Cruelty-Free Killer Looks

No need to go out of your way to find cruelty-free clothes, shoes, bags, and accessories—synthetic alternatives are easy to find. Here are some general tips.

Leather

Look under shoe tongues, on tags, and on the insides of belts and bags for fake-leather buzzwords like “manmade leather,” “all-manmade materials,” “pleather,” and “synthetic.” No label or unsure? Ask a salesperson if it’s real leather. (Be careful, though, because the salesperson might suspect that you’re looking for fake leather and say that it’s fake when it’s not.) Finally, the price may clue you in. Typically, synthetic leather sells at a fraction of the price of real leather!

Wool

Watch out for wool hiding in pants and suits (read labels!), and take a pass on pashmina, angora, cashmere, shearling, camel hair, and mohair, too—all made from animals. Instead, look for snuggly warm synthetic fabrics, such as polyester fleece, acrylic, and cotton flannel—they wash easily, cost less, and don’t contribute to cruelty.

Heavy, bulky wool can’t hold a candle to revolutionary new fabrics like Gore-Tex, Thermolite, Thinsulate, and Polartec Wind Pro, which is made primarily from recycled plastic soda bottles and has four times the wind resistance of wool. It also wicks away moisture and is available at outdoor outfitters.

Tencel, a natural fabric made from wood pulp, is a breathable, durable, and biodegradable alternative to wool for men’s and women’s dress suits. If you’re looking for a suit, start shopping in the spring, when summer suits made from cotton, viscose, and other lighter materials are available.

Silk

Find humane alternatives to silk ties and other silk items—including such fabrics as nylon, polyester, rayon, Tencel, milkweed seed-pod fibers, satin, and even silk-cotton tree and ceiba tree filaments—online and in stores for a fraction of the price of silk.

Down

Down-free coats, sleeping bags, comforters, pillows, and more can be found virtually anywhere. Read labels and look for “synthetic down,” “down alternative,” “polyester fill,” or a high-tech fabric like Primaloft, a soft, washable, downlike fiber that is often used in coats, gloves, and comforters and that stays warm even when wet, unlike down.

Fur

Forget about coats with fur collars and trim and fur accessories. Again, read labels to weed out cruel products. Cruelty-free faux furs made of plush modern synthetics are becoming easier and easier to find, whether you’re shopping in a trendy fashion boutique or a department store.