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.

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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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