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The new guidelines for vegan fashion production

New guidelines have been set by the trade to ensure vegan fashions are truly 100% free of animal products.

The guidelines come at a time when demand for vegan fashion is soaring from retailers ranging from specialist independent brands to Marks & Spencer, Topshop and New Look. However, the fashion industry lags behind supermarkets, where one in five of all new products launched last year were vegan.

The new guidelines for the production of vegan fashion have been drawn up by the British Retail Consortium (BRC), the trade body for stores and online sellers, after being inundated with inquiries from fashion buyers trying to source their supplies in vegan products for the first time.

The process is more complex than simply eliminating popular materials such as leather, suede and wool. Companies must examine all materials used in a product, including the ingredients of the glues, dyes and waxes used.

The BRC warns retailers that they should not claim a product is sustainable simply because it is vegan - a definition that only means the product does not contain animal-derived materials or ingredients.

Items labeled vegan should also offer an alternative to something that is traditionally made with animal products.

Leah Riley Brown, sustainability policy adviser at the BRC, said if retailers followed the guidelines to the letter, shoppers could be 100% sure the products they were buying were truly vegan.

The Mintel study found that more than a third of fashion shoppers would like to spend their money in stores that do not use animal products. This trend has not gone unnoticed by retailers battling for sales: half of Marks & Spencer's shoes are now vegan and three of its top 10 best-selling bags this winter were also vegan.

Chana Baram, retail analyst at Mintel, said: “It is no longer enough for clothes to be reasonably priced or to reference the latest trends. Many young people today are susceptible to the 'Attenborough' or 'Greta' effects and are becoming much more aware of the negative effects of fast fashion. »

Scottish tights brand Snag, launched just 20 months ago, is on track to achieve sales of £20million this year. Its founder, Brie Read, says her tights, which are vegan and come in rainbow colors, have struck a chord with women frustrated with ill-fitting conservative hosiery.

Read says it was an active choice to ensure its products were vegan - some fashion is by accident rather than design. “For us, it was dyes,” she explained. “A lot of them aren't vegan, because they're made from ground up beetles. We must pay attention to the dyeing process and get very good cotton. »

Snag's business model involves interacting with potential buyers on social media daily. "We're very customer-based and a lot of them are vegan and ethically conscious," Read said. "They ask us every day, 'Are your tights vegan? ""

Mintel found that shoppers were confused by mixed messages about what is and what isn't sustainable and that the fashion industry needed to develop more specific industry-wide guidelines.

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