As the fashion industry progresses toward a more ethical, eco-conscious world, it’s clear that certain garments are gradually fading out of the picture. While animal products are commonly used for high-end, luxury items, the ethical repercussions of this use are often swept under the rug– at least up until recently. Fashion has now collectively strayed away from the traditional use of animal products like leather, suede, and fur, pivoting toward alternative textiles to recreate the industry’s finest garments in a sustainable way.
The Issues Surrounding Luxurious Leather
The origin of leather in fashion dates back to 50,000 years ago when the animal skin was solely used to stay warm. Since then, the use of leather has progressed tremendously, primarily in high end, couture collections.
Faux or vegan leather has seen an increase in popularity within the fashion industry. Leather substitutes also include: microfibre, hemp, cotton, gore-tex, and various types of rubber. The vegan leather industry is expected to reach $89.6 billion by 2025, seeing a compound annual growth rate of 49.9%. Animal cruelty policies are responsible for this push towards creating awareness surrounding the unethical use of animal skin as apparel. While traditional leather has seen some increase in inflation, more and more consumers are seeking a cost-effective alternative and faux leather is slowly becoming the essential synthetic staple in the fashion world.
One thing people fail to recognize is that suede is actually made from animal skin, just like leather. People tend to associate suede with soft, fuzzy fabrics like cotton or faux fur. This misleading fabric is known for its smooth appearance and pliable characteristics. However, just like leather, suede will see a gradual decline as consumers begin to prioritize ethical options over their favorite pair of shoes. Serving as the essential substitute: faux leather or vegan suede is made of synthetic fibers such as polyvinyl chloride (PVC) or polyurethane (PU). These materials create the same suede appearance and even have a water repellent quality that original suede does not have, making faux suede significantly easier to clean. The drastic shift within the suede market has resulted in animal friendly substitutes at a much lower cost!
While it’ll take time to see a noticeable change in the use of animal skin within the fashion industry, we as a fashion community are on the path to success. Creating awareness and constantly finding new, cruelty-free alternatives is the direction many fashion brands are now choosing to take.
Mia is currently in her third year at Chapman University studying both Business Administration and Dance. She values meaningful experience more than anything, working as a spin instructor and a marketing intern, she's driven to become the best version of herself possible. MakersValley has pushed her to explore the complexities of content marketing and she's truly growing as a young business professional!