NYFW: Tom Ford S/S 19 has gone Vegan with fake leather pieces Is it sustainable?

November 6, 2018

Tom Ford became vegan a bit more than a year ago, and consistent with his personal life choices, he introduced fake leather in the NYFW S/S 19 collection.

The fashion designer Tom Ford shows beautiful clothes in soft shades of nude, pale lilac and pink. The mix of delicate lace and chiffon with synthetic crocodile and leopard print fake leather makes a fabulous contrast of soft and hard. It is an extremely feminine, flattering and sexy collection, but not that obvious in-your-face-flesh-flashing-sexy we’ve grown tired of.  

Fake fur and fake leather at Tom Ford S/S'19 catwalk in the NYFW
Tom Ford S/S 19 runway, with fake leather pieces.

Tom Ford and the fashion industry using fake leather

Imitation leather and synthetic fur have been slowly but steadily replacing natural materials in the fashion world. Designers like Tom Ford have been adapting their collections to satisfy the growing number of vegans and animal-lovers whose campaigns and pressure influence fashion consumers. Additionally, fake leather is cheaper than the real thing. So, it is a natural choice for brands wanting to produce affordable and disposable clothes for our “throw-away society”.

Long before Tom Ford, Stella McCartney was one of the firsts to advocate animal-cruelty-free fashion, using synthetic fake leather in her collections. By the way, her latest collab with Adidas. The Vegan Stan Smith, made in fake leather, is already available in the stores, just in time for Stella’s birthday on the 10th of September.

Although fake leather is animal-friendly, is it eco-friendly? 

Industries use plastic, which is made from non-renewable petroleum, to produce PVC or PU. These are the two most common kinds of fake leather used by fashion brands like Tom Ford. To transform the oil into synthetic material, they must use toxic chemicals. The result is a non-bio-degradable fabric that leaves a large footprint. Genuine leather is more sustainable because it is a by-product of the meat industry. 

Additionally, real leather is stronger than fake leather, hence more durable. A genuine leather jacket, for instance, will last a life-long while PVC and PU are easily flaked, torn and damaged. You will hardly be able to wear a synthetic leather jacket for longer than one season.

Tom Ford presented his S/S2019 collection in the NYFW with plenty of fake snake and leopard print fake leather
Tom Ford fake leather looks for spring/summer.

So what should you wear?

This is an extremely tricky topic. You may think you’re ethically correct when you throw away your leather goods and fill your wardrobe with plenty of fake leather items. But you may be forgetting the severe problem of plastic polluting our planet and causing the death of so many animals. So, taking into considerations all environmental AND ethical issues, there are still some reasonable alternatives to look good and feel good about your shopping:

Recycled leather and fur

Recycled leather and fur are excellent options. It allows you to keep enjoying these luxurious materials knowing that no animal had to die for your new garment. And let’s face it, the real thing is so much nicer than the fake one. It smells lovely and is breathable, keeping you warm without making you sweat. Also, leather is more comfortable, which is especially crucial for shoes. Finally, it has a soft touch and lasts longer.

Recycled synthetic fabrics

Brands such as Patagonia, the outdoor apparel giant and Timberland have “closed-loop” programs. They use the material of discarded old items that they recycle to produce new clothes and shoes. All Stella McCartney’s bags are lined with fabric made from recycled water bottles. And she uses recycled polyester and nylon in her collections. The Swedish H&M has garment-collecting boxes in all stores around the world. They reward the customers who bring in their old clothes to be recycled. Even so, synthetic is always the result of experimentation with chemicals and dyes to obtain a variety of colours and textures.

Buy better – buy less

Leather lasts much longer than its substitute, so it’s better for the planet in the long run. In other words, spend more on good-quality items and you won’t need to replace them for a long time. It is more sustainable than buying – and throwing away – cheap synthetic versions. You can check the Leather Working Group that rates the tanneries according to their efforts to reduce environmental impact. Additionally, you should buy vegetable-tanned leather that doesn’t use any chemicals in the dying process of leather.

We don’t want to spoil your fun, but consuming less and in a smarter manner may be the best answer. Think twice before buying and ask yourself these questions: “Do I really need that?”, “Where was it produced?”, “How was it produced?”, “Will it last?”, “Will I wear it?”. The planet thanks you.