You may have heard of vegan fashion, or may have even bought plant-based fashion pieces yourself. You also have probably heard bold statements from fashion houses about adopting a more cruelty-free approach. But is there any truth behind these statements and is the vegan fashion sector growing as quickly as it seems?
We’re taking a look at some vegan fashion statistics to find out exactly what impact the plant-based movement is having on our favourite clothing brands.
What is vegan fashion?
The vegan diet has become a well-known concept in recent years, and vegan fashion is steadily rising in public prominence. Veganism, whether it is with food, clothing or other products holds the same principles.
This means that no animal products were used in the making of a garment or product. It means no leather, wool, or other animal-derived materials, no animal products used in glue, dyes or even buttons. Essentially a vegan fashion item is an animal-free item.
To learn more about cruelty-free fashion, check out our article on how to stop animal cruelty.
Is vegan fashion the same as sustainable and ethical fashion?
This is where it can get a little trickier. There is no doubt that when it comes to animal welfare, vegan products come out on top when compared to their conventional fashion alternatives.
Is vegan fashion environmentally friendly?
But what about the environment? Farming animals, whether for food or fashion, is often cited as environmentally harmful. By their very nature, vegan fashion brands don’t engage with these environmentally unfriendly agricultural practices.
However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that every vegan brand is inherently sustainable.
Vegan alternatives when it comes to fabric aren’t always plant-based. They can often contain virgin synthetics. These represent a core problem for the sustainability of the fashion sector and have a hugely negative environmental impact. Avoiding products made from virgin synthetic materials when shopping for vegan items can help to ensure your clothing choices are truly sustainable.
Is vegan fashion kind to people?
A fashion brand making vegan clothing can also still exploit workers along the supply chain. And not all vegan clothing brands engage with sustainable initiatives and/or give-back programs.
In saying this, there are a lot of brands out there that are making vegan clothing with an overall ethical and sustainable approach. These brands look out for people and animals, and create responsibly made fashion with natural and innovative materials.
For the eco-conscious, animal-friendly consumers out there, be sure to check out our roundup of men’s vegan fashion brands.
Vegan fashion statistics
So, time for the cold, hard vegan fashion facts. What statistics are there when it comes to vegan fashion trends, materials, and industry and consumer attitudes?
Why we need vegan fashion
- Child labour: Leather has been reported as a highly unsustainable sector with tanning requiring carcinogenic and toxic chemicals. Reports have found children as young as ten working with these chemicals.
- Offsetting carbon: In Portugal, cork oak trees (a material used to make vegan leather) help to offset ten million tons of carbon every year. Harvesting cork from these trees also increases their carbon absorption abilities by three to five percent.
- Mink killed: Despite the global decline of the fur trade, between 2014 and 2015, it is estimated that just in China twenty million mink were killed for their fur. A further nine million were killed in Poland, and a staggering eighteen million in Denmark.
- Animals killed for leather: Estimates suggest that in just the USA, over 150 million animals are killed for the animal leather industry every year. This number more than quadrupled between 1980 and 2018.
- Water pollution: Factory farms are the cause of 70% of water pollution in the United States, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Furthering this, leather has one of the greatest impacts on eutrophication out of all materials used in the fashion and apparel sector.
- Cancer risk to workers: Workers at leather tanneries in Sweden and Italy who used arsenic in the leather tanning process (a chemical commonly used in leather tanning), had a lung cancer risk 20%-50% above the expected levels.
- Unsustainable fabrics: In the The Higg Materials Sustainability Index, wool achieves a score four times worse than cotton.
- Fur from China: The majority (80%) of fur in the fur trade is produced in China. Troublingly, China has no formal animal welfare policy in place for fur farms.
- Silkworms killed: Between 3,000 and 15,000 silkworms are killed to make one metre of silk.
The fur trade
- Mink in decline: Since the early 2000s, the production of mink pelts has declined by roughly 45% in the US. In the 60 years before this, the amount of registered mink farms in the US also dropped from over 2000 farms to 351 farms.
- Faux fur growing: On the other hand, the faux fur market is steadily growing. The faux fur apparel and footwear market is expected to be worth over US$28 billion by 2025.
- Toxic metal pollution: Chemicals that fur products are treated with to preserve them can be so toxic, that the animal fur trade is ranked among the five worst industries when it comes to toxic metal pollution.
- Fur banned (farming and sales): While fur farming does still exist around the world, it has been banned in a number of countries. In countries such as Norway, Belgium, Croatia and the Netherlands fur farming is banned. In 2021, real fur sales were banned in Israel, this was the first time a country had invoked such a ban.
- Public opinion: A 2021 report found 61% of respondents in a survey conducted by The Vegan Society claimed the use of fur is cruel.
The luxury market
- Men’s fashion: Men’s luxury fashion is expected to adopt a more vegan friendly approach. By 2030, this sector is set to be valued at US$43.21 billion. This will represent a compound annual growth rate of 10.84% between 2021 and 2030 in the men’s vegan luxury fashion market.
- Vegan leather: A 2020 report claimed that only 2.3% of women’s luxury leather goods were made from vegan alternatives.
- Brands using vegan leather: Top luxury brands including Tommy Hilfiger, Gucci, Chanel, Bottega Veneta, and Hermes have begun to incorporate vegan leather alternatives in at least some of their collections.
- Demand for animal leather still growing: While the demand for and value of vegan luxury goods is expected to grow, the demand for animal based leather goods is also expected to continue growing in the luxury sector.
- Luxury worst for animal welfare: The luxury sector scored the worst when it came to animal welfare in a FOUR PAWS report.
- Brands shunning fur: Luxury brands including Versaci and Burberry have pledged to stop the use of fur in their organisations.
Vegan fashion statistics in the footwear sector
- Leather footwear exporters: China, Italy and India have been reported to be the largest exporters of leather shoes. In just one year, these three countries accounted for over 57% of exports of leather footwear.
- Vegan footwear growing: The vegan footwear industry was valued at over US$40 billion in 2021. The industry is expected to grow by over 7% each year (compound annual growth rate) between 2022 and 2030.
- Percentage of vegan shoes increasing: In 2018, 32% of shoes were vegan in the USA. This represents a rise of vegan shoes by 16% from the 2017 US footwear market.
- UK vegan shoes: Heading to the United Kingdom, in 2018 vegan styles made up 16% of the footwear market, a rise of 1% from 2017.
Trends in the demand for vegan fashion
- Percentage of vegans: Despite veganism growing in prominence, only 2% of the British population follow a vegan diet. A further 3% are pescatarian, and 6% are vegetarian.
- Vegans are younger: Veganism in Britain is more popular among the younger generations. Among 18-24 year olds, 5% claim to follow a vegan diet, while only 1% of those aged over 55 made the same claim.
- Demand for vegan fashion rising: Global demand for vegan fashion is increasing. By 2030, the global vegan fashion market is expected to reach a value of US$835.7 billion. This represents an increase in market value from 2021 of over US$380 billion.
- People want more vegan options: A 2021 survey in Britain by the Vegan Society called The Rise of Vegan Fashion found 95% of respondents stated that they wanted to see more vegan fashion options. 48% also stated that they desired to see more vegan items across every facet of the fashion and apparel industry.
- People will pay more for vegan: The same study by the Vegan Society found 73.5% of study participants are willing to pay more for vegan products and 55% already own or are interested in buying plant-based leather items.
- Value of vegan leather market: The vegan leather market is projected to have a worth of US$89 billion by 2025.
- Stock of vegan fashion up: In 2019, it was reported by Vogue that the stock of vegan fashion products across the UK and USA increased by 258%.
- Searches for vegan leather up: Online platform Lyst, reported in 2020 an annual increase of 69% for searches for ‘vegan leather.’ Furthering this, searches for conventional leather products had decreased by a yearly average of 3.5%.
- Support for fur ban in UK: A 2020 poll in Britain found that over 70% of respondents supported banning the sale of fur in the UK.
- Anti fur wearing: The same poll found 93% of participants rejected wearing real fur.
An improving industry
- Brands’ animal welfare policies: A 2021 report by FOUR PAWS found 57% of fashion brands included in their report had a formal animal welfare policy. This was over twice that found in their 2020 report.
- Vegan fashion up on Etsy: In 2020, listings of vegan fashion products on the popular online marketplace Etsy, increased by 41% from the previous year.
- People avoiding animal products: 31% of participants in an international, 14,000 person poll, conducted by FOUR PAWS in 2021 stated that they are now avoiding animal products altogether or looking to buy from brands with high welfare credentials and policies.
- Animal welfare a priority for consumers: This poll also found that 86% of respondents wish for companies to prioritise animal welfare, alongside environmental and social welfare and protection.
- Fur free retailers: The Fur Free Retailer programme, driven by FOUR PAWS, has seen 1,500 brands pledge to never use fur in their production.
- PeTA approved vegan: As of 2023 over 1,000 brands are registered as PeTA approved Vegan.
Creating a lasting change
There is no doubt that animal welfare is starting to gain a much needed spotlight in the fashion sector. In an industry that has not historically had the best track record regarding climate change and animal rights, it is refreshing to see attitudes toward animal exploitation in fashion begin to shift.
However, as evidenced by the millions of mink that meet their deaths for fashion every year, there is still a long way to go to create a kinder industry. Advocating for the rights of animals helps to change the entire fashion sector.
By understanding core vegan fashion statistics and using your purchasing power for good, we have the power to be a part of creating a kinder fashion industry for all creatures great and small.
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