Put away the meat dress: It's time for Lady Gaga & everyone else to embracevegan fashion
Veganism is really more than just food and diet, although the emphasis seems mostly on what we decide is acceptable to put inside our bodies, literally.
And focusing on food makes perfect sense. Food is directly tied to inherited cultural traditions and to our distinctive personal palates, as well as having a direct influence on our health and well-being.
As the medical community continues to research, there is more and more evidence that the more fruits and vegetables you eat the longer you will probably live. Not only is the Standard American Diet killing us, but now, our indulgent meat-centric dinner plate is killing our neighbors. So, as we get fatter, get more diseases and our life expectancy possibly falls for the first time in our history, we need to make some changes.
But vegging out does not end at dinner.
It is a lifestyle that advocates cruelty-free living in all accounts, wherever possible. But sometimes the line between living philosophy and fanaticism is blurred and up to discussion.
When it comes to fashion and personal items, there is a higher chance of being oblivious to the origins of the product. Especially as the source gets abstracted through the manufacturing and design process, all we see is a cream, a jacket, a shoe or a piece of jewelry rather than the animal it came from.
Unless you are of course Lady Gaga, who recently sported a rather beefy gown at MTV Video Music Awards. Raising some eyebrows, turning on meat fans and disgusting others to gag-like convulsions, she perhaps exhibited an unhygienic exaggeration of how the western world lives, and lives daily.
Gaga explained the outfit to vegan Ellen Degeneres. “If we don’t fight for our rights, pretty soon we’re going to have as much rights as the meat on our bones.”
As much as I keep on attempting to find an accurate and successful metaphor, I fail miserably.
Ellen’s kale skirt and bikini was a clever response. As much as I enjoyed the vegan peacock-like parody, there is more to vegan fashion than outfits that will eventually stink and wither away exposing unmentionables.
Can you be a fashionable veganista? Yes. It’s not an oxymoron.
And it doesn’t mean you have to look like an earth loving unshaven unkept hippie wearing hemp, sporting dreads, while smoking something in a bowl. It is getting easier to do as nowadays, delicious and stylish vegan and eco-friendly products continue to enter the mainstream and go beyond just function.
I remember the day I bought my first pleather pants. Sashaying down a perimeter street during a brief encounter at Michigan State University, a thrifty storefront prevented me from walking by "just looking" at the lovely display of clothes in desperately need of some love.
“Come on in my child,” it whispered in a stylish accent with a hint of stereotypical gay. I had no choice. And while on a budget, I immediately fell in love with both a black and a burgundy pair. My inability to leave one behind made just a slight dent in my credit card: only $24.99 each. Even the pair of thick black fashion spectacles, the kind that make the I-haven’t-showered-in-three-days look seem groovy, were more expensive.
So the quality wasn’t great. But secretly, when I wore them, I would hope that everyone would think they were made of real leather.
It’s peculiar how we parade belongings, caressing them while explaining that this belt is crocodile, or that handbag is snakeskin, these cowboy boots are made with ostrich leather, this fox fur coat and that silk blouse.
And I am at fault as well as I get allured by an impeccably designed Hermes silk tie, an elegant and sexy wool tuxedo, and a timeless black Tahitian pearl necklace with a deep mysterious luster and slight green overtones.
Perhaps it's a farfetched fancy with a hint of naive child-like aspirations, but I hope the day comes when we are proud of our possessions’ other attributes.
“You love my over-this fab shoulder city bag? It’s eco-friendly and no animals were involved in the manufacturing process. And these delicious come-do-me platform boots? Like, totally vegan.”
Ethical consumerism is certainly not a new concept. We practice discriminating behavior everyday when we consciously choose a local business, a local product, seek fair trade practices, organic, free-range, grass-fed, and more recently, B corporation products and services, among others.
So why would vegan clothing be such a fanatic or extreme concept?
"There’s never been so much buzz surrounding issues that lead to awareness of the vegan lifestyle — from helping to reverse global warming, to living a long & healthy life, to eliminating animal suffering," Gina Ferraraccio, vegan designer and founder of Cri de Coeur, explains.
Cri de Coeur, literally “cry from the heart,” specializes in vegan eco-friendly stylish women’s footwear from casual to chic.
"People are curious and seeking info on easy ways they can be a part of this movement. Buying a non-leather shoe or handbag that’s just as fashionable as its leather counterparts is one of those ways."
San Francisco’s first vegan fashion show is scheduled for Oct. 2 in Golden Gate Park and will feature couture by Cri de Coeur, Pansy Maiden, Melie Bianco, Lion’s Share Indus, Reco Jeans, Mission Savvy and Vaute Couture. In Spring of 2011, organized by Terre di mezzo Eventi and Isola della Moda, Milan's "So Critical So Fashion" will feature 30 green designers that cater to ethical consumers concerned with socially and environmentally responsible products.
"Cri de Coeur's Fall 2010 Season is inspired by the idea of women on the frontier, a little rough and unkempt, but still edgy and forward thinking. Hearts of Darkness, our diffusion line, is glam and luxe — lots of rich textures, but the styles are all very wearable," Ferraraccio says. While Cris de Coeur prides on being "eco-friendly", they can totally stand on their own as contemporary, on-trend fashion products, green or not.
Pansy Maiden, subscribing to a less-is-more philosophy, creates fun and casual bags and totes.
Leanne Mai-ly Hilgart, founder of Vaute Couture and named one of seven Best Emerging Green Designers of 2009 by eco-fashion website Ecouterre, reminds us to read labels and seek waxed cotton (leather alternative), organic canvas, bamboo, hemp, tussah (silk alternative) and acrylic, while avoiding angora (rabbit fur), cashmere (sheep), shearling (sheepskin), fur, leather and down.
In Houston, you can find Melie Bianco’s whimsical array of delicious handbags at Hemline in Rice Village, as well as the Stacia Eco Green Collection, inspired by California beach lifestyle, the designs use bamboo, soybean and seaweed yarns — sustainable fibers that feel great on your skin.
Vegan fashions come in a variety of price points, from the affordable to the indulgent. But typically, small businesses using specialty fabrics will yield higher costs per piece.
We consistently pay higher prices for in-season designer labels in the name of luxury, status, and personal expression. Why not pony-up in an effort to make arguably better choices?
"More and more fashion brands are incorporating vegan materials into their line, whether it’s their intention to be vegan or not," Ferraraccio says. "The materials are becoming more widely available as people see how their benefits outweigh those of leather, wool and fur."
When it comes to fashion industry’s practices, are you a discriminating buyer or a blind shopper?