By Leanne Mai-ly Hilgart, the designer behind VAUTE, the first all vegan label to show at N.Y. Fashion Week


A lot of people think a concern for animals only affects food choices. But more and more of us are striving to live in a way that doesn’t exploit animals in any arena, including what we wear. We refuse to wear anything that comes from an animal, including fur, leather, wool, angora, down, and silk.

It’s easy to think these fabrics are taken from animals in a kind way, but animals raised for fibers are looked at for how cheaply and quickly they can produce. Their well being is considered an extra cost, and they are always killed in the end.

That’s why I’ve dedicated the last seven years of my life to developing the future of fashion. I started VAUTE in 2008 to create winter coats that were warmer than wool and prettier than down. I want to inspire others to see that what they wear makes a difference. Fashion isn’t just art, it’s a complex industry that affects the earth, the workers, and animals involved through massive world wide production. One day, we’ll look at wearing animals as a thing of the past.

Today, ethical fashion is growing steadily. More celebrities are adopting a vegan lifestyle and requesting vegan shoes for the red carpet. More companies are starting each year to work on creating alternatives for different types of traditionally animal fiber apparel and fabrics, as well doing inspiring work in bio-tech and other innovations. A lot of vegan fashion companies are focusing on new environmentally-friendly textiles, and others focus on local production and living-wage production, or supporting communities of women in other countries.

This progress shows: in 2013, we were the first all-vegan label to show at New York Fashion Week.

Each daily choice adds up! Choosing compassion in what you wear is a simple step and a fun way to show you love all beings on this planet.


So, how do you incorporate more vegan fashion in your wardrobe?


When shopping, you can check labels the same way you do with food. Textiles typically go into three categories: animal, plant, and synthetic.

Shoes & Bags: Animal skins like leather and suede can be hiding in different parts of the shoe, so make sure to read the label (typically under the tongue, inside the shoe, or on the bottom) for “all man-made materials” or “fabric.”

Clothing: Sometimes animal fabrics are named something else so it’s hard to know that they are made from animals. These are all not vegan: Shearling, Angora, Cashmere, Wool, Leather, Silk, Pashmina, Mohair. Look instead for synthetics and plant based fibers like cotton, acrylic, polyester, bamboo, rayon, modal, nylon, tencel, and linen.

FAQ: Now that I know what goes on behind those leather boots or wool coat in my closet, what should I do?


Matt and Nat for guide

A: There are a few options. Some people overhaul their entire wardrobe all at once. If you choose to do this, you can donate or give away your shoes, bags, and coats, or sell them on or Another option is to just wear your non-vegan items until they are worn out, replacing them as you go. While new ethical fashion can be more expensive, you can invest in a piece or two you really love, and fill in your wardrobe with vintage or thrift. I have found many nylon, cotton, and acrylic sweaters thrifting from Minnesota to Portland. It’s important to figure out what works for you – there are no “right” or “wrong” answers. Living with compassion for the rest of your life will make a big difference!









Photos courtesy of: Top 3, VAUTE  (Leanne in office: Julia Cawley), bottom left, Matt & Nat