In this report, we investigate the current vegan trail blazers and how retailers are investing in animal-free fashion and beauty.
This year, Veganuary broke all records with 400,000 participants worldwide pledging to stick to a plant-based diet for the first month of the year. While the movement primarily affects the food industry, vegans are looking to incorporate their lifestyle into their wardrobes and makeup bags.
Vegans are shopping for cruelty-free cosmetics and spearheading the demand for alternatives to leathers, wool, silk and skins. Now an essential and growing market for fashion and beauty retailers to cater to.
Get a headstart on planning for the movement next year as we recap how retailers supported Veganuary in 2020, as well as the growth of animal-free products in major markets.
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Since 2018, continued growth has been noted in the US and UK. By the end of January, there was a 43% YoY increase in products described as ‘vegan’ stocked in the UK. In the US, this grew by 64%. According to last year’s Mintel research, the UK overtook Germany as the world leader for vegan food launches. A major market for cruelty-free fashion in its own right, the number of vegan products retailing online in Germany has grown 95% since 2018.
While this growth signals the fashion industry’s process of moving away from the use of animal hides in production, there is still the question around sustainability within vegan products. Designers are yet to find widely-available alternatives to vegan leathers and faux furs that are both cruelty-free and eco-friendly.
All eyes turn to Paris, which is poised to become the sustainable capital of fashion by 2024. With its focus on innovations for environmentally-friendly materials and sourcing, we can expect to see significant strides made in this area over the next four years. Established in this space, France saw a 132% increase in products described as ‘vegan’ YoY.
Another market to keep on your radar is Denmark. Outside of the region’s effortless Scandi style, Denmark is home to the Copenhagen Fashion Summit, the world’s leading business event on sustainability in fashion. In their 2019 CEO Agenda, they encouraged fashion retailers to push for industry standards for animal welfare and continue to research alternative solutions to fabrics. In the Danish market, EDITED tracked a 42% increase in products described as ‘vegan’ YoY.
Beauty dominates but footwearand accessories are growing
Under the ongoing consumer demand for cruelty-free products in the cosmetics industry, beauty vegan products surmount all other categories. Of vegan products available online at the end of January, the beauty sector makes up 66% in the US and 69% in the UK.
There is considerable growth in vegan-friendly footwear and accessories across both of these regions, with retailers investing in cruelty-free alternatives to leather and suede. The number of shoes available described as ‘vegan’ increased by 27% YoY in the US and 36% in the UK.
Throughout January, mass market retailers such as New Look and Lulu’s incorporated vegan-friendly materials in their new season arrivals. 2019 saw Veja release its first vegan sneaker, a style that will be a focus of further sustainable innovation throughout the year. Contributing to Veganuary, the brand was spotlighted in communications across both luxury and mass retailers stocking the label.
Vegan accessories also saw overall growth YoY within the UK market, experiencing a 56% uptick of items in stock. This region also saw new players enter the market just in time for Veganuary where Accessorize updated its top-selling bags and purses in animal-free materials.
Outside of these areas, incorporation of vegan materials into categories is minimal, showing an apparent gap in the market for retailers to test the water with alternative fabrications. Animal-friendly outerwear is starting to gain momentum in the mass market. Vegan leather jackets are a no-brainer, but also consider alternatives to wool and down.
Beauty, accessories and footwear were the key products advertised during Veganuary. However, overall merchandise promotions were minimal, with the majority of mentions relating to food. This opens an opportunity for retailers to push communications – no better time to snatch the attention of those 400k vegan pledges!
What’s luxury’s role in all this?
Designers such as Gucci, Chanel, Burberry, Versace and Victoria Beckham have vowed to keep their catwalks fur-free. This cohort sets an example for the rest of the industry to follow. In the US, there is already a 36% YoY decline of women’s fur arrivals over the past three months.
Leather and skins are still prominent in the luxury market, synonymous with designers such as Hermes and Louis Vuitton who have built their legacy on leather goods.
EDITED analyzed womenswear luxury products currently in stock in the US and UK market described as ‘vegan’, ’non-leather’, ’faux leather’ and iterations of. These alternatives make up only 2.3% of women’s leather goods for luxury brands and are driven predominantly by Stella McCartney, who has offered cruelty-free options from brand inception.
While pure leather continues to be big business in the luxury market, contemporary luxe brands such as Nanushka are providing customers with high-quality vegan leather alternatives.
Additionally, consumers may not be as aware of the human and animal welfare involved in the silk trade compared to leather or wool. Organizations like PETA are working to educate the public on the conditions of exploited workers and the controversial process in which the silk fiber is collected from the cocoon by boiling the pupal alive.
While vegan silk isn’t yet as mainstream as vegan leather,” cruelty-free alternatives to conventional silk are starting to gain traction. Peace silk is woven from cocoons of the already hatched moth. However, there is currently no certification to guarantee the standard of this alternative. In the US, brands such as Stine Goya and Mother of Pearl are stocking products described as containing peace silk. On a further area of innovation, Stella McCartey is among those experimenting with plant-based silks, while startups such as Cocoon Biotech and Spintex Engineering are working with recycled silks.
Cupro is emerging as a cruelty-free alternative to silk. Already a mainstay for lining and trim, cupro is a waste product of cotton that maintains the sheen, hand feel and drape of silk. Cupro has seen a rise within luxury and premium retailers in the US market. A previous EDITED study conducted in November revealed products available online described as “100% cupro” (including in the lining and trim) increased 66% YoY.
The price tag
While 100% leather goods are coveted for their premium status and high quality, animal-free alternatives come with a competitive price tag.
We compare the full price of leather versus non-leather products stocked in the US mass market at the end of January. In every category, vegan leather is the cheaper alternative.
Interestingly, on average vegan leather outerwear, trousers and skirts come in more than 3 times cheaper. Retailers such as Banana Republic and Topshop are catering to different market segments, offering both 100% and vegan leather styles.
Check out the price comparison of these mass market styles.
Despite the consistent growth, there’s still a need for retailers to find alternatives in garments that are friendly to both the environment and animals.
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