The Very Best Vegan Couture

For compassionate fashion and shoe lovers, finding crush-worthy vegan style has  become undeniably  easier. 

Suits by BraveGentleMan

Fashion’s future is  vegan and  luxurious.  With the vegan revolution rolling along nicely, the demand for  desirable,  ethically  made, environmentally friendly  fashion is surging. Savvy, socially conscious brands are  building their entire business on animal-free collections  that are both stylish and sustainable.  Designers  such as  Vivienne Westwood and  Jean-Paul  Gaultier are  collaborating  with vegan  brands, while fashion giant Hugo Boss has launched its own vegan-leather line.  Faux-leather, fabric and synthetic shoes have certainly been around for decades, but rarely any that you’d want to wear.  Before  Stella McCartney  started her eponymous line in 2001,  cruelty-free  clothing and accessories  barely  skimmed the surface of  high-end  fashion.  For compassionate fashion lovers, finding crush-worthy styles has  become undeniably  easier. 

Taylor + Thomas

Fans of Stella McCartney will love  Taylor + Thomas’s gorgeous  statement-making shoes.  The Los Angeles–based label’s animal-loving  co-founders Elizabeth Thomas James and Jessica Taylor  Mead create  ethical  footwear  that’s  completely  sustainable,  cruelty- and sweatshop-free, with part of the profits going the charity 1% for the Planet.  The line is crafted  from natural, sustainable materials: the insoles from castor beans and recycled rubber, while the lining is from renewable corn.  

Inspired by the rocking  1960s and 1970s, Taylor + Thomas produces  classic  styles  that look  fabulously retro  yet fresh.  “These  were times of creativity, freedom and political activism,”  says  James  of  the thinking behind  the  designs.  “We get inspiration from strong women: musicians, style icons, trailblazers.” And the shoes are all named  after  free-spirited  female  rock stars and muses:  Marianne (Faithfull) court shoe; Debbie (Harry)  faux-snakeskin boot, Brigitte (Bardot) stiletto; Edie  (Sedgwick)  black ankle boot;  and Jane (Birkin) loafer.  

Since launching last summer with a capsule collection of flats, heels and boots, T+T  has been winning the hearts of style-conscious  animal lovers  and vintage enthusiasts.  It plans to eventually expand the future-focused line to women’s accessories and ready-made clothing with the same ethos and aesthetic.  

“We are trying to redefine the status quo that luxury means leather,” says  James, who is vegan, pointing  out that the consumption of animals whether eating or wearing them is extraordinarily damaging to the planet.  “Fashion is one of the dirtiest industries on Earth and  the leather  used by the industry  is the most polluting material when you take into account water and air pollution, waste, greenhouse-gas emissions, water  and land usage. Plastics, formaldehydes, lacquers  and butanes are also used in the tanning of leather.” 

Susi Studio

Another  lovely  Los  Angeles-based  line, Susi Studio  has  become the  vegan go-to-glam  footwear worn by Miley  Cyrus  and  Emma Watson.  Designed by founder and creative director Bianca Moran  Parkes, who is big on reinterpreting  iconic vintage  styles, the  line  features  kittenish  T-bars  that  look like something a 1960s starlet might’ve worn  on the French Riviera  and sexy sky-high platforms a New York disco queen would’ve  stepped  out in at Studio 54.  Susi means ‘key’ in  Filipino  and the idea is  to  unlock responsible approaches to fashion.  Not only are the shoes made from natural and  recycled materials,  but  the company  also collaborates closely with the artisans working in its factories in Portugal and  Hong Kong  (which is owned and operated entirely by women).  

“The vegan philosophy is simple. You can live  a fulfilling and stylish life without partaking in inhumane practices,” says  Parkes.  “The biggest challenge is breaking the stereotypes. For  decades, consumers have pictured  vegan shoes as ugly, awkward sandals and we’re trying  to  change  that.” 

Olsen Haus 

New York-based Olsen Haus  is a  luxe  vegan shoe  and accessories  brand loved by  the fashion pack and  frequently  seen  on the red carpet  on  stars including  Natalie Portman and Cameron Diaz. Founded in 2008  by former Calvin Klein designer Elizabeth Olsen  out of her passion  and concern for  animals, this  pioneering brand is known for its sassy strappy stilettos, boots, kitten heels and colourful flats.  Crafted from a mixture of man-made, plant-based  micro-suede and repurposed  waste materials, each shoe is  hard wearing  and made to be worn season after season.  Before creating her line,  Olsen  was creative director for Tommy Hilfiger and a stylist for Universal Studios. She  saw the horrendous animal abuse and hazardous working conditions  on  her visits to  tanneries, which she described as stepping into Dante’s circle of hell.  Illuminating the cruelty  of the industry and what modern luxury can be in one fell swoop, Olsen is ceaselessly creative.  Standout pieces include  inky-black  ultra-suede, turquoise-heel stilettos  and 1940s-style,  lace-up  peep-toe  pumps  with a glitter heel. 

Nemanti

Featured regularly on the pages of Vogue and  Elle, multi-award-winning Milanese brand  Nemanti’s  footwear  for men and women  fuses  classical aesthetics with sustainable innovation.  Passionate about animals and nature,  Nemanti  founder Paola  Caracciolo  found herself frustrated  by the unimaginative, unsexy  fair and animal-friendly  alternatives, so she created her own with a  sleek,  pared-back aesthetic.  Handcrafted in Italy in a small, ethical family-run factory,  Nemanti  shoes are  seductive, seriously  beautiful  and  look and feel just as luxurious as any couture shoes.  Fashioned  from apple pulp, a by-product from the apple harvest and requiring no extra land, water,  fertilisers or pesticides, the material resembles super-soft  leather and suede  that’s  every bit as supple  as  the real thing.  As a Vegan  company,  Nemanti  is continually innovating and exploring  the most ethical materials and methods  to ensure every element of  production is  100 percent cruelty -, waste- and solvent-free.  In addition to producing shoes that are crafted with care and look like works of art,  Nemanti  also offers a bespoke service.   

Brave GentleMan

For fine-quality men’s footwear,  Brave GentleMan  boasts designs  that  combine sharp, classic style  that are sustainably produced without harming animals or the Earth in fair-labour  conditions.  Designer  Joshua  Katcher  launched the first-ever  luxury  all-vegan  menswear brand Brave Gentleman  in 2010  following the success  of his green lifestyle website, The Discerning Brute, which he began in 2008.  Alongside its fashion collection, the label offers its unique  future-is-now range of shoes and bags cobbled out of  ‘future-leather’ and ‘future-suede’, an  Italian-milled  microfibre superior to animal-derived leather that is also  weather-resistant  and  biodegradable. 

Brave GentleMan  also  champions slow fashion to protect animals, the planet and the people involved in making their products, and  recently  opened its first  buzzy  boutique in Brooklyn.  “We’re on the brink of a new industrial revolution and one day all leather will be animal free,” says  Katcher, also an author  and  activist, who taught  at Parsons Art and Design School in New York about the ethics of fashion  and sustainability.  “The beauty of a fashion object can reflect the beauty of how it was made. We must  use beauty like a cool pair of shoes or an amazing suit to prove that an ethical lifestyle can be fun, sexy and powerful.”  

Hiraeth

Actress and activist Rooney Mara launched her vegan clothing and footwear line Hiraeth in 2018, after she couldn't find any cruelty-free combat boots. Founded in conjunction with personal shopper Chrys Wong and her childhood friend Sara Schloat, the LA-based label now produces a vegan line (including combat boots for US$650) which is sold at Dover Street Market and on their own site. Mara has been vegan for eight years, while her fiancé Joaquin Phoenix has been vegan since the age of three. Hiraeth is a Welsh word which translates as nostalgia for somewhere that may never have been.

A version of this article originally appeared in Billionaire's Health Issue, December 2019. To subscribe, contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


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