For Luxury Lovers, The Innovation Behind Vegan Silk is a Game Changer
The days of having to settle for synthetic lux-looking materials is over. With the increased demand for vegan alternatives to luxury fabrics, many fashion designers have responded with chic options that deserve a spot in your wardrobe. Be on the lookout for vegan silk fabric popping up in all sorts of clothing options and, potentially, home linens.
What is Vegan Silk?
The concept of vegan silk, much like “vegan wool” or “vegan meat”, is a paradoxical concept in that the very thing that is traditionally exploited is not. Huh? Basically, it’s an alternative to the traditional material that invokes similar qualities yet is ethically comprised. Vegan silk has no firm rules on its material content (other than, of course, it shouldn’t be made from animal or insect fibres). So you may come across variations. In general, high end vegan silks will have a natural fibre base blended with other luxurious fibres to create a silk-like finish. This could be Tencel (eucalyptus), Cupro (cotton), or even bamboo viscose, banana peel fibers, or pineapple leaf fibers.
Tencel is a rayon made from the long, luxurious fibres found is Eucalyptus wood pulp. Tencel is like a silk-cotton hybrid: it’s extremely breathable and soft but has a slinky, highly drapable quality to it. Because eucalyptus is a fast growing plant requiring very little human maintenance or intervention to thrive, it’s a more future-friendly fabric option than virgin cotton. Cupro is a by-product of traditional cotton production. It’s made from the small, silky cottonseed fibres that are usually discarded because they are too small to spin. These fluffy and soft cottonseed fibers can eventually be woven into a luxurious feeling cotton fabric with a slightly satin-like finish. Thus, the making of Cupro saves the cotton industry’s waste and repurposes it into something beautiful, high versatile, and durable. Bamboo viscose has similar properties and environmental impact as Tencel. Banana peel silk and pineapple leaf fabrics are also highly breathable and moisture wicking, though offer less stretch and drape as the other natural fiber silk alternatives.
With the influx of companies jumping on the “green-washing” and “veganized everything” bandwagon, you’ll no doubt come across fashion companies labeling things like silky polyester and other shiny, plastic-based fabrics as “vegan silk” or something ridiculous like “silky vegan material.” I’d recommend avoiding these since they really aren’t innovative and are only further exasperating the environmental crisis. Plus, these materials just don’t wear well and won’t have the same luxurious appearance as a natural-fibre based vegan silk.
Where Can I Buy Vegan Silk?
There are a very small number of innovative slow fashion brands experimenting with ethical silk alternatives. For those seeking a raw-silk finish and an expensive look, check out Alltrueist’s latest in house collection–it’s made in Montreal. Their highly adjustable pleated skirt and beautifully draped trench coat are made with the finest vegan silk I’ve ever touched. These pieces are ideal for the cooler months, though the fabric is also highly breathable due to the Cupro base.
I took Alltrueist’s Pleated Vegan Silk Wrap Skirt* for a spin around Paris and my, did it feel great! The material has a medium-weight to it, so it drapes in a sophisticated way along the body. It also has a silky, slightly cotton-like feel against the skin. But I especially appreciated the attention to detail when it came to the design of this skirt. The interior waistband is lined with metal buttons and dozens of corresponding button holes so you can literally tailor the fit to your waist’s size that day. After locking in the skirt’s waist size with the buttons, I then use the waist tie to cinch the silhouette in just a tiny bit more for the perfect fit. The double D ring keeps the waist tie in place all day. This entire design is genius because waists fluctuate over time. As someone still in my post-pregnancy recovery, I really appreciated having a beautiful skirt that fits me, no matter what my measurements are that day. This also means the skirt adapts to you and will be useable in your wardrobe for years and years.
*a generous PR gift
Shop My Ethically-Made Vegan Silk Skirt and Related Wardrobe Items
How to Care for Vegan Silk?
As with actual silkworm silk, vegan silk is delicate in nature. Be careful of staining and treat the fabric right away if you notice anything! Use dish washing soap on a damp cloth to dab away oil or food stains. Always store your vegan silk items hanging up to avoid creasing. Check with the company before steaming or ironing. If you choose to iron, make sure you place a clean hand towel in between the fabric and the iron to prevent accidental scorching or discolouring from water drips.
How to Style Vegan Silk?
I again take inspiration from traditional silk when it comes to styling vegan silk. I think it pairs especially well with classic cut items, like button down shirts or trousers. And surprisingly it looks lovely against slightly more aggressive materials like thick vegan leather or metal accessories.
For a more unique look, try pairing vegan silk with your more basic clothes, like t-shirts and plain turtlenecks. One of my go-to outfit formulas is a midi-length skirt and a t-shirt. It’s an easy, effortless outfit to throw together yet has the effect of working with a personal stylist. I love wearing this look in Summer and Fall, as you can see in these photos from Paris. Or I switch to a fitted sweater or long sleeve turtleneck in the winter. Pair with sneakers, heels, or boots. Voila!