(US-ma) Clothing with a conscience Dressing 'cruelty-free' doesn't have to mean sacrificing style
- North of Boston image consultant Ginger Burr makes a silent statement
every morning while getting dressed for work - her stylish wardrobe is
100 percent vegan.
What's vegan, you ask? Veganism is the practice of not eating meat,
fish, eggs or dairy products - anything from an animal. And most
people who follow the practice - who are known vegans - typically shun
clothing made from animal byproducts, including leather, wool,
cashmere, suede, shearling, down, silk and fur because they believe
the animals are treated inhumanely.
"Veganism is more than what you eat, it is a personal philosophy of
living a life of compassion toward all living beings," Burr said.
"Sure, it takes a little extra thought and effort. But as my mother
has always said, anything worth doing is worth doing well."
Burr, who hasn't eaten red meat in 25 years, decided to go vegan
roughly a year-and-a-half ago after reading about what she considered
to be cruel treatment of animals in the dairy industry. She rid her
closet of all animal byproducts; however, she hasn't replaced her
sophisticated style of dress with tie-dye and peace beads.
Because there are so many cruelty-free options, vegans can make a
statement without altering their personal style, said Burr, who helps
clients best present themselves through their clothing and makeup
"I think people have this idea that if you went vegan, you'd have to
look like a hippie with boiled hemp socks," said Jo Tyler, a
Newburyport resident who is a vegan. "My dad became a vegetarian in
the '70s and he said all he could find (to wear) was hemp belts that
looked like they were made right out of the forest. It's not like that
anymore. A lot of my friends are surprised to learn that I'm a vegan
because I don't look any different than them."
Cruelty-free fashion is gaining some traction at the top of the
fashion food chain. Major labels like Calvin Klein, Ralph Lauren and
J.Crew all pledge to not use fur; designer Marc Bouwer refuses to use
fur, leather and wool. And Stella McCartney remains the captain of the
cruelty-free fashion movement, as all her productions - including her
high-end synthetic shoes - are free of animal by-products, said
Michael McGraw, spokesman for People for the Ethical Treatment of
Animals, better known as PETA.
"In society 20 years ago, vegetarians were nothing but small co-ops
focused on the vegetarian lifestyle," said Susan Nichole, a vegan
handbag designer who previously lived in Amesbury and is now based in
California. "But I've seen, as the years have gone by, there are now
many more options for vegetarians in the grocery stores, in
restaurants. That's now just starting to happen in the fashion
industry, but it is a slow process and will take a long time."
The vegan fashion movement still has a way to go before the trickle
turns into a downpour, said Marc Delaney, founder of the Salem Vegan
Society in Salem, Mass.
Ken Perkins, a national retail analyst with Retail Metrics LLC in
Swampscott, didn't know of any research on the trend, nor did
spokesmen from the National Retail Federation or the NPD Group, a
national retail marketing research company. And there are really just
a few exclusively vegan online retailers and shops, Delaney noted.
"It's pretty comical trying to buy belts or shoes online," he said.
McGraw said shoe shoppers can find trendy, synthetic shoes at major
chains like Payless and Target or fur-free clothing at the youthful
retailer Forever 21. And should winter give us one final push, Lands'
End offers faux shearling and faux suede items, said Helen Rayshick,
cofounder of the Massachusetts Animal Rights Coalition.
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