IS A LUXURY VEGAN WARDROBE EVEN POSSIBLE?
Read: "Can you have it all?" But who says you have to kill animals to look chic af?
Curating a fully vegan wardrobe is a piece of cake…at least if you read our step-by-step guide. (If you missed that post, stop here for a sec and read through it first, k?) But curating a luxe vegan wardrobe? Nearly impossible since leather, fur, silk, cashmere, and other fabrics made of animal products are synonymous with luxury…right?
We couldn’t end the party after only showing you how to nail the process of transitioning into a vegan wardrobe. That would be too basic. Besides, just in case we didn’t make it absolutely clear in that post that you don’t have to sacrifice aesthetics or quality when curating your vegan wardrobe, we wanted to give you a Part 2 of sorts. You can for sure have a modern, elevated, and sophisticated style and commit to wearing only cruelty-free gear while being cruelty-free. You just need to know what to look for and where to shop. Trust us, we’re transitioning to having a fully vegan wardrobe and it’s way easier than we thought it would be.
Our journey to a vegan wardrobe
When we were in high school the only budget we had for clothes and accessories was the money we would get from our family for our birthday and Christmas. Since funds were low, we would shop end-of-season and holiday sales from contemporary-priced retailers (like Macy’s and Express). But then emerged fast fashion, the retail revolution where you could get faux leather pants that looked like the real deal for a great price. So we jumped on this train, rode it all through college. Still, we always had our eyes on luxury fashion. A few years post our college years, we actually started investing a few pieces: a gorgeous carry-all designer handbag, two genuine leather moto jackets, and a handful of designer Italian heels. We were so excited and looking forward to building a solid collection of pieces we adored.
Then we decided to go vegan. Like literally months after making those huge investments. It was tough parting ways with all those fantasies that had been cultivating in our heads for years. We had to reprogram our minds and adjust how we perceived luxury. TBH, letting go of the idea that luxury was exclusive to leather, suede, silk, shearling, and wool took a minute. By quitting them, we were basically at square one. We had to go back to faux leather and materials that emulated silk and wool, which was tantamount to being knocked back down a massive mountain by a major gust of wind or something. It was like all we had been striving for was pointless. But we sucked it up and became determined to build a vegan wardrobe that was true to our style and could compete with a high-end wardrobe that used fabrics made from animal products. Let’s be clear: just because we had to go back to faux didn’t mean we were going back to cheap – the two are not synonymous. We were done with low-quality clothes, period.
Just because you go vegan doesn’t mean you have to lose your identity or change it. Instead, you have to find ways to make compassionate clothing and accessories for your true identity. Here’s how:
Look for 100% cotton
Vegan fabrics consist mostly of synthetic fibers. A few exceptions include cotton, linen, and tencel. If you’d like a full list of vegan fabrics, check out our comprehensive guide here: Guide To Vegan Fabrics. Because they’re almost exclusively synthetic fabrics, they’re often much cheaper in price as well as quality than natural fabrics. That’s great for our wallets, but unfortunately it means using materials that seldom look as luxurious or high-quality as those materials made from animal skin, hair, and fur.
That’s why cotton is a great go-to vegan fabric when after a higher-quality look for your vegan wardrobe. Be assured that cotton is not just for t-shirt-and-jeans vibes. If you want to look chic and sophisticated when wearing 100% cotton, it’s all about the cut. Choose pieces with strong, clean lines and stylistic instead of unstructured or slouchy pieces. These elements will keep your look from seeming too laid-back or frumpy.
Organic cotton is the best option for your vegan wardrobe as it’s much easier on our planet. Eileen Fischer is great for incorporating organic in her collections. Honestly, a lot of the pieces are very casual and they are pricey because of the superior quality, but if you hunt around enough, you will stumble on a gem every so often that’s ideal for your wardrobe. Zara also incorporates some designs made from organic cotton if you’re after a more affordable option.
Make sure clothes are sewn well
When looking for high-quality anything for your wardrobe, you should consider construction almost right away. After you decide you like the aesthetic of a certain piece and before you take it to the fitting room to try it on, turn it inside out and scrutinize the seams (you’ll have to take your chances when you’re shopping online). Look for any loose threads or poor stitching. These are telltale signs that a piece wasn’t made with durability in mind. In most cases, if these seams look pathetic, it’s because the item was made to be worn once or a couple of times before being disposed.
It doesn’t matter how cute or pretty a piece is if it’s only going to last in your closet for 2.5 seconds. It’s not only a waste of money, but it’s also a big, fat, bloated headache to constantly have to fill gaps in your wardrobe. Save yourself the dollars and the pain by exclusively adding pieces to your closet that are properly sewn with care. (BTW, we go way more in-depth on analyzing the quality of garments in our free 10-day email masterclass YIW. There’s actually two sessions of the series dedicated to the topic. You can join here: Join Your Ideal Wardrobe
Cut and silhouette
With the exception of silk, strong, solid fabrics usually look more expensive than flimsy fabrics. (For a vegan wardrobe try a satin blend to emulate silk.) Flimsy cuts or fabrics tend to give off a more casual, laid-back vibe. On the other hand, hefty fabrics and pieces with strong silhouettes typically look more high-quality. Structured silhouettes and pieces with exquisite tailoring like a classic Balmain double-breasted blazer (more on that below) will be excellent for keeping you just on the right side of sophisticate without making you look stuffy or like you tried really hard.
Find good vegan leather
Texture is key when developing an elevated style. It’s definitely an element you’ll want to play up when curating your vegan wardrobe. Which is why incorporating some faux leather pieces into your wardrobe is pretty much crucial; it’s a fabric you can wear year-round and doesn’t take much (or any) effort to style at all.
When we first started hearing the term ‘vegan’ leather, we gave it the screw face. We were like, “Well is it real leather or faux leather?…and if it is faux leather, why not give the material its own name and not a term that implies it’s a fake, low brow version?” We were pleased to find that Joseph Altuzarra agrees with me on this. But we digress. After looking into it briefly, we did notice that the brands and designers who used the term ‘vegan’ to describe their artificial leather garments were the ones who were putting out designs that were the most modern and replicated their animal skin counterparts the closest. So guys, as we suspected, ‘vegan’ leather nothing more than a euphemism for a material that is designed to resemble real leather yet made with no animal products (or by-products). It certainly is more appealing to find a jacket labeled as vegan leather than pleather (cringe) or faux leather, don’t you think?
But beware – all vegan leathers are not created equal. Vegan leather can be made from a few different materials. PVC is a kind of plastic that is almost identical to the look and feel of leather. But it’s extremely harmful to the environment so please, avoid it if you can.
Skip fast fashion brands
Often, the fast fashion brands that offer modern, on-trend clothing and accessories steadily put out collections of well designed, but poorly made pieces so we can get them at really affordable prices. Almost everything is made from synthetics, so it’s mostly all cruelty-free. But the problem is, the quality element is simply not there. So while the clothes look really good, they don’t last in your wardrobe. You want to make sure you’re getting pieces that you can keep on rotation for multiple seasons. That way you will definitely get your money’s worth. So skip the big box stores when building the foundation of your vegan wardrobe. Once you’ve gotten a solid structure developed, then you can go back and add in some cheaper, trendier pieces.
P.S. If you want some tips on how to ween yourself off of fast fashion, go check out this post. It’ has everything you need to know.
Make use of filters when shopping online
Filters are powerful tools when shopping, yet often overlooked and unused. Not only do they save you time perusing what on some sites can seem like an endless scroll (Revolve, we love you but we’re giving you the side eye), but they are great when targeting certain pieces because they eliminate everything you don’t want. You might think using filters are exclusively for streamlining your shopping trips, but when looking for vegan clothes, it’s amazing. ASOS has a filter called (eco) which cuts out all their merchandise that’s not suitable for your vegan wardrobe. There are even some sites that allow you to refine your search results by fabric, which is legit perfect.
Splurge on luxury vegan items
Nothing will elevate your vegan wardrobe more than an actual taste of pure luxury. In most cases, you are just paying for a label – we all know that, okay? But it still stands true that certain labels and pieces come along with a certain status that can instantly add a high-end edge to your vegan wardrobe.
Unfortunately, for accessories like bags and shoes, most are solely made with leather and suede. So in this category it will definitely be slim pickings. But thanks to Stella McCartney and her consistently 100% vegan accessories label (she does use wool, silk, etc. in her apparel, though), you can add a gorgeous luxury handbag that has the status of an IT bag to your wardrobe.
But you know a great place to start when adding luxury to your vegan wardrobe? Designer sunglasses. They’re not just saviors when you’re on a time crunch and have to leave the apartment without filling your brows or winging your liner. High-end frames have this amazing ability to completely pull an entire look together with minimal effort. The best thing about adding a pair of high-end designer sunglasses or even optic frames to your wardrobe is that you can get a pair generally under $300. Of course some are more expensive, but if we’re talking a classic pair of Raybans or a statement pair of Celine sunnies, then it’s definitely affordable.
If you’re worried about spending a lot of money on something and regretting it, read this guide and you’ll be covered.
Invest in designer/fine jewelry
Jewelry is an instant way to elevate your vegan wardrobe for the obvious reasons, but contrary belief, you don’t have to be dripping in $10 dollars in diamonds a la Kim K. West. It’s smart to invest in jewelry pieces that speak to your personality and your personal style aesthetic is great because the majority of the design rarely go out of style. If you thoughtfully curate in pieces with classic appeal/design, you will be able to wear them essentially forever (or until you lose them if you’re like us!).
A no-fail strategy is to start out by building a capsule collection of designer costume jewelry since these pieces will be less expensive. Next you can move to to adding in special pieces like 18-carat gold, a pair of pearls, a yes, a touch of diamonds.
The premium t-shirt
The best t-shirts are made from cotton, agreed? Okay, you might be thinking, “But why expensive t-shirts? Why spend a lot of money on something so basic/plain?” The reason is CPW (cost-per-wear). Here’s the thing — when building your vegan wardrobe, you want to put your money where you’re going to get what it’s worth. Yes, a killer pair of stilettos sounds like a good idea in theory, but compared to your t-shirts, which are you going to wear the most? Generally speaking, our t-shirts are the workhorses of our closets. This means they get styled the most because they are so versatile. Pieces that rank high in versatility are the ones where you should be willing to pay more for. If you have a casual or smart-casual uniform, then you’ll definitely want to splurge more on premium t-shirts because you’ll get so much wear out of them. Also, you don’t want you have to repurchase t-shirts again and again because they shrink in the wash or fall apart at the seams or just don’t fit right. Annoying.
LNA makes great basic and not-so-basic t-shirts. James Perse is also a great brand to check out. Of course they’re all vegan as they’re made from cotton. And sure, you can pick up some from Target for a fraction of the cost, but girl, a t-shirt from Target won’t lay on your curves the way a premium design will.
Get a Balmain blazer
Because we are talking a luxury vegan wardrobe, right? Balmain is hands down in the top three of our favorite designers (oh, and if you’re wondering, company is Saint Laurent and Stella McCartney). We promise you this isn’t a Kardashian-Jenner thing. Oliver Rousteing is nothing short of a genius and we’ve been been a loyal member of the #BalmainArmy for years now, coveting Balmain’s signature structured designs since he was appointed CD back in 2009.
The double breasted blazer is cut to perfection – no blazer rivals the impeccable lines. It’s the holy grail piece of any vegan wardrobe since Balmain makes a version that’s 100% cotton. (It’s also more than a grand less expensive than the wool version, which is still expensive, but much more attainable). Speaking of the cost, when you look at the price tag, try to consider it in terms of cost-per-wear. A classic tailored blazer adds a just the right amount of posh to any look. It can be incorporated into your everyday work wardrobe or used to smarten up any casual off-duty look. The vegan cotton version is super wearable since the fabric is much lighter and can be worn year-round. (Btw, the velvet version is also vegan and the perfect alternative for A/W.)
If you have the means to splurge or are ready to commit to saving up for one of these babies (like us!), please do your vegan wardrobe the biggest favor ever and invest in a Balmain blazer. It’s a piece you’ll have forever as long as you care for it properly.
Guys, if you have additional ideas on how to incorporate luxury into a vegan wardrobe, please add them below. Also, let us know if you think curating a luxe vegan wardrobe is possible. Below in the SHOP THE STORY section, you’ll find an edit of our current favorite luxury pieces that are 100% vegan and will elevate any in-progress vegan wardrobe. Happy perusing!
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