Guide to Cruelty-Free Clothing Brands

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An increasing number of shoppers are embracing compassionate fashion by opting for high-quality, animal-free clothing and accessories. If you want to have a positive impact on animals and the environment, this guide will assist you in identifying and avoiding materials derived from cruelty in your wardrobe. 

Let's delve into common animal-derived materials and explore the cruelty-free alternatives provided by different clothing brands.

Why Choose Cruelty-Free Fashion?

  • Ethical Treatment of Animals: Animal-derived materials involve immense suffering and exploitation. By choosing cruelty-free fashion, you can stand against the inhumane practices prevalent in the fashion industry.

  • Environmental Impact: The leather industry, for instance, is known for its heavy carbon footprint and the pollution caused by tanning processes. Opting for alternative materials reduces environmental harm and supports eco-friendly practices.

  • Sustainability: Cruelty-free fashion encourages the use of sustainable materials like organic cotton, recycled polyester, and innovative plant-based fabrics. These materials are not only kind to animals but also gentler on the planet.

  • Innovation and Fashion Forward: With advancements in technology and design, cruelty-free materials have become fashion-forward and trendy. Vegan leather, for example, offers a plethora of options in terms of colours, textures, and styles.

Identifying Cruelty-Free Brands

Finding cruelty-free brands can sometimes be a challenge, as not all companies are transparent about their sourcing. However, a few key indicators can help you make ethical choices:

  • Look for Vegan Certifications: Certifications like PETA's "PETA-Approved Vegan" label or "Vegan Society" logos are reliable indicators of a brand's commitment to cruelty-free fashion.

  • Research and Reviews: The internet can be a valuable resource for finding information about brands and their ethical practices. Check for reviews, social media comments, and ethical fashion blogs to learn more about your favourite brands.

  • Contact the Brand: If you're unsure about a brand's cruelty-free status, don't hesitate to reach out to them directly. Ethical companies will gladly provide information about their sourcing and practices.

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Which materials are not vegan?

Leather and Exotic Skins

What is leather?

Leather is derived from animals such as cows, pigs, goats, and even more exotic creatures like kangaroos, ostriches, cats, and dogs. Exotic skins, such as snakes, alligators, and crocodiles, are used to create luxury items like handbags and shoes.

What are the concerns?

Leather is a byproduct of the meat and dairy industries, which inflict immense harm on animals and the environment. The leather production process involves the use of toxic chemicals that pollute our planet. Furthermore, it is unnecessary to harm animals for the sake of fashion.

Alternatives in brands and materials

Thankfully, many popular brands now offer "vegan leather" options. These cruelty-free alternatives are crafted from materials like microfibers, recycled nylon, polyurethane (PU), and even plant-based sources like mushrooms and fruits. Look for animal-free leather at esteemed stores such as Topshop, Stella McCartney, and bebe.

Wool, Shearling, Cashmere, and Angora

What are they?

Wool is derived from sheep or lambs, whereas shearling refers to lamb skin with the fleece intact. Cashmere is obtained from Cashmere goats, and Angora wool comes from rabbits.

What's the issue?

The shearing process inflicts suffering upon sheep, and the wool industry contributes to environmental damage. Similarly, the production of cashmere, Angora, and shearling involves cruelty towards goats, rabbits, and lambs.

Brands and Alternatives to Embrace

Discover snug and compassionate sweaters crafted from vegan materials at popular retailers such as H&M, Nasty Gal, and more. Innovative designers like Joshua Katcher and Leanne Mai-ly Hilgart offer high-quality, cruelty-free alternatives like twill, cotton, and recycled polyester (rPET) that are more environmentally friendly than wool.

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What is fur?

Fur is the skin and coat of animals such as bears, beavers, cats, foxes, minks, and rabbits, among others.

What's the issue with it?

Animals raised on fur farms endure deplorable conditions, confined to cramped cages and subjected to cruel methods of killing. Whether obtained from fur farms or through trapping, each fur item represents immense suffering and loss of life.

Brands and Alternatives to Consider

Prominent brands like Gap Inc., H&M, and Zara have embraced fur-free policies, and renowned designers like Gucci and Michael Kors have also banned fur. Faux fur is a widely available and popular alternative, offering a compassionate and stylish choice for consumers.

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Silk and Down Feathers

What are they?

Silk, a fabric produced by silkworms for their cocoons, and down feathers, derived from geese and ducks, are commonly used materials. However, there are ethical concerns associated with their production.

What's the issue

Silkworms in silk production are boiled alive, resulting in their pain and suffering. Similarly, down feathers are often obtained through painful plucking, and their production is linked to the foie gras and meat industries.

Brands and Alternatives to Consider

To address these issues, there are alternative materials and brands to consider. Satin, nylon, milkweed-pod fibres, silk-cotton tree and ceiba tree filaments, polyester, rayon, and hemp are viable substitutes for silk. Brands such as Express, Gap Inc., and Nasty Gal offer silk-free options, while WAMA Underwear provides hemp-based and silk-free underwear. Additionally, synthetic materials are used in the production of down-free puffy jackets.

By opting for these alternatives, we can make more ethical and sustainable choices without compromising on style and quality.

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How to find Cruelty Free Vegan Clothing

As we have provided you with a wealth of information, we would like to offer a few helpful hints that will hopefully simplify your shopping experience for clothing and shoes. It is mandatory for manufacturers to label shoes with the materials used in their production. This allows us to determine if a shoe is vegan, at least based on its materials. 

However, it is important to note that if animal-based materials are used in the glue, it does not have to be labelled. Therefore, it is advisable to inquire directly with the retailer if you are uncertain. The labels "Textile" can refer to either synthetic or natural materials, while "Other" signifies vegan alternatives such as wood or cork. Fortunately, there are labels that can assist you in your search. 

Although clothing labels indicating whether a product is vegan are not yet as prevalent as those found on food items, there are still a few examples available. We have taken the liberty of selecting them for you. The PETA website provides an extensive list of brands that have obtained PETA certification, ensuring that no animals were harmed in the production of their clothing. 

The TÜV vegan seal, which verifies that no animal products are used in the manufacturing process by examining chemicals and materials and monitoring production, was only introduced in late 2020 and may not be as widely available. Additionally, the well-known flower symbol of the Vegan Society, primarily associated with cosmetics and food, is also used for clothing. It is worthwhile to quickly check the sewn-in label for any indications such as "Contains non-textile ingredients of animal origin, leather detail, shells, beads, feathers or bones," as this would clearly indicate that the item is not vegan.

The "PETA-Approved Vegan" label by PETA helps you easily identify clothing and accessory products that are both cruelty-free and vegan. Many compassionate brands proudly display this logo, demonstrating their commitment to animal-friendly fashion.

Beyond Clothing: Cruelty-Free Accessories

Cruelty-free fashion extends beyond clothing to accessories like bags, shoes, and jewellery. Just like with clothing, you can find stylish and ethical alternatives for these items as well.

  • Vegan Handbags: Many designers now offer stunning vegan handbags made from materials like polyurethane, recycled plastics, or cork. These alternatives are not only chic but also durable and sustainable.

  • Ethical Shoes: Vegan leather shoes have become a popular choice, but you can also find cruelty-free options made from canvas, hemp, or natural rubber. These alternatives are not only kind to animals but also comfortable and stylish.

  • Eco-Friendly Jewellery: Look for jewellery made from recycled metals, wood, glass, or synthetic gemstones to avoid supporting the mining and exploitation of precious resources.

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The Power of Your Choices

As a consumer, you hold the power to drive positive change in the fashion industry. Every time you choose cruelty-free clothing and accessories, you contribute to a shift towards more ethical practices. Supporting brands that prioritise compassion and sustainability sends a clear message to the fashion industry that animal exploitation is not acceptable.

So to sum up, embracing cruelty-free fashion is a meaningful way to express your values and stand up for animals and the environment. By making informed choices and supporting ethical brands, you become part of a growing movement that seeks to transform the fashion industry into a more compassionate and responsible force. Let's embrace cruelty-free fashion and pave the way for a brighter and kinder future.

Follow more fashion-centric sustainability news at our Featured Articles.

Frequently Asked Questions

What clothing companies are cruelty-free?

There are numerous clothing companies that prioritise animal welfare. Among the most popular ones are Aritzia, Everlane, H&M (select products), Madewell, Naadam, PacSun (select products), Patagonia, Revolve, and Uniqlo. These brands uphold a cruelty-free approach, refraining from conducting any form of animal testing, both directly and indirectly. Furthermore, they ensure that their products are not sold in countries where animal testing is mandated by law.

Are Zara bags cruelty-free?

Zara bags are unfortunately not considered cruelty-free. As a Spanish clothing company offering a diverse range of products, including bags, Zara does not currently adhere to a cruelty-free policy. Consequently, there is a possibility that their bags have undergone animal testing at some stage during the production process.

Is Zara PETA-approved?

Zara does not have PETA's approval, as it is not certified by the animal rights organisation. PETA certifies companies that abstain from animal testing, and unfortunately, Zara does not possess this certification. Hence, it cannot be classified as cruelty-free according to PETA's standards.

Is H&M vegan-friendly?

While H&M offers vegan options, it's important to note that not all of their products fall into this category. Since H&M lacks a specific vegan policy, it becomes challenging to determine definitively whether a particular product is vegan. However, H&M does provide a list of vegan products on their website, offering clarity to those seeking animal-friendly choices.

Is Zara vegan and cruelty-free?

Zara does not adhere to vegan and cruelty-free standards. They incorporate animal products in certain clothing and accessories, lacking an explicit policy against animal testing. Consequently, there is a possibility that their products undergo testing on animals.

Is Maybelline a vegan brand?

Maybelline is not classified as a vegan brand due to the presence of animal-derived ingredients like carmine and lanolin in some of their products. Moreover, it's important to note that Maybelline sells their products in China, where animal testing is mandatory. Therefore, considering these factors, Maybelline cannot be regarded as a vegan brand.

Is Huda Beauty vegan cruelty-free?

Yes, Huda Beauty proudly upholds its commitment as a vegan cruelty-free brand. Their products are meticulously crafted without the use of any animal-derived ingredients or byproducts, and no animals are subjected to testing during their development. Huda Beauty's dedication to cruelty-free practices is reinforced by their prestigious certifications from PETA and Leaping Bunny, renowned organisations in the realm of cruelty-free endorsements.

Is the Dove brand vegan?

Yes, the Dove brand is vegan. Their products, via the parent company Unilever, are free from any animal-derived ingredients or byproducts, and they firmly stand against animal testing. Recognised by PETA and Leaping Bunny, two highly esteemed cruelty-free certification organisations, Dove upholds its commitment to being ethical and compassionate.


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