In the wake of COP26, this past year has seen us talk about the need for sustainable, ethical and cruelty-free fashion options more than any other, whether it’s through the stratospheric rise of the rental and second-hand revolution, the recognition of the devastating impact fast fashion is having on the planet or the excitement surrounding a new generation of emerging designers who are placing sustainability at the core of everything they do. So it was the perfect time for the arrival of the PETA Fashion Awards 2021, which champion brands around the world who are taking industry-changing strides towards creating a more sustainable fashion future.
Held every year, these awards were designed to celebrate the big-name brands and forward-thinking emerging designers that are working to eradicate animal cruelty within the fashion industry, as well as those creating pieces with materials that are less harmful to the environment. At a time when it has never been more important for us to sit up and listen, PETA is shining a light on those who are striving to make a real difference. Here are this year’s 12 award winners and the names you need to know about.
PETA’s cruelty-free fashion brands 2021
Luxury fashion group Kering owns some of the most prestigious labels in the business, from Bottega Veneta and Balenciaga to Alexander McQueen and Saint Laurent, so when they do something people take note. Many of their brands have been phasing out fur for years, including Gucci, who were one of the first designer labels to ditch the material in 2017, but it was only in September of this year that the group’s CEO and chairman Francois-Henri Pinault announced that ‘fur has no place in luxury’, officially banning it from the Autumn/Winter 2022 collections onwards.
Angora has long been sought after as a luxury material, known for its silky softness and incredible lightness. What’s less well known, however, is the cruel process that’s used to harvest it, where rabbits are kept in farms to have their hair ripped from their bodies. This starts when they are just eight weeks old and is repeated every few months. Many brands, including Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger, had already banned the use of the material in their collections and now luxury powerhouses Valentino and Armani have followed suit, in a move that is set take the industry one step closer towards fully eradicating this inhumane practice.
Sustainability is a key pillar at the Italian fashion house, with Gucci announcing a ten-year plan to reinforce a culture of purpose in 2015, promising to reduce their total environmental footprint by 40% by 2025 and develop new eco-friendly sourcing solutions, raw materials and processes. As part of that initiative, they’ve launched Demetra, their own in-house vegan leather crafted from 77% raw, planted-based materials. The revolutionary new textile has taken years of dedicated research to perfect and will be used to create the brand’s coveted signature accessories.
As one of the UK’s most vocal environmental activists and the queen of eco fashion, it came as no surprise that Stella McCartney was honoured at this year’s awards. Her label first started utilising sustainable practices and materials long before it was widely accepted, whether through her use of Econyl, a fabric made from recycled plastic bottles, or her innovation in creating a sustainable faux fur, Koba, made using 37% plant-based materials. Now she’s turned her hand to vegan mushroom leather, crafting the Frayme bag-of-the-moment out of Mylo, which is made from mycelium threads.
Cult Copenhagen-based brand Ganni has sustainable practices at its core, whether it’s through their recent Re-Cut collection, where they upcycled some of their most popular past-season pieces to create a new capsule range, or their collaboration with sustainable London-based label Ahluwalia, which saw the two work closely together on a collection that reimagined Ganni’s surplus stock. Earlier this year the Danish brand made the decision to go leather-free due to the material’s negative impact on the environment and animals, instead using vegan alternatives such as leather substitutes made from wine grapes.
This cult east London label has become an Instagram sensation ever since Kendall Jenner and Bella Hadid were spotted wearing its signature swirl-patterned knitted dresses. The vegan brand is as well known for its eco credentials as it is for its dreamy 70s-inspired designs: they produce just two collections a year in small, considered runs, use e-flow technology – a sustainable textile solution – to reduce water consumption by up to 95%, and don’t use a stitch of wool in their animal-free knitwear, instead favouring man-made or recycled materials.
Sportswear brands have long been at the forefront of the sustainable fashion revolution, always on the lookout for innovative new materials and practices to work with. Case in point is Nike’s recent Happy Pineapple collaboration with forward-thinking B Corp label Ananas Anam, the makers of Piñatex, a pioneering natural animal-free textile made from waste pineapple leaf fibres. Sustainably-sourced and cruelty-free, the material is a brilliant alternative for leather and has been used by Nike to update several of their most popular classic designs to create stylish, eco-friendly versions.
Though this British footwear brand was only launched last year, it has already made significant waves in the world of sustainable fashion, making a name for itself as one of the finest luxury vegan offerings around. All of their shoes are made from 100% vegan leather, ranging from chic stilettos and ankle boots to loafers and trainers, all of which are ethically handmade made in Spain from cruelty-free materials. The brand prioritises recycled and recyclable options wherever possible, with the soles of all their shoes made from 100% recycled material.
Founded in 2017 by designer Matt Oliver, this London-based accessories brand was created to provide beautiful, functional products that cause as little environmental impact as possible. All of their accessories, from wallets and card holders to laptop sleeves and pouches, have been created using bio-based materials such as apple leather, wood and organic cotton, as well as recycled fabrics. They’re constantly striving to find new ways to move towards a fully circular economy and can trace back all of the ingredients in their products, so you always know exactly what you’re buying.
First launched in 1965 and named after the legendary American tennis player, Stan Smiths have become one of Adidas’s most iconic shoes, instantly recognised all over the world. Now the sportswear brand has updated the beloved design with a vegan makeover, creating a whole range available in animal-free materials. While the classic style may look the same, each pair has been fully redesigned in keeping with the brand’s commitment to use only recycled polyester by 2024, with the upper part of the shoe made from vegan leather and the outsole crafted from rubber waste.
This Italian label was one of the first in the industry to go fur-free almost a decade ago in 2012, and the brand has continued to pave the way for cruelty-free designs, subsequently launching leather-free collections and dropping the use of angora and feathers completely. Founded by the eponymous Bologna-born designer in 1995, Franchi has long been outspoken about the use of animals in the fashion industry and runs a foundation that supports homeless animals in Italy and around the world, including by building a sanctuary for dogs rescued from China’s Yulin dog-eating festival.