Published: The Voice of Fashion, August 16, 2018
While India’s tradition of khadi and cotton is cruelty-free, vegetarian or vegan consumers have been hard-pressed to find brands that deliver the same aesthetic of leather, with style and panache. Cheap alternatives are often made from poor quality and non-environmentally friendly plastics. These have begun to be replaced with durable and better quality manmade materials, which may consist of recycled or sustainable materials, or non-PVC polyurethane by brands that are conscious about ethical values as well as the ecological impact. A few of the brands that deliver the goods make the shortlist below, including some tried and tested favourites.
Stella McCartney: Pretty much anything from her collection has haute appeal, but above all she is a designer who is respected for spearheading the conversation about ethical fashion and walking the talk. Because of McCartney, ethical luxury is no longer an oxymoron. The Stella Star shoulder bags and the Stella Logo Hobo are winners from her latest collection. The hobo, available in a range of pop and muted colours takes alter-nappa to another level of sexy.
Gunas: Brought up between Ludhiana and Pune, Sugandh Agrawal founded Gunas in 2009 in New York, where she currently lives. She has invested years of research into finding the sweet spot between affordability and quality for a chic leather alternative. The Tippi Tote in a range of colours (though the mint shade is divine) is roomy, comfortable and well-crafted, while their recently-launched men’s bag crafted in MULBTEX™️ is made from mulberry leaves.
Jill Milan: Started by a vegan, Jill Frazer, the luxury bags are handcrafted in Italy and have been seen regularly on the international red carpets, carried by celebrities like Anne Hathaway and Jennifer Lawrence. Their stylish Newbury Street Portfolio from their latest collection looks like a trendy clutch, but the interior can accommodate an iPad.
Vendula London: Quirky, fun bags and accessories, they form creative scapes like English Garden, Sewing Shop and Prosecco Bar, with a layered, textured design. Theirbook-shaped coin purse will give the pickpocket a run for his money.
O bag: Hailing from Italy, these bags are customisable and also offer interchangeable handles and styles. Made of EVA polymer, they are waterproof, lightweight and resilient, with various conscious options. The O Bag mini herringbone from their Spring 2018 collection allows you to swap trims, handles and inner bags—changing the look of the same tote.
Piñatex is a strong and flexible textile made from pineapple leaves developed by Ananas Anam. Being an upscaled byproduct of waste, it is environmentally friendly. It is used in a range of products including ethical footwear, clothes, accessories and furnishing. This Things I Miss Giantletterbag and these Altiir neo-classic biker jackets are cool and functional.
Pelcor is a Portugal-based brand that offers cork skin products as a sustainable alternative to leather—cork being eco-friendly. Besides bags and shoes, they also have tech accessories like this laptop sleeve and pet products.
Plum is India’s first 100 percent vegan beauty brand that is priced sensitively and offers a range of products including the Angel Eyes Kohl Kajal which comes with an easy-blend smudger. Founded by an Indian chemical engineer, Shankar Prasad, and created in a London design studio, Plum is a sustainable brand using natural ingredients.
Matt and Nat’s Mitsuko in a range of pastel shades is a perfect office bag which can be slung or carried in the hand. It had me at the recycled cork label, recycled plastic bottles’ inner lining and the price tag that is also a bookmark. The quality is so good that it doesn’t disintegrate or wear out over time. The brand, started by an Indian in Canada, Inder Bedi in 1995, is a pioneer in the affordable cruelty-free accessories space, with exacting aesthetics. They have great options for men as well.
Save the Duck is a third-generation Italian brand creating cruelty-free outerwear. They replace goose-down feathers to line jackets with PLUMTECH® which keeps the jackets warm and light. The jackets, like this puffer vest, are easily foldable and great for travel. They have options for both genders.
Other online resources that cover clothing, shoes, accessories and beauty:
Ethica: An online retailer that gives the low-down on ethical fashion and emerging designers while offering a curated list of labels to shop from. Their ‘stories’ section keeps the dialogue alive.
Modavanti: Online retailer that speaks the language of sustainable and ethical fashion. They offer a unique ‘badge’ system—one of the eight badges is vegan—and for a brand to retail on this site, they need to have at least one of the badges.
Ethical Elephant: Started by animal welfare advocate Vicky Ly, the blog covers makeup, skincare and hair brands.
PETA.org: The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals keeps a tab on the cruelty-free brands and PETA Mall has a directory of them across fashion and beauty and including health and food. Countries have their own local PETA chapters as well.