“What do you mean, vegan clothes? Pretty sure my coat isn’t made out of beef jerky,” says the skeptic. Yeah, buddy, if I had a dollar for every time I heard that one throughout the history of my animal product–free lifestyle. If something comes from an animal, it ain’t vegan. Period! So that means there are a hell of a lot of animal-derived goods on the current market. And it’s not just the obvious leather shoes and fur coats we vegan shoppers should watch out for. There are also wool sweaters (that means angora, cashmere, and mohair), shampoo containing silk protein, makeup made with carmine (a red dye from South American beetles. I know, right?), and anything tested on animals.I admit, these guidelines can be pretty limiting when scouring the city for the perfect coat to protect us from the treacherous chill. But that doesn’t mean finding vegan-friendly wear is out of reach. To save you the quest(yeah, we vegans can be lazy too), I procured a few local artisans and sellers that will blow your non-wool socks off.
Regardless of your stance on secondhand animal-derived fabrics (it’s a thing – vegans will disagree on wearing previously-owned leather boots until the end of time), shopping vintage is always a surefire way to score some vegan and eco-friendly duds. Alina Gorbaty and Laura Webb, the ladies of Mission-based Ragabond, have an eye for pre-loved threads and a knack for upcycling their finds. Ragabond’s covetable collection of animal-free materials and vegan-friendly, reconstructed pieces take vintage to another level of compassionate shopping. I was intrigued, so they let me peruse the racks in their Capp Street studio, where they host shop-by-appointment customers. My guidelines: no silk, no wool. No problem.
Alina and Laura redesigned this silky-but-not-silk, floral frock to tone down its ’80s conception and make it a little more wearable. I paired it with one of Ragabond’s handmade originals – if there is a drapey, black cardigan in the equation, I am all over it. Even more enticing that it imitates wool.
Speaking of wool substitutes – bigger is always better. The frigid city hills are no match for an oversized faux-woolen cape and a velvety-soft shift dress.
It’s always a gamble with chiffon materials – typically it’s either an animal byproduct (read: silk) or a crappy cotton blend. I got lucky on this one – Ragabond’s oversized, sheer getupis 100 percent silkworm-free, yet somehow manages to retain a silky touch. Throw on a trench coat (this one happens to feel like some kind of suede blend, but it absolutely is not) and the vegan-friendly ensemble is complete.
When the iconic Dr. Martens came out with an entire vegan line, cows everywhere collectively breathed a sigh of relief. Score one for Team Vegan. I may be biased since Docs are pretty much the only shoes I wear (I know what I like, okay?!), but DM’s leather-imitation boots and flats are totally deceptive. And these aren’t made out of any old pleather monstrosity, but rather a soft, high-quality material called Felix Rub Off. You can score these Mary Janes and eight-hole lace-ups – along with a few other leather-free styles – at the Dr. Martens storefront in the Upper Haight.
The San Francisco based ModCloth has plenty of national cred under its (synthetic leather) belt. It’s a dealer of all things retro-inspired and has set the sartorial tempo for the closets of indie chicks from sea to shining sea. ModCloth also happens to be encouragingly vegan-friendly, as it stays away from leather pieces and stocks well-respected vegan brands for the masses.
I’m usually a neutral color palette kind of gal, but these sunflowers on acid are awesome. And vegan, of course! Also, note the Matt & Nat handbag. It’s part of an upscale all-vegan venture that somehow fashioned a leather substitute from recycled plastic bottles. I found this white miracle and some of its pseudo-leather brethren at Flight 001 in Hayes Valley.
Leather skirts are one of those vintage phenomena that could easily go terribly wrong – but I think this pleather one hits the mark with an updated silhouette and convincing leatherlike texture. What’s more rock ’n’ roll than saving the baby cows? A silklike printed blouse is its perfect companion.
The faux-wool/silk combo seems to be a theme here, as this ’60s-inspired frock uses ’em both. ModCloth also hawks its fair share of accessories – like the entirely vegan handbag line Melie Bianco, who created this trusty top-handle tote.
No cruelty-free getup is complete without some animal-friendly jewelry to match. Valencia Street’s Love & Luxe is a goldmine for the conscious consumer – curated by Betsy Barron, the shop’s collection of San Francisco-based, wearable art focuses on reclaimed metals and unexpected materials for a vegan spin on conventional leather-clad pieces. Betsy is also a prolific jewelry designer in her own right – these bronze hoops, like much of her collections, are inspired by nature. They’re twigs!
Local jewelry artist Even Howard of Nadene has also perfected the art of vegan design. She uses wool-free yarn to create inventive crocheted masterpieces in the form of one-of-a-kind collar necklaces, bracelet cuffs, and rings.
Some other Love & Luxe artifacts: metalsmith Samantha Grisdale’s snake bangles, metal jewel pendants by Elise Moran, Jade Mellor’s Technicolor resin rings, and a necklace that Ashley Buchanan hand-cut from brass sheet metal.
It isn’t difficult to shop cruelty-free when you know where to look. Artisans and designers – especially in our fair city – are making their wares available to vegans and other discerning consumers, and gone are the days of the hemp-laden hippy.
I know threads aren’t the only things on your necessities list. For lanolin and beeswax-free, all-in-one face moisturizer/hair de-frizz/body salve/aftershave – the whole shebang – pick up By Nieves’ handmade The Balm from merchants like Park and Pond. Vegan lip balm and cleaning products are just a visit away to Hayes Valley – Nancy Boy sells some all-natural gems. And don’t forgot The Detox Market on Valencia – the entirely vegan shop is always packed with organic and cruelty-free goods like makeup, toothpaste, and perfume.
You can peruse Ragabond’s throwback designs by appointment, admire Dr. Martens’ vegan digs on Haight, and shop ModCloth and Nadene online. Matt & Nat’s plastic bottle bags are available at Flight 001, and there are piles of creatively cruelty-free jewels at Love & Luxe.