Guest Post: Vegan Is The New Black!

November 9th, 2010 - filed under: Furthermore » Guest Bloggers

A great guest post for Vegan MoFo! Monika (you may know her as ‘windycityvegan’) is an active participant here on Bonzai Aphrodite. I’ve been chatting with her on the site for ages, always appreciating her thoughtful comments and ever-coveting her fabulous farm/garden. More recently we’ve been emailing, and I’ve come to realize how truly awesome this woman is. I’m so sad that she doesn’t live closer to me, so we could go on all sorts of fabulous vegan mommy adventures!

Alas, I’ll just have to enjoy her online – and I hope that you do too!


Whether you’re a heart-and-soul vegan, moving towards a vegan lifestyle, or just trying to stick to a budget, vegan clothing and accessories are widely available like never before. But where to begin? We’ve probably all heard of conscientious retailers like Herbivore and Moo Shoes; but what do you do if you’re at the thrift shop or a department store? My hope is that this article will serve as a Vegan Fabrics & Materials 101.

First things first: what materials are animal-based, and what are their substitutes?  In addition to leather and wool, there are a few other items to watch out for.  Below is a list of the most common animal-derived fabrics, and some oft-utilized substitutes.

  • leather/suede: artificial leather (commonly labelled as leatherette, faux leather, pleather, naugahyde, leather cloth, cork leather)
  • wool/shearling/angora/cashmere/mohair: fleece, cotton, linen, hemp, polyester, satin, rayon, acrylic, corn, nylon
  • silk: bamboo, soy
  • fur: fake/faux fur*
  • pearls/shell/bone: imitation items are usually clearly labeled when it comes to jewelry; price is usually a very good indicator as well

* In regards to fake fur: Unfortunately, there are loopholes that some retailers take advantage of that do not require them to identify the use of real fur.  In the event that you aren’t certain about an item, the quickest way to distinguish fake from real fur is to separate the fur and check its base; fake fur will have stitching, whereas real fur will not.  Also, if you are going on price alone to purchase synthetic leather goods, be aware that some non-leather items may still have real leather trim or detailing.  When in doubt, always check labels!

Artificial leather is relatively easy to clean, but like any material, it does have its shortcomings. Synthetic leather is prone to drying out, hardening, cracking and flaking. When not in use, be sure to keep items out of direct sunlight and away from unnecessary heat (for example, don’t sit your boots next to your radiator). Also, when you do clean synthetic leather items, use a mild cleanser, and avoid immersing the item in water unless absolutely necessary. Water- and weather-proofing sprays specifically designed for synthetic leather is something to consider for items that get a lot of wear, such as coats, boots and shoes.

And now for the fun part: shopping! There are myriad vegan-friendly retailers out there, with items to fit every budget and style. There is even a vegan auction site! And don’t forget Etsy – home to an amazing selection of vegan handmade clothing and accessories. For straight-up vegan fashion, my go-to site is The Streets I Know, a vegan fashion blog written by someone in the fashion industry. Her sidebar has links to dozens (dozens!!) of vegan and vegan-friendly retailers.

For those Do It Yourselfers out there, I’ll be following up with a Vegan Fibers (knitting & crocheting) 101 article in the next couple of weeks!


Monika is a Chicago expat who recently left life in the fast lane for 15 acres in rural North Carolina. An avid foodie, she has developed and tested recipes for several veg*n cookbook authors. In addition to being food-obsessed, Monika is also a micro farmer, runner, coach, writer, yogi, voracious reader, wife, and mum to a very precocious three-year old. You can follow her musings at windycityvegan, or check out her virtual recipe collection at Chew on This!

  • Monika {windycityvegan}

    I’m just being a nerd and posting a comment so that I can get follow-ups via e-mail . . .

  • Amy

    I didn’t know that about fake fur! Thanks for the heads up. Love the links to Vegan Fashion. Can’t wait to check them out.

  • Tenise Rae

    Way to go derby momma!!! Love it. :D

  • Gena

    Great guest post! Veganizing my wardrobe and shopping habits has, I confess, taken me time, and it’s the grand and defining project of my vegan life right now. Help from posts like this could not come at a better time, as I evolve toward a more compassionate lifestyle!

  • Betsy

    A note on the fabrics: ‘satin’ is technically a weave structure, and though satin fabric is often made out of synthetic fibres, any fibre could be used to make it. Silk is also a common fibre used with a satin weave! I think ‘fleece’ is similarly ambiguous, but then I’m a spinner not a sewer so I’m not so familiar with fabric terminology that’s unrelated to handweaving :)

    Looking forward to the Vegan Fibres article! (I’m not vegan, but I’m really interested in knowing what’s out there!)

  • Sara

    Yeah! I was waiting for Monika/Windycityvegan to post something.

    Love the article :)

  • Monika {windycityvegan}

    Thanks, everyone! Veganizing my wardrobe was such a daunting thing, and if this helps even one person make a more informed decision (or not let their really awesome vegan boots get ruined from sitting too close to a radiator, ahem), then yay!

    @Betsy: That’s good to know about ‘satin’ – I always read a fabric’s ‘breakdown’ to see what fibers it’s comprised of (raise your hand if you’ve ever accidentally melted something synthetic while ironing – anyone, anyone?) and for all I know, I may have come across something with silk in it but not realized it was a satin component. And when I start spinning in a couple of years, I am so going to pick your brain!