. Wool as a fabric has amazing longevity; I have a few shawls in my mom’s closet on hold too. And soft and pure as the pashmina feels against the skin, we must admit that the documentary on how sheep are reared and sheared to get that wool was a rough watch.

From discomfort comes disruptive innovation: WeganOOL, a vegan wool brand based right here in India, has come up with an alternative that has all the warmth and frills without the guilt of wearing wool.

Admittedly, from the use of animals in fashion to fashion for animals, we have evolved a long way. There is a lot more ground to cover. If you’re looking for animal-friendly fashion, start here:

  • Do not discard anything that you already own because it's not “sustainable”. Now that it has made its way into your closet, the better thing to do would be to take good care of it and use it for as long as possible, i.e. elongate its life to the product’s fullest, and when you’re done, donate it forward.

  • Fashion has become a very low-investment purchase, i.e. we scroll and buy mindlessly. The one-click satisfaction and endless sales are enough to tempt us. But let’s change that, shall we? Ask more questions about the processes, sourcing, and ethical values of your favourite brands! You might be pleasantly surprised at the outcome. Collaborative efforts from high fashion brands saw that mink and fur were ruled out from their runways!

  • Shop second-hand. Yes, you lift, but do you also thrift? Building a sustainable lifestyle for yourself should also include building practices that are better for the planet. You’ve switched your diet and your routine; why not your shopping pattern? Thrifting is also a fantastic way to reduce production demand for new products, keep the existing items in circulation for their lifespan, and help cut carbon costs.

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