August 23, 2013
A bargain is always a thrill. It's why I am willing to poke through bins of ratty-looking stuff at a thrift store or paw the racks at the Salvation Army looking for hidden treasure.
It's still rousing to gaze at the $6.99 Manolo Blahniks that I found at a Goodwill years ago. And my heart rate goes up when I hear a friend boast that he found a classic Chanel quilted bag for his wife for $20 at one of his favorite secondhand places.
So when shoppers tell me that thrift store shopping is eco-conscious — buying used instead of new — well, all the better.
And the same goes for the growing number of "mindful living" shoppers who tell me they prefer "animal-friendly" or "animal-free" products.
I've got nothing against leather (or fur, for that matter), but for those who opt for vegan fashions and accessories, the options have never been better.
I know that because I recently went shopping for nonleather alternatives and found an amazing array at great prices.
In the past few years, fake leather (or pleather) has gotten so convincing that in many cases you won't be able to tell the difference (until you check the price tag). It even feels like leather — but costs so much less.
The Express chain has a line of fashions for men and women prominently tagged "(minus the) leather." Obviously appealing to the ethical shopping audience, the tag reads, "In other words, this product does not contain leather."
Online shoe giant zappos.com has a vegan section. But there also are plenty of brands and online stores that, while they don't promote their products as vegan or animal friendly, nonetheless contain no leather. For instance, Steve Madden, Chinese Laundry and Jessica Simpson shoes often have no leather components.
Search Google images for "symbols for shoe materials" if you're not sure what the little drawings on stickers on shoe soles mean. Also, check for sewn-in labels on purses that tell what the outside (shell) and lining are made of. You're looking for words like "all man-made materials," "100% man-made materials," "fabric," "cork," "polyester," "polyurethane," "PU," "non-leather" and "new material only."
That is not to say that some nonleather products don't use glue derived from animals. Or that production of those man-made materials isn't harmful to the environment. And just because the fashions and accessories have no leather content, that's no guarantee that the laborers who make them (mostly in China) are paid a fair wage in good working conditions.
Designs on sustainability?
Most of us can't afford the environmentally conscious Stella McCartney designs (stellamccartney.com), where a no-leather purse can easily cost more than $1,000. But there are labels and shopping sites that pride themselves on selling only vegan, ethical, eco-friendly, recycled, biodegradable, low-impact, guilt-free, eco-conscious, sustainable products. Definitions of all of those terms can vary. Some labels and websites to consider: olsenhaus.com (mostly shoes); mattandnat.com (bags and wallets); neuaurashoes.com (shoes); compassioncoutureshop.com (shoes, bags, beauty, jewelry); cri-de-coeur.com (shoes, bags, jewelry); and alternativeoutfitters.com (shoes, bags, clothes, accessories, jewelry, beauty).
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