Finding animal cruelty-free brands that are fashion-forward and don’t come with a hefty price tag can seem difficult. Sadly, as vegans, we don’t always have the luxury of going to local high streets and being able to kit ourselves, laptop or even our beauty products out with cool, animal-friendly attire. Realistically, unless you know your fashion designers as well as you know your falafel, you’ll no doubt have to spend a solid few hours searching the term ‘vegan fashion accessories’ on Google.
But vegans need fear frumpy fashion accessories no more. As part of a wider conscious clothing movement, designer Emily Jane Williams is working hard to create stylish vegan bags – meaning you no longer have to settle for some dull laptop bag just because Stella McCartney’s starting price is the same as your monthly rent.
The make-up artist turned fashion designer has dipped into her mother’s textile trade to produce a collection of affordable and beautifully designed leatherette accessories for women of many professions. Women Emily likes to call ‘The Female Boss.’
“The whole collection is about empowering entrepreneurial and ambitious women with fashionable, cool, classy and cruelty-free products,” she explains.
The leatherette collection features holographic totes, metallic laptop bags and snakeskin print clutches. It’s so positive to see a vegan fashionista has stepped up to recognise that fashion accessories don’t have to use animals at any stage of their production (aside of inspiration) to create product that is just as luxurious as those born in high fashion.
“There is so much more flexibility with fabrics that are not animal produced. You can play around with them to make incredible prints and designs that are as just as good quality as leather but no cruelty,” explains Emily.
“In fact, using the snakeskin print is almost saying ‘look you don’t need to kill an animal to have something as beautiful.’ You can mirror wildlife to show the beauty created when nature and fashion is combined.”
You can tell by the tone of Emily’s voice that she is extremely passionate about veganism and how it should have a greater presence within the industries she works in: fashion and beauty. And even though Emily only transitioned into a vegan two and a half years ago after living with a house full of vegans she is determined to lift the ‘luxury’ label that is heavily associated with ‘real leather’: “Fur and leather have always been seen as this really luxurious expensive product, but people don’t even seem to connect the fact it is an animal. It really frustrates me. Just like when people say to me ‘I have a really nice leather jacket’, I can’t help but think did it even cross their mind it’s a cow?” explains Emily.
“If you can buy something just as beautiful minus the cruelty within its production, surely the world would be a much better place.”
Yes. The world would be a better place. Which makes it is such a shame there is still such a small contingent of vegan fashion bloggers, designers, make-up brands and artists. In fact, it’s a shame that still in society today there is the knowledge that animals are slaughtered for human use, and so many choose to wear garments that could have involved the skinning of cat, dog or cow. A lot of it comes down to knowledge.
If more designers cottoned on to the scientific research that is going into plant-based material production they would understand, like Emily, that it has the capability to replace traditional exclusive fabrics like leather and fur. FYI: you could be wearing a t-shirt made out of pineapple, mushroom, hemp or even cork in a few years. How fascinating is that?
“Imagine if Kanye West launched a mushroom bag,” says Emily. “Imagine how many people would buy into that.”
The influential power creative industries like fashion and music have over us humans is phenomenal. And whilst Emily Jane Williams may not be on the same global scale as Kayne, her products are beautifully filling a gap in the market that was crying out to be catered for. They’re chic, affordable, and animal-free, whilst appealing to many different types of women. Now, that might appear like baby steps in vegan style market that has the potential to be massive, but Emily believes we have to change the way veganism is endorsed and viewed in the fashion industry before we can take bigger strides forward.
“I call it cruelty-free rather than vegan because I have found that when you say vegan you get put into a box. And people almost retract from you and think ‘oh she’s going to try and turn me, oh she’s judging me’,” says Emily. “But when you say cruelty-free, it is a bit different, as no-one likes to think that something they have paid for has had cruelty in its production.”
Naturally, Emily and I agree that perhaps if we chose vegan terminology more wisely to avoid out-dated stereotypes or associations, the animal-cruelty free mindset would be seeing growth on more than just dinner plates. We then went on, and spent a few minutes racking our brains to see if we could come up a better terminology than ‘fake leather’, or ‘pleather’. Could we think of one? No. But we will. Because arguably, the cheap connotations associated with fabrics that aren’t sourced from animals is probably one of the biggest factors as to why people still opt for the killing of a cow over compassion towards one when they fancy a new jacket or pair of boots. How sad is that?
“It has got to a point in evolution where people are so blinded. Like, McDonalds just call them nuggets now. They don’t call them chicken nuggets,” Emily adds. “The world has almost blinded everyone to the fact that they are using and killing animals for so many different things.”