During the winter months’ plunging temperatures, we all find ourselves bundling up a little bit snugger each morning. Many of us don’t stop to think about what goes into making the clothes that keep us warm, but if you strive to live a cruelty-free lifestyle there are several things to consider before purchasing winter clothes. To create a cruelty-free winter wardrobe, start with these three questions:
- Is the coat filled with down?
- Are the hoods or boots trimmed with fur?
- Are the socks, scarves, or hats knit with wool?
We all know that these products come from animals, but did you know that how they are produced is often cruel and harmful to those animals? Thankfully, modern technologies have been able to provide us with plenty of warm alternatives, and more and more brands are releasing cruelty-free clothing as a result.
What’s Up With Down
We often think of down in terms of plush comforters, soft pillows, and coats that shield us from the cold. But what about the geese and ducks who that down came from? Ducks and geese raised for down have their soft under-feathers ripped from their bodies, often resulting in bruised, torn or ripped skin. The birds are also prone to neck injuries and suffocation from being held down during the plucking process. They experience this ritual every six weeks until they are slaughtered.
The safest way to purchase typical down products is to look for “alternative” down which is commonly made with synthetic or natural materials. Big, earth-conscious brands like Patagonia are even launching new down alternative products made with recycled plastics! You can find down substitutes for comforters, sleeping bags, coats, pillows and more. You can stay just as warm and dry using alternative down. Whether you enjoy hiking, walking the dog or sledding in snow, you can avoid buying products that use down but still stay warm and cozy by investing in some of these cruelty-free jackets and winter clothes instead:
- Thermore Ecodown in the stylish coats from Hoodlamb
- Primaloft, whose military-grade Gold blend is featured in all of Wuxly Movement’s coats
- PLUMTECH, a fabric exclusive to the company, Save the Duck
- ThermoGreen, the sustainable, recycled lining from Patagonia
- ThermoBall, North Face’s down-alternative option
- OmniHeat, an alternative used by Columbia in their coats, snow pants, and boots
Pull The Wool From Your Eyes
Socks keep our toes are toasty, hats keep our body heat from escaping, and scarves keep out the bite of winter winds. Wool is most commonly used for all of these products. While wool is certainly warm, what about the sheep that wool was taken from? Though sheep don’t need to be killed for their wool, when sheep grow older and their wool production drops or decreases in quality, they are culled (killed) because they are no longer of use. During their lives, they still suffer as a result of this industry. Undercover investigations have shown us how, during the shearing process, sheep are handled roughly, often experiencing lacerations and broken bones. Untreated lacerations can and often do become infected, which is common in large flocks.
Wool can also come from what’s referred to as shearling. Shearling is obtained when a lamb sent to slaughter, is skinned and the wool and hide are processed together. This processing creates a soft outer leather or suede-like material, lined with lamb’s wool; for example, UGG boots.
The cruelty to sheep is not the only downfall of wool garments. Unlike most cruelty-free options, wool retains odors, stains easily, and is highly susceptible to mold and mildew. All of this coupled with the fact that most wool garments can’t be machine washed makes caring for that item a drag. Many people find wool to be itchy and its price point too high compared to inexpensive alternatives. Here are some wool-free companies who use fabrics and fibers that provide better winter weather protection than wool:
- Polartec led the way in 1981 with their well-engineered synthetic fleece (they also carry wool-free winter socks)
- Turn heads with sustainable, recycled fabric wool alternatives from Brave GentleMan
- Companies like Zara even carry faux leather jackets trimmed with a shearling alternative
- If you like the look of UGGs but don’t like the cruelty, try DAWGS microfiber version
- Well-trusted brand, Carhartt, has a wide variety of acrylic and poly-fleece knit hats
- Cozy and stylish wool-free gloves from Hoodlamb will keep fingers warm and cozy
Go Faux For Good
Fur lining and trim add one final layer of protection against the elements on chilly winter days, a soft and beautiful final touch on our otherwise utilitarian boots, coats, and gloves. But what of the animals whose fur is being used? People have been fighting for fur-free fashion for decades. It is one of the most ruthless industries when it comes to animal abuse. Animals whose fur is used as clothing are either raised with genetic modification and kept in cages their whole lives, caught in barbaric traps or are hunted. Animals used for fur are kept in cramped, filthy conditions until they are ready to be killed. To keep furs intact, these animals are commonly drowned, electrocuted, or—in the worst (though not uncommon) cases— skinned alive.
Don’t worry though— in this day and age, we can keep warmer than ever without paying for this strange kind of cruelty. There are dozens of synthetic materials that can be used in place of fur! Faux fur trim uses synthetic fibers that can trap heat to keep us warm while still looking stylish. Check out these companies who create fur-free jackets, coats and clothes that are cute without being cruel:
- NOIZE offers cruelty-free on-trend parkas with faux-fur hood linings for men and women
- Parkas come in a range of colors from Didrikson’s with faux-fur and down alternatives
- Unreal Fur is creating fashion-forward, ethical faux fur coats and jackets
- Make everyone stare with Donna Salyers’ entirely cruelty-free faux-fur driven line
- Once more, Hoodlamb provides fashionable cruelty-free options with faux fur trim
- FURious Furs focuses on high-quality fabrics with all the glam and none of the cruelty
Contact Your Favorite Company
Do you have a favorite company who doesn’t offer cruelty-free alternatives? Companies and retailers respond to consumer demand. Reach out to your favorite brand or favorite retail store and let them know that you want fur-free, down-free, wool-free alternatives. Don’t know what to say? Use the template below to send to your favorite brands to ask for cruelty-free options in their lines.
Cruelty-Free Appeal Letter:
Dear [Insert Company Name Here],
I am writing to you to today to ask that you please consider adding cruelty-free alternatives to your line of [coats, boots, etc]. I’ve always liked your products but after learning about how they are made and what materials are used, I no longer feel comfortable purchasing from your company. Today, we have the technologies necessary to keep ourselves warm and dry in the elements without harming another living being. Down, wool, fur, and leather are products that can, and should, be replaced in today’s fashion industry. These products are inherently cruel, no matter how or where they are sourced.
[Feel free to share a personal anecdote or connection to the company here. For example:]
As someone who grew up wearing your [coats, boots, etc], I would love to continue supporting your brand. In order to do so, though, I ask that you please consider removing animal-derived products from your lines or, at the very least, provide cruelty-free alternatives for your customers who do not wish to support such brutal industries.
Looking forward to the launch of these new styles!
[Your Name Here]