My search for vegan winter gear began when I purchased a new parka for December in New York.
As the winter season here is much harsher than it is in Australia, I needed some decent winter gear. I went to Macys, found a North Face parka that I liked, and bought it.
A few days later, I was looking at the tags and I read that the insulation was ‘goose down’. Goose? I thought. That’s weird.
A quick Google search told me that the source of goose down is, in fact, feathers from geese (or some other large birds). The feathers can be taken from the nest, but they’re often live-plucked from the bird itself. Definitely not cruelty-free.
I felt terrible for not realising this before I bought the parka. As a vegetarian, this was not a product I felt proud of buying. I took it back and got a refund.
My search for a new parka began immediately. This time, I would be sure to check that the coat was completely free of animal products. It started off a little rocky, but once I got my head around it, it wasn’t as difficult as I thought. Here’s all that I’ve discovered in my search for vegan winter gear!
What is cruelty-free / vegan clothing?
Vegan or cruelty-free clothing involves no animal cruelty in the process of making it, which means that the materials used will not include anything from animals.
Which materials should we avoid?
Fur – This one is obvious, and I think most people already boycott fur. These days, most fur that you see on clothing is synthetic (faux fur). Just make sure you double check it before you buy!
Goose down and down insulation – As per my mistake, I bought a down insulated parka without realising that it contained an animal product. If you’re wondering whether the synthetic is as warm as down – it’s just as good, though slightly heavier. It’s also cheaper and hypoallergenic! Here’s some more info on down vs synthetic.
Wool – This is a hard one to avoid, as wool is used in so many winter products for its thermal properties, but wool is not cruelty-free. Also keep an eye out for products that are labelled Merino or Cashmere as these are both wool. Luckily, it’s fairly easy to find alternatives to wool products – Polyester is a common one.
Leather/suede – Most people are under the impression that leather is just a by-product of the meat industry, but that is not always true. Here’s some more info on where leather comes from. It can be difficult to find leather alternatives when looking at shoes, but it’s not impossible! More on that below.
How to find shoes + boots
Shoes and boots are probably the most difficult item to buy cruelty-free, as many products have some leather or suede on the exterior or in the lining. Many regular shoe stores will stock vegan products – just ask a shop assistant to point them out for you. I found the above pair of super cute snow boots that way!
I also found some dressy winter boots by typing ‘vegan boots’ into Google Maps and finding a local store (Mooshoes) that made quality shoes and boots from imitation leather.
When you’re looking for shoes, try to find products made of imitation leather, waxed canvas, or rubber. Rainboots (or gumboots as us weirdo Australians would say) are usually vegan – just line them with some thick, wool-free socks for warmth.
The Columbia brand actually has a decent number of vegan boots in their collections, take a look here and check the materials in the product descriptions.
How to find parkas + coats
Finding a parka was more difficult than it should have been. I used all of my internet searching abilities, but didn’t find an awful lot. I went to check out a vegan clothing store in NoLita, and on my way I happened to pass an outdoor clothing and adventure store called Fjallraven.
Curious, I went inside and lo-and-behold, some of the coats were made entirely out of synthetic materials! These were not advertised as vegan coats, just normal coats that didn’t have any wool or goose down. And the quality is truly fantastic. The price tag was hefty at around $450 USD, but when the temperature drops to -15°C and I’m cosy and warm in my coat, I have no regrets.
There are other brands that make vegan coats. Columbia‘s Snow Eclipse Jackets are entirely synthetic, or just head into any outdoor clothing store and ask the assistant which parkas and coats are insulated with synthetic materials.
How to find winter woolies
You never really think of winter woolies as animal products, but then someone points it out to you and you think ‘Duh, they’re called woolies. As in wool. How did I not see that before?’.
So how do we find scarves, beanies, sweaters, and gloves that aren’t made from wool? Pretty easy, actually – just check the tags! Anything that says 100% synthetic, polyester, or nylon is good to go.