Like so many other women, I’m a total fashion-aholic. I read every style magazine I can get my hands on, I follow every Fashion Week religiously and I can’t resist the thrill of a brand-new dress. I’ve even made fashion my career: I have a degree in Fashion Marketing and Merchandising and have spent the past two years working as web editor for a big online fashion retailer. A job that “a million girls would kill for!” And for a while, I was happy.
After going vegan, however, I found myself in somewhat of a dilemma: all of a sudden, it didn’t feel okay to write about “soft calf-leather shoes” and “the new shearling jackets” all day. If I wasn’t going to wear it, I reasoned, why should I dedicate my career to creating material that contributes to selling it? Walking into work every morning in my faux-suede heels and carrying my leather-free bag, I felt like a hypocrite. Meeting with clients in their showrooms and hearing everyone ooh and aah over the new collection of fur coats ruined more than one day at work for me. I went home with a nagging feeling that whispered, “you’re not being true to yourself.”
Trouble is, writing is what I do best, and fashion is the field that most clearly stands out on my résumé. Plus, I happen to love it! I don’t think that veganism and fashion must necessarily be mutually exclusive: why should choosing a compassionate life mean we have to sacrifice style? One day I had a light-bulb moment: there had to be other people out there that felt the same way. I couldn’t possibly be the only one.
In my free time, I started investigating vegan fashion and looking to connect with people that were into style with a difference. I started reading cruelty-free blogs, following vegan accounts on Twitter and volunteering with animal rights groups. I found out there were tons of animal-friendly fashion options out there – but they didn’t get noticed as much as their non-vegan counterparts. When I started a new blog, Coffee and Heels, I dedicated a great deal of it to exploring cruelty-free fashion and beauty and sharing my discoveries with my readers. I’m so happy about the positive response I have gotten – both vegan and non-vegan readers have emailed, tweeted and commented on my posts telling me how much they enjoy what I do, which makes me feel like I’m making a difference. It’s tiny, but it’s still a difference.
As for work, I went freelance for a million different reasons, but I still have clients that sell animal products. I try to not let it get me down – work is work, and if I burst into tears every time some copy about leather pants showed up in my inbox, I’d be unhappy and unemployed – but I do have my limits. Once, a client asked me to do a selection of fur for an online shopping page. It was a really big client and losing them was quite a gamble. But I just couldn’t go through with it, so I told them no. And guess what? They respected my views and kept working with me. Sometimes, people aren’t as narrow-minded as we’d expect them to be.
If you’re vegan in a fashion office, here’s a couple of tips from someone who’s been there, worn that and gotten some compliments for it:
Look into cruelty-free fashion brands
Got some cash to spend? Look no further than Stella McCartney. Her leather- and fur-free designs are a compassionate fashionista’s dream. If you’re looking for some edgy footwear and a cute bag, check out Matt and Nat, Beyond Skin and OlsenHaus. On a budget? Low-cost fashion chains such as ASOS and H&M carry lots of vegan-friendly options.
Be a trendsetter
When you walk in the office wearing a faux-leather jacket or a cool pair of fake-suede wedges from a cruelty-free brand, your coworkers are bound to be curious – and you just might start a trend or two.
Don’t feel guilty
Once I realized just how many animal lives the fashion industry claimed, my initial reaction was, “I’m quitting my job and applying to work for a charity”. While that might be a great idea, the fashion industry needs more compassionate people. So be proud of your love for fancy frocks and all things style – by spreading a positive message in your field, you can make a difference.
Tweak the trends
Obviously, if you work in fashion – or want to work in fashion – it’s part of your job to keep up with current trends. So stay on top of what’s in, and then tweak it to fit your compassionate lifestyle. You’ll never feel like you’re missing out.
Remember not to sacrifice style
You don’t have to dress frumpy and dumpy just because you’re vegan! Keep looking for the affordable, stylish options – they’re out there. Plus, if the people around you remember you as “that girl with the cute outfits” they might start viewing vegan fashion differently. Result!