The Scandi fashion weeks are becoming more and more influential. Copenhagen remains the frontrunner, with the most well-known brands such as Ganni and By Malene Birger, but Oslo and Stockholm are attracting more attention from the world’s fashion media, too. But it’s Helsinki that’s making headlines this week, following the decision to ban all animal-based leather by 2019. This will make it the first-ever city to host a vegan fashion week.
Helsinki Fashion Week’s founder, Evelyn Mora, said that the decision was “to take an active stand against cruelty to animals and the damaging environmental impacts that the use of leather brings with it”. This is a major commitment for an organisation working within the fashion industry – a sector that has been slow to respond to criticisms around using animal-based products. Change may be slow, but it does seem to be happening. Last October, Gucci’s CEO and president, Marco Bizzarri, declared that fur was “not modern”, announcing that the fashion house would be signing up to the Fur Free Alliance, a coalition of 40-plus animal-protection organisations working to end the exploitation and killing of animals for the fur trade.
Michael Kors and Jimmy Choo made a similar announcement, while Giorgio Armani went fur-free in 2016. And in terms of the high street, MPs announced in March that there would be an inquiry into the mislabelling of real fur as faux in high-street stores. Then, in May, PETA released an expose it had been working on about the mohair industry. As a result, 150 of the biggest retailers decided to ban the use of the material completely, including H&M, Topshop, M&S, Primark and Next, while ASOS went a step further and decided to outlaw the use of mohair, silk, cashmere, feathers and bone, teeth or shell, including mother-of-pearl.
These decisions show that the tide is turning – customers are more aware than ever about what they’re buying, and more and more people are actively choosing alternatives to materials like leather, fur and suede. The proof is in the pudding, too: French trainer brand, Veja, for example, which has a large vegan offering, revealed last week that its turnover for 2017 has “increased by 60% year-on-year to €18m (£16m),” as reported by The Guardian. Indeed, many of the brand’s styles sell-out consistently on various stockists – most notably, Net-A-Porter and Trouva. And Stella McCartney, arguably one of the main pioneers of vegan fashion, continues to make bestselling, high-end products – her Falabella bag, made from eco and animal-friendly materials, for example. There are a growing number of much more affordable brands adopting a similar approach to McCartney, ensuring that animal-friendly alternatives are available to everyone. Helsinki’s decision might just be the catalyst the fashion industry needs to really make a lasting change.
4 Vegan brands to know about:
From the get go, French trainer brand Veja has focused on fair working conditions and a transparent supply chain. Thanks to its simple and stylish designs, it has become a favourite among the fashion lot. Its Wata trainer range are made from cotton and rubber.
Mat & Nat
Founded in 1995, Matt and Nat specialise in non-leather handbags with a high-end look. Using materials such as recycled nylon, rubber, cork and recycled bike tyres, since 2007 the brand has been committed to using linings made from 100% recycled plastic bottles for linings.
Brighton-based shoes and accessories brand Beyond Skin makes PETA-approved products that are all vegan and ethically produced in Alicante, Spain. Launched in 2001, the brand makes both men’s and women’s shoes, with the latter collection including everything from chic sandals to everyday flats.
Launched in 2013, Wilby is an all-vegan, PETA-approved handbag and accessories brand. Designs are made from cork and all come delivered in recycled packaging.