How to dress vegan

How to dress vegan

Q. My boyfriend is vegan and will not wear clothes that violate his principles. This very much limits his clothing choices. We both like upscale dressing, but it is hard to do when you can’t wear leather, wool, or silk. Are there any quality cotton options or does he need to rely on synthetics (which don’t strike me as particularly eco-friendly)?

A. While cotton is my recommended fabric for shirts, it is true that choices for other clothing are definitely limited; but today, as with all things vegan, the options are increasing. Linen for suits is an option I have advocated in the past; of course, it has always been animal free. However, not only is it limited to warm weather dressing, but many dislike its crumpled look. And a pair of linen dress shoes would be hard to come by! Recently I mentioned the use of cork as an eco-friendly option for shoes, hats, wallets, etc. (one affordable brand is Qeork). Just in the past few days, at the Fashion Week shows I attended in New York, one of the menswear designers actually tackled this very problem.

Joshua Katcher, a relatively new designer whose men’s clothing line is known as Brave GentleMan, presented his latest collection. It included suits, neckties, shoes, boots, and small pieces of luggage – all 100 percent vegan. Described as “The first high-end vegan suit collection to be made in New York City,” the garments were fashioned from luxury materials. He used Italian-milled bamboo fabric (which resembles and feels like fine cotton or super-fine wool) for meticulously-tailored three-piece suits with vests and two-button closures. They came in colors spanning traditional dark navy, bolder blue, rich brown, black, and charcoal gray. The fabric looked like conventional suiting material and the classic tailoring would allow a man to wear them with, or without, the vests for many occasions.

The collection also replaced traditional leather items as well as (if not even better than) it replaced wool. High-tech Italian microfiber (which looks and feels like expensive suede and leather) was used for hand-held totes and knapsacks, and for some of the best looking and best-priced leather-like footwear you are likely to find at any price. When I touched these innovative shoes and boots, I really could not detect any difference from fine leather.

The show was classic Fashion Week. The crowd that gathered at The Mercer, a chic hotel in Manhattan’s Soho district, looked like some movie director’s fantasy of how the super-cool kids look when they grow up. Almost everyone was dressed in New York “all-black.” The event was made even more interesting because it was “hosted” and introduced by Alan Cumming, the well-known actor who is currently starring in the CBS crime drama “Instinct” and the off-Broadway play, “Daddy.” He arrived wearing a tailored burgundy bamboo suit with a light blue windowpane check and a pair of dress sneakers from the designer’s new collection. This combination would look perfect on a dressed-up professor (or, in a different color and with different shoes, on a CEO).

I can’t help but point out that there certainly were elements of the shows that were far from what your boyfriend or other “normal men” would wear. Fashion Week is known for presenting garments that are not expected to actually be worn the way they are shown, but rather to grab the attention of the viewer, to introduce new trends, and to stimulate conversation . . . and press. Earlier in the week, I attended the runway show of Joseph Abboud, a long-time designer of beautiful menswear. His American-made clothes for Fall, 2019 were presented, appropriately enough, at one of the piers at the South Street Seaport. In a departure from his usual traditional wool suits and classic sports coats, this time there was a rather odd emphasis on immigrant dressing (an apparent reference to his background as the grandson of Lebanese immigrants) with a variety of mended-patchwork additions to the jackets, mismatched buttons, fuller trousers, flowing capes, layering, and a surprising use of belts worn over a sports jacket. (In reality, the suits and sports coats he will be selling next season will be elegantly tailored of fine earth-toned tweeds and textured fall fabrics from all over the world.) At the show, many of the models carried great-looking leather totes and satchels that only the luckiest of immigrants would have owned.

Needless to say, nothing at this show was vegan.

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