Actress Rooney Mara has been a self-described “ethical vegan” since 2011 and found that ridding her closet of animal-based materials and replacing staples like jackets and boots with vegan alternatives to be far more difficult than following a plant-based diet. (Many fashion-forward vegans can also attest to this struggle!)
“Wool is the silent killer. It creeps into everything,” Mara said. “But [losing] leather was the hardest part. It’s in so many things—every shoe, every bag, all your cool jackets. I used to have so many cool jackets.”
Although the number of high-quality vegan-friendly brands is increasing, the industry still has a ways to go when it comes to normalizing high-end vegan material and offering comfortable pieces that last season after season. With the goal of creating luxe pieces with alternative materials, Mara teamed up with childhood friend Sara Schloat and Barneys employee Chrys Wong to launch HIRAETH, a 100% vegan fashion line prioritizing beautiful clothing that appeals to all fashionistas (not just vegan ones).
The brand mission states, “All of HIRAETH’s items are leather, fur, wool and silk-free. With alternative fabrics sourced from mills in Italy, France, Japan and the UK, each piece is carefully crafted in downtown Los Angeles. HIRAETH is designed for forward-thinking creatives who agree that in our impersonal, disconnected age, the values of craftsmanship, quality, comfort and respect for all living creatures are more essential than ever.” Amen!
The trio discovered that creating truly vegan items was easier said than done. “The problem is, there aren’t that many animal-free fabrics that are considered high-end,” Schloat said. “Everything is either leather, silk, wool, or fur. And even when you think you’ve found something, it might have animal by-product in the dye or in the glue… You really have to do your research. There’s a lot of homework that goes into ensuring every component is animal-free.”
In addition to creating animal-free garments, HIRAETH is also committed to transparent sourcing of materials and labor. “We try to work directly with family-run businesses that have been around awhile,” Wong said. “When you cut out the middleman and go straight to the source—when you know the people—the whole process is a lot more transparent.” Mara added that younger generations of shoppers are particularly interested in whether or not merchandise is ethically sourced, regardless of whether or not its made from traditionally high-end materials.
Despite growing acceptance of vegan materials in the fashion industry itself, Mara and her team ran into a few skeptics. “A great pair of boots is what I was missing the most,” Mara said. “When we first set out to make them, people told us, ‘No. You can’t make that boot faux. You can’t have that look. You can’t have that sole.’ There was a lot of resistance.”
“Our goal is to introduce another high-quality option, whether you’re looking for animal-free products or not,” Mara concluded. “You don’t have to be vegan to wear our stuff. We really want the clothes to stand on their own. And then, hopefully, we can introduce people [to vegan clothes] who had never really thought about that before.”
Who are your favorite vegan clothing designers?
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