Leading London fashion designer and staunch vegan, Stella McCartney has lashed out at fashion houses that still use leather in their collections.

Amidst a sea of activism during the recent London Fashion Week, where PETA protested the use of wool in so many collections, British Vogue published an interview with the iconic designer where she blasted brands that are eschewing exotic skins, pelts and fur, but still lapping up leather as a go-to fabric, implying that it was – at best – tokenism.

While we at The Vegan Company celebrate any step in the direction of compassion, we also cannot deny the lady has a truly valid point.

In the interview, McCartney says: “It’s one thing to give up fur, but [many of those brands] weren’t really selling fur. Or to give up exotic skins when, really, who’s buying exotic skins anymore? That’s not really a market. It’s a good message, but [those statements] can feel a little throw-away.”

Her main gripe is that there’s not much of an ethical difference between exotic skins and leather and we don’t disagree. “What’s the difference between an exotic skin and a cow skin? I don’t get it—that’s the same conversation to me.

“People really don’t want to talk about the fact that the fashion industry’s biggest impact is its use of leather. The animals it kills, the toxins, the chemicals, the cutting down of rain forests, the food and water and electricity it takes to make a leather bag. If you really mean it, stop using leather, full stop.”

Interestingly, while many people think of – and indeed – justify the use of leather in fashion as a by-product of the meat industry and therefore making use of an entire animal that is raised and killed, this is can often far from the truth, with many animals bred simply for their skins, in much the same way some other sentient creatures are for fur.


And, according to PETA, “because leather is normally not labelled, you never really know where – or whom – it came from.

“Leather can be made from cows, pigs, goats, kangaroos and sheep; exotic animals such as alligators and ostriches; and even dogs and cats, who are slaughtered for their meat and skin in China, which exports their skins around the world.”

The activist group goes on to reveal that a lot of leather used in fashion comes from developing countries such as India and China, where laws don’t protect animals used for their skins.

“A PETA India investigation found that workers in India break cows’ tails and rub chilli peppers and tobacco into their eyes in order to force them to get up and walk after they collapse from exhaustion on the way to the abattoir.

“Buying leather directly contributes to factory farms and abattoirs because skin is the most economically important by-product of the meat industry.

“Leather is also no friend of the environment, as its production shares responsibility for all the environmental destruction caused by factory farming as well as the pollution caused by the toxic chemicals that are used in tanning to artificially preserve the animal skins.”

Definitely cause to stop and think – and take action. Do you throw away your old leather that you had before you became vegan? That’s your personal choice. Many people new to vegan life keep their old leather goods, feeling that to throw them away would be to dishonour the animal and contribute to land fill.

For example, leading vegan athlete Rich Roll, still wear a leather belt from his re-vegan days. Would he purchase another piece of leather? Of course not, but to waste that belt now to him seems completely disrespectful – and we are totally down with that.


But back to Stella McCartney … overnight at Paris Fashion Week she again used her voice and platform to draw attention to the ancient and endangered Leuser ecosystem in Sumatra, Indonesia. Home to 105 mammal species, including rhinos, tigers, elephants at orangutans, the 6.5milliom acres is at breaking point, thanks to deforestation linked to Palm Oil plantations and other day to day items we use including toilet paper and even materials to make T-shirts.

McCartney and celeb pals including Gwyneth Paltrow and Drew Barrymore are leveraging their star power to encourage social media users to donate to the non-profit organisation Canopy, which aims to works with the forest industry’s biggest customers and their suppliers to develop business solutions that protect these last frontier forests.

Always one to walk the talk, McCartney sent models down the runway in Paris in dresses made from sustainable viscose sourced from certified forests and even upcycled vintage Stella McCartney fabric, which was quilted to create a graphic wrap coat. A fluid maxi-dress was made out of vintage T-shirts, torn into strips, knotted and knitted. Even the shoes were made from pre-loved materials, with Stella joining forces with her hubby, creative director of uber-cool gum boot brand Hunter, to fashion skinny-legged, chunky soled boots, set on natural rubber soles and fitted with sock inserts in Yulex, a plant-based alternative to neoprene.


With Oprah Winfrey sitting front row, there was plenty of celeb clout in this collection and we love that those with the spotlight are using their power for so many good things!
And for us who don’t have that same platform? We can make change with our spending habits, choosing from the many and varied high fashion non-leather shoes, clothing, belts, bags and wallets that are increasingly available.

After all, if can live the life we love without harming others, why on earth wouldn’t we?

Images: Stella McCartney Winter 2019 #ThereSheGrows courtesy of Stella McCartney/Facebook.

About the Author


The Vegan Company is the go-to digital destination for luxurious, sustainable vegan fashion and beauty. Its mission is to make vegan living stylish, desirable and accessible by connecting people with an ever-growing collection of sustainable, cruelty-free vegan fashion, beauty and feel-good news.

Our writers independently select all products featured on The Vegan Company. We only recommend products and services we love – and think you’ll love too. Just letting you know that when you buy something through our retail links, we may earn an affiliate commission.