Beauty or cruelty? [ Christopher Kane dress ]
This is weird. I've been acting as somewhat of an unlikely mentor to a friend who has gone vegetarian in the past year. Unlikely? Yeah, well, I'm a pretty terrible vegetarian. I've learned to adapt in an omnivores' world by flying under the radar: picking things off of pizza, not being fussy about non-meat/meat fraternizing in the pan, playing dumb in the face of poutine (gravy, what?) and taking care of myself food-wise (quietly). I've also been a part-time fish eater, more to make life easier with my fully supportive, yet fully meat-eating husband. Role model material I am NOT.
Then, the question.
My newbie-veg friend asked: "What's your stance on leather?"
Jekyll, meet Hyde. My animal-loving, eco-conscious, (mostly)-vegetarian self does not always agree with my style-crazed, clothes-loving, shop-happy self. They are contradictory. They clash in a resulting ulcer-inducing turmoil. The ever-present inner-struggle: what IS my stance on leather?? I grappled with this for a while, and here is my (wavering) conclusion:
The challenge wasn't in replacing leather with other materials - there are enough options out there. My concern was environmental. I'm as much an advocate of animal rights as I am a steadfast environmentalist (OK, I'm not the best example of either, but I care about both very much). My issue with the alternatives (PVC, pleather, etc.) is that in a lot of cases, they are an environmental nightmare to produce and they never break down in landfills. And, leather substitutes crack and peel easily, forcing me to buy more. I hate waste.
My new-ish shopping philosophy is to "buy less, buy better" so that items last and I am not contributing as much by-product. I try to buy ethically as much as possible - supporting local/handmade, choosing natural/orga materials, snapping up secondhands. Problem: it can be expensive and the options are limited. And I'm prone to last-minute panic shopping.
My veg-dyed green Roots purse is still amazing and I've had it for 4 years. Same with my Canadian-made Jeanne Lottie purse. Also leather. I buy a lot of rubber/canvas shoes in the summer, but nothing beats the real deal for boots & bags. I went the matt+nat route for a while but the peeling and cracking led to too many replacements. That said, it's probably one of the best vegan accessories companies (and Canadian to boot) if you can live with the negative aspects of faux-leather.
The PVC graveyard:
(Ahhhh. I forget to breathe when I'm rambling defensively.)
Does it make me a very good vegetarian? No. But it's a compromise that I can live with. I can sleep at night (mostly). Do I REALLY need to sacrifice my beliefs in the name of fashion, though. Even if my solution IS (somewhat) eco-conscious?
I admit that I can be smarter about my choices. Here are three no-compromise-necessary style picks that appease both of my starkly different selves. Peace is restored in the galaxy!
1. OlsenHaus Faux leather, in my mind, has become unfairly synonymous with poor quality. This is not at all the case with vegan brand OlsenHaus. I've loved their quirky styles in the past, and I am equally smitten with this season's line-up:
2. Ashley Watson 'Flicker' bag. An even better compromise: recycled leather! Smart design-types are hooking up with manufacturers to turn industrial scrap from say, furniture making, into accessories, etc. Win-win. (In my old bag-making days, I'd do the same with leather from thrift-store skirts.)
3. Etsy, of course. The handmade aspect has a feel-good-ness about it that kinda overrides guilt about pesticide-heavy cotton and animal hides. But there's also a ton of great eco-fashion here too. And totally non-granola. I love this skirt by Toronto-based Simone's Rose (yay, local) - it's organic and super adorbs.