PETA’s Vegan Classes For Fashion Design Students

PETA's Vegan Classes For Fashion Design Students
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PETA’s vegan classes for design students are changing the future of fashion. Here’s what the students themselves have to say about what they learned

By Emily Spenatto

As we all know by now, more and more high end designers are going fur free, for many reasons. Besides the obvious cruelty, leather and fur are not good for the planet, due to the chemicals treating those materials to prevent rotting of the animal carcasses.

So this year, PETA partnered with three U.K. universities to improve accessibility and education around vegan textiles via classes for fashion design students.

Through their Vegan Fashion Masterclass for graduate students, offered at Greater Brighton Metropolitan College, Robert Gordon University, and University of Chester, PETA encouraged young designers to go vegan with their work.

“Today’s fashion students recognise that no garment justifies killing an animal and polluting the planet,” said PETA Director Elisa Allen. “The future of fashion lies in innovative vegan fabrics, and PETA is proud to help these up-and-coming designers lead the way.”

In the past, PETA released exposés revealing unimaginable animal torture to obtain leather and fur. Vegan fabrics are much better for animals and the planet, as students learned through these classes.

Design students worked with bio-based vegan fur KOBA from French manufacturer ECOPEL, as well as apple leather, in PETA’s vegan classes. And the materials got rave reviews.

Here below, four fashion design students — Georgia Clutton-Baxter of the University of Chester, Olivia Allen and Will Stanbridge of Greater Brighton Metropolitan College, and Cameron Lyall of Robert Gordon University — spoke to Eluxe about what they learned and how their work changed after taking PETA’s vegan classes. 

Main image: Courtney Lovatt designs. Image below: Georgia Clutton-Baxter

What Fashion Design Students Learned From PETA

PETA's Vegan Classes For Fashion Design Students

How do you feel about the sustainability of vegan fabrics?

Jade: Vegan fabrics allow us to be sustainable and protect our wildlife. Leathers and furs aren’t always best coming from an animal. PETA’s vegan classes have proven that. And going forward, I think having vegan fabrics will better the planet. 

Georgia Clutton-Baxter: There’s no reason to ever not to use them! In 2021, we are at a stage where vegan materials are more easily accessible.

Will Stanbridge: There is a common misconception that vegan means sustainable, which is far from the truth. Mainly still for monetary reasons, some vegan fabrics are made using antiquated methods that use plastic and other non biodegradable compounds.

Olivia Allen: I think vegan fabrics reduce wastage from natural resources, allowing for a healthier life cycle. 

Cameron Lyall: I love that the Mabel fabric consists of Italian apple skins. It makes for a great conversation piece, and a very unique selling point. I do believe material innovations like this are the future of the fashion industry.

Did you ever think about vegan materials in your work before you took this class?

Jade: Before working with KOBA school, I wanted to use vegan materials within my work. But didn’t know how to source them. Ecopel gave me the opportunity to explore using vegan fur, and this changed my outlook on the way things are within industry. Being sustainable and using vegan friendly materials is definitely the way forward for me.

Georgia: No. I never did if I’m completely honest. I always tried to when making fashion and thinking about the environment, but I found it hard and didn’t know where to begin, until I found Koba school!  

Will: In all honesty, if you had asked me what constituted a vegan material last year, I would have not been able to give a clear answer. However, after working with Mabel fabrics and all the pros and cons that come with it, it ended up being a great learning experience.

Olivia: I had previously thought of ways to be more sustainable with my work, but had never thought about using vegan materials. Mainly because as a student, they were always out of my price range.

Cameron: I champion sustainable practices, opting for repurposed and environmentally responsible materials in my work. I have always wanted to work with alternatives to animal-based leathers, but I never found anything that quite did it for me. Until now!

How has this PETA partnership changed the way you approach your work?

Jade: PETA’s vegan classes have changed my outlook and attitude in the way I approach work and my fabric sourcing. I now have a drive to continue to use vegan fabrics. And thanks to PETA, I can. 

Georgia: I feel like PETA has supplied me with information on vegan materials. Now, I’m aware of how to include them in my designs . I think the Koba school scheme with PETA is amazing for students to find more about vegan materials and use them going forward.

Will: PETA was incredibly helpful in getting us in contact and enlightening us on the process of how various vegan fabrics are made and why they are. It was enlightening to see how the process of creating fabrics that aren’t sustainable harms our planet.

Olivia: For me, PETA’s vegan classes opened my eyes to a new world of ideas and ways I can be more sustainable in my work. It also showed me that vegan fabrics can be produced to act like non-vegan fabrics. This means designs can be brought to life without harm to animals and the planet.

Cameron: My partnership with PETA has opened my eyes to the negative effects that elements of the fashion industry has on the planet. Receiving support from an organisation as steadfast as PETA has given my work a new feeling of value and purpose, as it has enabled me to push for better and ultimately achieve better. I look forward to continuing to work with these amazing materials, and I look to continue building on the relationship between C.N. LYALL and PETA, using their platform to find new ways I can innovate in the future.

What did you learn from PETA’s vegan classes about using these materials?

Jade: PETA showed me that using these materials helps the life of our earth and wildlife. At the same time, they can create amazing clothing and accessories. Fashion can be green!

Georgia: I learnt how easy it can be to find suppliers that supply such good faux furs! Making conscious changes can make a big difference.

Olivia: I learnt through using these materials, I was helping show how the fashion industry can tap into using vegan materials in order to help PETA’s goals of reducing – and eventually ending – animal cruelty.

Will: PETA was incredibly helpful in getting us in contact and enlightening us on the process of how various vegan fabrics are made and why they are. It was enlightening to see how the process of creating fabrics that aren’t sustainable harms our planet.

Cameron: Through PETA, I realised the magnitude of the environmental and ethical issues that animal leather production imposes on vulnerable communities. Polluting their environments and destroying their quality of life, for example. As someone very fortunate to be born on a privileged side of the planet, I feel empowered to make a difference and contribute to positive change through my practice in fashion design. PETA introduced me to Apple Leather as a safer, more sustainable and ethical alternative to animal leather, connecting me with international fabric mills that specialise in these innovative materials.

What’s your favorite form of vegan leather to work with? 

Jade: My favourite vegan material to work with would be vegan fur. With a range of different colours, the fur can be made into cool clothing and accessories. Vegan fur is easy to work with and lovely to sample.

Georgia: Definitely the pink faux fur from ECOPEL I used for my final collection. The quality was amazing! So soft, and the colour was bright, which helped build my collection and bring it to life!

Will: Definitely the Mabel synthetic apple leather I was kindly gifted by Mabel. With their ingenious process it looks exactly like leather fabric. And is although a challenge, always fun to work with. 

Olivia: As previously stated, I have never worked with vegan fabric before, so I would have to say apple leather. The leather I had chosen had a woven backing, which meant it didn’t act like normal leather. It was easier to sew, press and manipulate.

Cameron:  My favourite vegan fabric is the Mabel apple leather in a fine-grain black. It has a beautiful handle and a luxurious matte finish, and is my go-to luxury material for garments.

Watch this video to learn more about PETA’s fashion class and see the gorgeous creations of student designers. Main image: Faux fur by Courtney Lovatt 

Emily Spennato
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