By Chere Di Boscio
Dedicated vegans are often faced with some dire fashion choices. If you work in a formal setting, for example, you may be surrounded by colleagues wearing woolen suits, camel hair coats, and silk blouses, whilst your wardrobe staples are fabricated from polyester, acrylic and nylon.
Not chic, not sustainable, and not usually by choice – there are simply very few stylish, sustainable vegan workwear options available.
This is something that designer Jackie Lutze became acutely aware of herself, back when she had a 9 to 5 job. She became so frustrated with the lack of affordable vegan workwear available, she launched her own label.
Incredibly, she manages to imitate the quality and texture of lush materials like silk, cashmere and wool, but through the use of fully sustainable fabrics.
Here, she explains more about why she started her fashion line, how she deals with the backlash against vegans, and how chic vegan office clothes can be affordable.
Why is vegan fashion important to you?
Vegan fashion is important to me because I choose to lead a vegan lifestyle in every area of my life. I have personally been vegetarian since age 19 and vegan for 4.5 years now. Veganism is who I am, it’s how I choose to live my life. Although it started with my eating habits I quickly learned about the importance of veganism across my entire life and adopted all cruelty free/ vegan beauty & home products, and also fashion.
And I am not the only one. There have been a lot of strides in the vegan fashion industry, but there’s still a long way to go. There are not a ton of options, and I wanted to help people with my same ethical ideas find beautiful clothing they could feel good about.
What do you think about the new vegan fabrics that are coming out, like qara or apple leather?
I love innovative fabrics. I think the discovery of being able to use things such as apple, mushrooms, and bacteria to create beautiful, sustainable clothing proves we simply don’t need animals for fashion. Not only are these options cruelty free, they are also sustainable, which is equally important to us.
These technologies are going to do to the fashion industry what the Impossible Burger did to the food industry. If we can develop a compassionate, eco friendly alternatives to leather, wool, silk and so on that feels and acts like its animal counterpart, we can eliminate the need for the “real thing.”
These companies are really going to help us change the face of fashion. Without them brands like us wouldn’t have the options we do now.
Would you ever use them?
Yes, absolutely! Right now our line is linen, hemp, cotton and Tencel, but we are always researching new options and which fabrics are best for the pieces we are designing.
What kind of style were you looking to create, and for what kind of woman?
Honestly, this brand started because I couldn’t find a wool-free blazer. I was working in a 9-5 job at the time and needed business casual pieces to wear to work. I just couldn’t find a wool free blazer that was also sustainable and ethically made. My only option was to go the fast fashion route and buy something made from synthetic materials.
I was chatting with my husband about my dismay, and I thought: I can’t be the only person with this problem. How many vegans out there are searching for the same thing as me? Business attire is a staple in so many people’s lives, and I hated the idea that people might have to compromise their ethics because the fashion industry doesn’t have an option for them.
Our style is clean, tailored and classic. Our debut collection is all mix & match pieces to help create a versatile closet without a ton of new items. I didn’t want to just create vegan fashion, I wanted to create classic pieces people couldn’t find in vegan fabrics!
I want to dress the women who are out there changing the world. The women who are dedicated vegans, environmentalists, feminists – and I want them to look amazing and stylish while they do it.
A lot of people say they can’t afford to buy sustainable fashion, though they agree that it is important. How do you deal with this issue?
We set out to make our prices as affordable as possible. When you use ethical practices and sustainable textiles there is a rise in cost of production which unfortunately I feel some brands have taken advantage of that belief.
While we can’t compete with fast fashion (and I hope no one expects us to) we also didn’t want to charge $600 for a blazer just because others are doing it.
I know that the way we will make the biggest change is by making our items accessible to as many people as possible and that means keeping them as affordable as possible. Everything is our currently collection is going to be under $250 per item.
We are also launching via a pre-sale method that ties into our dedication to sustainability. y offering pre-sales to our dedicated customers, we create the exact garments that they want helping us have a more sustainable sales model.
There seems to be some kind of backlash against vegans coming. How do you deal with that?
There will always be backlash and controversy. I, like all vegans out there, have had my fair share over the last ten years and it doesn’t phase me anymore. You can’t please everyone, and I am not trying to. I am trying to dress the women who DO believe in what we are doing. Of course I want to inspire others to adopt a vegan wardrobe and lifestyle, but I am not going to waste my energy on the people who will never change their minds.
That’s one of the biggest things I have learned while being vegan. I will no longer spend my time arguing with someone who just wants to argue, but if you approach me (as a non vegan) and have questions or are curious and just want to be educated, I will spend all day sharing my experiences and knowledge with you.
That goes the same for our clothing. If you choose to support our brand because you already are dedicated to those ethics, great! If you are not quite there yet and you want me to walk you through the importance of fair wages and plant based textiles, that’s great, too.
I do hope our clothing speaks for itself and can prove to the non-believers out there that vegan and sustainable clothing can be this chic.
Textile waste and unsold clothing are issues that plague most designers. Do you have any solutions?
Unsold inventory is a huge problem in the fashion world, with millions of dollars of items sitting in warehouses or landfills across the world. By making exactly what our customers want, with an additional small batch run, we eliminate that problem for us.
Our waitlist subscribers will have first access when the collection goes live, and are guaranteed to get the styles, colours and sizes they want.
What’s next for the Jackie Lutze?
Hopefully big, amazing things! We are already working on our Spring 2020 collection. The biggest thing we will be adding for sure is mens blazers and a line of cocktail dresses. These are both areas where I again I feel there needs to be an option for those who preferred that classic, tailored look.
Interested? You can join the waitlist at jackielutze.com