By Diane Small
Vegan fashion doesn’t usually inspire images of chic women walking their dogs in Paris, hitting the nightclubs of New York or click-clacking in stilettos across the malls of Dubai. But the fact is, that handbag you’re admiring or those shoes you covet could well be cruelty free.
Today, vegan fashion is better designed than ever, using noble materials that are far more eco-friendly than previous ‘vegan leathers’–which were basically the worst forms of plastic.
Here, we’ve found some of the most luxurious vegan brands from around the world, all of which are bound to change your view of vegan fashion forever.
Looking for a warm, stylish coat that doesn’t use goose down or wool (or fur, duh!)? Then look no further. Vaut Couture specialises in making vegan clothing from materials like hemp, cotton, recycled polyester and other animal friendly blends. Based in New York, where winters can be fierce, these guys know how to keep you cozy in even the most freezing of temperatures, without having to harm animals.
Sadly, it’s true that vegan shoes can look a bit cheap. But Bebe Mehr, founder of cruelty-free shoe brand Cult of Coquette, set out to change that once and for all.
In October 2014, Mehr created a chic shoe brand that shuns typically toxic ‘vegan leather’ for the most eco-friendly materials available. The resulting handmade shoes are for women who aren’t afraid to rock a heel. They come in two main styles: the ‘Azar’, a classic pump with a 4.75” heel which comes in 10 vibrant colours, and a limited edition line, the ‘Muse’, a slightly modified version of ‘Azar’ pump, reminiscent of Christian Louboutin‘s style.
In light of her rapid success, Mehr is now in the process of extending her line and is creating different shoe styles (boots, flats, sandals, other styles of pumps). Summing up the sexiness of Cult of Coquette shoes, the brand states: We love for the classic Jean Cocteau quote: ‘The prettiest dresses are worn to be taken off.’ Our cheeky response to that is, “And the prettiest shoes are worn to be left on.”
3. Ethique 212
When we first saw Ethique 212’s bags, we thought ‘no way that’s not real python’. But never fear, my friends – these skins have nothing to do with animals. The brand is committed to using only “better leathers” that are completely animal-free, and promises to carefully monitor all materials used in the manufacturing of their vegan bags and jewelry to ensure they are free from environmental hazards. What’s more – the label recycles all waste, employs fair and ethical business practices, and has a kick-ass, rock chick vibe that we love.
4. Matt n Nat
Though it sounds like a design duo, the name of this bag brand is actually an abbreviation of the two main values of the brand: ‘material’ and ‘nature’. Launched almost 20 years ago in Montreal, Matt & Nat is not only inspired by the textures and different shades of nature, they are dedicated to protecting nature too.
They are constantly exploring new unconventional ways to maintain their eco-friendly and sustainable methods of vegan leather production. Thus far they have used different recycled materials such as recycled nylon, cardboard, rubber and even cork. They have recently launched bags made from recycled bicycle tires to their chic collections, which are now available on ASOS too.
5. Melie Bianco
Vegan handbag company Melie Bianco is a favourite with LA celebs. The cruelty-free line was founded in 2003 by a husband-and-wife duo inspired to bring major design trends to the conscious consumer. Think Balenciaga, Celine and Miu Miu styles, but without the cruelty.
“I design bags to reflect the season’s trends, but within a budget … women—especially working women—want high-end handbags, but at an affordable price,” explained Founder Melissa Song. The eco-friendly brand, which uses premium faux leather, has previously been featured in various publications including Vogue, Elle and Marie Claire.
6. Jill Milan
A long standing favourite of ours due to their commitment to classical styles and high quality Italian manufacturing, it’s no wonder that Jill Milan has often been seen in not only top restaurants, clubs and hotels around Europe, but also on the red carpets of Cannes and LA. Plenty of celebs are fans, including Anne Hathaway, who raves about these bags.
7. Angela Roi
While we think it’s great that American based designer Angela Roi creates luxurious vegan handbags from what she calls EPUL (Excellent Polyurethane Leather), what makes this label stand out, apart from the clean, chic design, is that they also donate a portion of each sale to the ASPCA. Animals win all round!
8. R.J. Gibson
Intricately embroidered Arabesque details are the highlights of these elegant bags from R.J. Gibson. Each item ordered from the London based designer can be customised to your taste, allowing you to choose your own colour, material and embroidery design. All the brand’s vegan-friendly materials are ethically sourced from Italy, and of course, every part of the bag including the adhesives used is animal free.
9. Dalia McPhee
Given that pearls and silk are couture staples, you’d be hard pressed to find a couture designer who uses alternative, animal friendly materials. Until now. The vast majority of Canadian designer Dalia MacPhee’s jaw-dropping couture creations -whether gowns, trouser suits or bridal wear – are 100% vegan friendly.
10. Stella McCartney
We could hardly leave out the Vegan Queen here, could we? One of the original designers to insist on vegan ethics in her creations, McCartney has created a bit of controversy in the community for using wool, but she says that it’s sourced ‘gently’ from her own sheep on her own farm, which she oversees herself. So that’s ok then?
11. Denise Roobol
This PETA approved designer studied for four years at the Willem de Kooning design academy before launching a stunning, minimalist influenced range of vegan bags using sustainable, high tech materials. The perfect accessory to any wardrobe, these are as practical as they are gorgeous.
Main image: Jill Milan