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Feel Good Fashion

Updated on June 2, 2013
A sample from Vivian Westwood's eco-friendly collection
A sample from Vivian Westwood's eco-friendly collection

Fashion Pains

  • One fur trimmed coat kills 3 foxes.
  • One mink coat kills 35 minks.
  • 139 million cows are killed for food and leather each year.
  • 1.1 million tons of leather is acquired in America each year.
  • Tags that boast "Genuine leather” tell nothing. A lot of leather unknowingly comes from zebras, boars, deer, water buffaloes, bison, and even cats and dogs.
  • Ostriches are foreign when they arrive to some slaughter factories, in one documented instance it took 3 brutal hours to kill one ostrich.
  • It takes 3,000 cows to supply the National Football Leauge with footballs every year
  • The largest wildlife massacre is suffered by Kangaroos. 7,000 are killed each year in Australia because it is the strongest known leather. Most are exported to the UK and the US where they are made into soccer boots.
  • Rawhide is used to make some dog toys. Toys tested out of Thailand contained skin from domestic dogs.
  • The younger the better- younger leather is more durable and less likely to scratch or ripe, making baby animals popular victims.

Women make Kate Spade handbags In Rwanda
Women make Kate Spade handbags In Rwanda

Designers; are they worthy of their price tags?

Once upon a time we humans owned 2 pairs of shoes, now we own 30. One handbag is never enough and when leather jackets fly in and out of style, we buy, give-away, and re-buy again. The demand for skin, or 'leather' as we've conveniently coined it, is high. Too high to be sustained by meat cows alone and now animals of all types are being housed, abused, captured, and hideously skinned, often still alive. The demand for something we don’t even need has created a mad rush to supply it; made visible through the sloppy jobs being quickly executed, without any regard to the animals or environment harmed.

Thankfully, we don’t have to be a part of this mess. Instead we can purchase from the ever-growing collection of vegan designers, such as Matt and Nat or Stella McCartney. We can also look to the select lines offered by designers Vivian Westwood and Kate Spade. Leather is not the luxury we have bought into; these designers are among some of the first to prove fashion doesn’t have to harm anyone to pack a stunning punch.

Regardless of what we decide to buy, or how much we spend, it’s important to research the companies we purchase from. Think of it this way, every dollar spent is a donation to the expansion of that brand’s goals and ideas, it only seems logical to at least Google a company before handing them a couple hundred dollars.

To save you the time, here's the background check on a few key designers.

Kate Spade

Known for her loud, bright, and funky patterns, Kate Spade is one of the more affordable luxury brands. She is also one of the more ethical. Always interested in boosting the financial security of woman in developing nations, the Brand formed an alliance with Woman for Woman International in 2009. Making key pieces for the label each season are 250 woman who live in Rwanda, 400 women who live in Bosnia, 250 women in Herzegovinia, and over 150 women in Afghanistan. On the job, the women are learning a skill, they are earning money, and they are getting an education. Women who once had next to nothing are putting their kids through school, purchasing livestock to sustain food, and starting business ventures of their own. Given this opportunity, the women are flourishing; displaying extreme determination to no longer just survive but to live the life they have only dreamed about.

Crippled by constant wars and brutal genocides that killed some 800,000 people in only 100 days, Rwanda was the first place on Kate Spade’s hot pink itinerary. The bright colors, fabrics, and patterns found in the African markets are unlike anything you find in the States, adding a whole new look to the twenty-year-old brand; one much more youthful, yet just as gorgeous.

Durability? Kate Spade holds up fairly well for her moderately priced fine-goods. As with most designers, some of her products outshine others in longevity.

Vivienne Westwood

The Vivienne Westwood brand is now selling a couple incredible handbags, created with the help of 7,000 women in Africa. The upscale line partnered with International Trade Centre to expand the economic mobility of women otherwise destitute. All of Westwood’s Africa collection is made with eco-friendly materials, not to mention they are eye-popping and incredible. At a few-hundred dollars a pop they better be paying their creators well!

Both Kate Spade and Vivian Westwood only use eco-friendly materials and methods in some of their collections, therefore we can’t bow at their feet just yet… their good deeds might reek largely of publicity. Nevertheless, they do a lot of good!

Matt and Nat

I admit it… I’m rather partial to this splendid brand! Matt and Nat only make bags with eco-friendly materials. Most amazingly, the inner lining of their handbags are crafted from recycled bottles! It's unbelievable when you actually look at one of their bags; the insides are soft like suede, shaded in bright colors and have a durable structure.

Canada native, Inder Bedi, found himself a frustrated vegan. Just like many others can attest, fashion is polluted with leather- a cruel fashion habit hard to swear off. In response to this, he created his own design label for a final college project, a line of goods that came from a reliable source, treated the environment fairly, and didn’t exploit helpless animals. He created what is now known as Matt and Nat. The accountability of this brand is only one of the reasons I’m gaga, they are also far more affordable than any other high-end vegan designers. Often times we can’t afford to be eco-friendly, Matt and Nat expands the class of individuals who can afford to remain fashionable while also being polite to the animals. “Live Beautifully,” is their slogan, which I believe is perfectly suited to their vegan ideology. For how beautifully can one live with a dead and once-tortured animal slung over their shoulder?

Durability? Amazing! Lasts extremely well, in fact the eco-friendly matierals hold up better than leather in many ways. Including, it does not fade in the sun.

Stella McCartney

Famous first for her father’s legendary membership with the Beatles, Stella is also known for her high-end eco and animal friendly fashion line. Stella McCartney quickly became an iconic brand, sold only at the likes of Neiman Marcus and Nordstrom. Her kind ethics come at an extremely high cost, only affordable to a select few and therefore fairly unproductive in changing the life of many animals. In her defense, she has worked on more affordable -and less cute- lines with H&M and Adidas. Regardless, her mission is admirable and I can’t help but love the fact her father orders all of his Mercedes special without any leather.

At forty years old, Stella stands as a mogul for inspiration- a portrait of sensible fashion. Although far pricier than Matt and Nat, Stella offers the same idea of feel good luxury, using synthetic leathers and other eco-friendly materials to create her entire collection of clothing, purses, shoes, and accessories. If you plan to spend an entire semester of state-college tuition on a purse, you might as well purchase a Stella McCartney.

On more than one occasion I’ve noticed people snubbing their nose at the brand because it’s not “genuine leather,” and therefore assumed as cheaply made. So not the case!! Leather is not the ‘fancy’ product we assume it to be, it is cheaply made at the expense of people and animals. Stella’s bags have far more thought behind them, purchasing one means you didn’t pay for the murder of a cow- or the chemical exposure of a poor leather worker in India. Instead, you have purchased something that has harmed no one and it will set a good example for all the fashion lovers in your life.

The world can survive without us but we can't live one day without it. In awe of this, let's show some respect; not only to nature but to her other productions as well.

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