Sustainability is retail’s current buzzword, and fast fashion brands are racing to cut out leather in favor of cruelty-free materials.
TopShop is the latest to follow suit, launching a line of PETA-approved, 100 percent vegan shoes and sandals this month.
The environmentally-friendly line features six silhouettes ranging from flat, double-strapped slides to block heeled mules and sandals. In mostly neutral color ways with on-trend square toes, the versatile collection is made from 100 percent vegan materials, down to the glue and packaging. Prices range from $75-$100.
“We are really excited to be launching our first vegan collection this April,” Maddy Evans, Topshop’s fashion director, said in a brand statement. “Initially we are focusing on footwear and introducing six new styles that are produced alongside our premium shoe lines in Spain. We can’t wait to see how shoppers respond to the design-led collection and how far we can push vegan products across our accessories offering.”
Evans’ statement suggests TopShop’s intention is to grow the line, using this collection to gauge consumer interest in other vegan pieces.
The footwear industry has long operated on a policy that leather is best, touting the material’s durability, breathability and unique luster—which has indeed proven difficult to replicate with synthetics. But growing environmental concerns, coupled with consumers’ rising aversion to the use of animal products, have spurred an onslaught of material innovations that rival the real thing.
And it’s not simply animal rights that has the industry re-thinking its leather elitism. Footwear brands are becoming increasingly mindful of their ecological footprint, particularly as it pertains to water usage and pollution. Like the denim industry, which is notorious for water waste, leather tanning processes often release harsh chemical pollutants into a tannery’s surrounding waterways. Auditing bodies like the Leather Working Group are pushing to revamp these processes and provide more transparency to brands looking to do good.
Then, there’s the option of forgoing leather altogether.
The Economist and the Guardian dubbed 2019 the year of the vegan, with a quarter of Americans aged 25 to 34 years old now identifying as vegans or vegetarians. The trend has translated to footwear in recent seasons, ramping up over the past year. Vegan offerings made up only 16 percent of new arrivals in 2018. By the end of January 2019, they accounted for 32 percent.