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Faux Leather: Vegan Faux-Pas or Raising Awareness?

Faux Leather: Vegan Faux-Pas or Raising Awareness

Ever since I went vegan over 6 years ago, I have had an ongoing inner dialogue about how I feel about wearing faux leather and faux fur clothing. Shoes and handbags are one thing because that’s mostly what is out there but faux leather and faux fur clothing have always been a bit of a bugaboo for me.

On the one hand, I think of them as rather like faux meat options — for some people they can be a great bridge to a vegan lifestyle and for others they add variety without contributing to the suffering of animals. Both good things. On the other hand, however, if they look and feel like the real thing then what’s to stop people from thinking that what you are wearing IS from animals (unless you have a conversation with every single person who sees you which is unlikely, exhausting, and probably impossible) thereby indirectly contributing to the belief that it’s okay to wear animals. Phew…it’s a lot to consider.

Then, something happened! I found a fabulous faux leather yellow jacket at my favorite consignment store. It was adorable – fun, bright, comfortable and could add a great kick to my casual wardrobe. But, I hesitated – I had to weigh my concerns. Would I wear it or would it just sit in my closet?

I decided that given it was yellow it looked less “real” than brown or black (at least to me). Plus, I was drawn to it, so here was my chance to experiment and put my uneasiness to the test. I also liked the idea that because it was from a consignment store, I didn’t spend a lot so if it didn’t feel good, I could easily re-consign or donate it. And, of course, I could determine when and with whom I would wear it, and that could appease some of my concern about being mistaken for wearing real leather.

So, the next week I wore it to a workshop, and an interesting thing happened. At a break, two of the women came up to me and asked if they could touch my jacket. They knew I was vegan so they were curious – had I slipped and worn the real thing or if it was faux, how did it feel compared to animal leather?

Each one of them exclaimed about how great it looked, how soft it felt and their curiosity was satisfied. Faux leather didn’t have to look like plastic or feel stiff and uncomfortable. It opened their eyes to a new possibility. And, it opened mine to one, too.

Could it be that wearing faux leather or faux fur strategically could actually advance the cause of cruelty-free dressing? Wow, how cool is that! One of the concerns that so many women have is that going vegan will significantly limit their choices (when they often feel that their choices are already compromised) and that what will be left for them to choose from will be unappealing. Who wants that! This experience was one step in the right direction – providing valuable information from a vegan and style perspective.

While I doubt I’ll fill my wardrobe with faux leather and faux fur clothing, I have discovered that occasionally these options can fill a useful purpose (beyond simply making a fashion statement) and that makes me (and animals everywhere) very happy!

Ginger Burr, Contributor One Green PlanetGinger Burr is a notable speaker and leader in the field of fashion and style for the past 24 years, Ginger’s adroit understanding of beauty trends and fashion has been celebrated by Fox TV News, MORE Magazine.com, Bloomberg Business Week, and Forbes Magazine. In 2005, she became vegan and looked at the world of fashion and style with fresh eyes. Seeking to eliminate all cruelty in her closet (and to encourage others to do the same), Ginger set out to prove that being a vegan and fashionable are not mutually exclusive. She was subsequently recognized by VegNews Magazine as one of the “25 Most Fascinating Vegetarians” in the world for her innovative and groundbreaking work as a vegan image consultant.

Image Source: eyeliam/Flickr

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5 comments on “Faux Leather: Vegan Faux-Pas or Raising Awareness?”

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6 Years Ago

That is a cute jacket, I like this article. I like faux better than real fur and leather, what's so great about dead animal parts? Especially now, it's not neccesary to kill animals for fur and leather when it can be man-made and look and feel the same! Back when there was no substitute and people had to keep warm, that was understandable, and if you live in a remote area, but other than that, what's the point? Why are dead animal parts still a status symbol? Why are high fashion designers so obsessed with "authentic" leather and fur, or even bones and tusks!--more like authentic cruelty and selfishness. It makes no sense. The only time I'll wear leather/fur is if it's hand-me-down or from a thrift store--someone else already bought it brand new, so the company already gained their profit, the damage has been done, and there's nothing I can do about it. I don't buy it new though b/c I don't want to show any support for it, giving them my money for it will just encourage the cruelty.

6 Years Ago

Interesting perspective. Thanks for posting. I, too, have wondered why a vegan would feel the need for faux fur or faux leather. But I am not a vegan, I'm an omnivore. I am well aware of where our food comes from and I use most animal products with a clear conscience. I am confident in the nutrition, safety and animal welfare of animal products. I am not a farmer and I don't work for what some people call "big ag," but I have been on many farms and know the cruelty that people fear is a myth. Farmers abhor animal cruelty as much as you and I do. I was so appalled and sickened by film of people killing calves with bats that I couldn't finish watching it. The abusers need to be punished severely. But I have to take those so-called undercover videos with a large grain of salt because I am well aware of cases in which animal rights activists have abused animals--or told others to abuse animals--for the camera. I'm aware of how film is edited, and that activists refuse to share unedited film with the authorities. I'm aware of cases where the cruelty shown is not from the farm that activists claim it's from. Fur animals are *not* skinned alive in this country. It's a shame that so much misinformation is spread about agriculture. It's very damaging to family farmers, large and small, and that's virtually all farmers in the United States. Farm size is no indication of animal welfare practices or environmental practices. In fact, research shows that the larger farmers tend to do a better job of manure management than small farmers do. The only places I've seen animals in manure up to their knees is on hobby farms. Why some people think they're experts in farm animal welfare when they've never been on a farm is beyond me. I've offered to take people to farms and harvest facilities many times, but, so far, nobody has taken me up on the offer. If you avoid animal products because you don't think animals should be killed--no matter how humanely they lived and died--I don't argue with that. But if it's because you think they were treated cruelly, you can rest assured; cruelty is not standard practice in animal agriculture or fur-raising. The industry does nothing to deserve that reputation.

07 Jan 2012

What about the chemicals and bacteria that end up in meat or milk? Or the chemical that turns black rotten meat into fresh-smelling red meat? Or the chickens trapped in small cages to lay eggs, and the other chickens are now kept in filthy, windowless warehouse-looking structures. I don't trust corporate at all. I don't trust animal rights people either, but corporate meat manufacturers (or fur, milk, basically alot of food or animal products) don't care about animals, and neither do they care about people, or the damage they do to the environment, all they care about is money. Their influence on the USDA has caused Americans to eat too much meat and dairy for many years, and the #1 cause of death in the U.S.? Heart disease. Also, I think saying that factory farming is both humane and sanitary nowadays is like saying that circuses don't abuse animals anymore. The only circus I would go to is one without animals that are scared into jumping through fire, then abused backstage, it's disgusting. Sure, the show is 'spectacular', but is it worth degrading and torturing sentient beings? Sorry, I digress, but I'm still very skeptical about the industry. I saw "Food Inc" and realized that the industry is not that different from Upton Sinclair's time (author of The Jungle).

Kathy Esper
6 Years Ago

In the past several years since learning about dressing vegan from Ginger, I have to admit, giving up leather has been the most challenging. While I would always choose animals' well-being over fashion preferences, I have loved leather for years, and giving up leather jackets, skirts, and even pants were just plain h-a-r-d. I love that Ginger turns my old assumptions on their heads and offers the perspective that faux leather can actually be a way to educate people and reduce the collective consumption of real leather. Hey, everyone has the right to make their own choices, though I know a lot of people who, if they had this awareness, would be making a better choice. Like Oprah says - "When you know better, you do better." Thanks Ginger!

6 Years Ago

I agree that this is not a simple situation. The benefit of starting the conversation is real. In general, though, it seems to be better to support things which are not imitating the abhorrent as much as possible. I don't want people to think our position is, "leather is good, but since I don't want to kill animals, I'll fake it." Instead, I'd prefer, "there are so many ways to be fashionable, I don't even need to consider leather, real or fake." Of course, I have no fashion sense, so what do I know... :-)


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