When I went vegan, rethinking fashion was one of the things I struggled with most. I have always loved fashion, and have come to make a collection of beloved items that I used to deem beautiful. I have the memory of purchasing certain handbags and feeling really glad about them, especially some of the first ones. I have a rule that I don't purchase something unless I absolutely love it.
When I made the complete connection about the dairy industry, more connections came along with it. At first, I tried not to think about my leather handbags, but I'm the kind of person who doesn't do well with dissonance and disconnect. I need to act in accordance to my beliefs and know that I'm doing my best. My own statements about "animals are not for us to use" would come back at me when I looked at my handbag that I knew came from an animal whose life was taken away for human interests. I would try to internally justify it to myself thinking "the harm was already done, it would be wasteful to discard it", "the point is to not purchase any new leather", etc--- but I believe people are walking messages. If I don't justify animal abuse/use with my words , but with my actions I display that it's something acceptable that I myself do, my message isn't as strong. If one comes to think about it, wearing the skin of dead animal is not only wrong- but quite off-putting. Even if the harm was already done, even if it's considered normal.. (many horrible things in history were considered normal).
Soon enough, I found myself feeling disgusted by the leather of my bags and wallet. Every time I would use them, something would feel off. I eventually purchased a new fabric wallet- not nearly as fancy than the one I had before- and I felt a lot better. Eventually, I found myself a vegan wallet I really liked. One of the hardest things for me was to give away my leather handbags that I held so close to my heart and sense of style. It was difficult, but after I did it, I felt a huge sense of relief. Now my closet is free of animal exploitation.
Coming to think about it, I love fashion because I love beauty. But...
If you see a handbag with a nice color and design, in a store display, it seems beautiful. Its presentation is so separated from its origin (unlike, for instance, a steak)- and that makes it harder for us to make the connection. In reality, if you think about where it came from, you'll recognize it is far from beautiful. I don't want my wardrobe to have anything to do with animal exploitation. Something that is beautiful should be so in every way- and cruelty would certainly not be part of that equation.
Years later, I am happy to have a collection of beautiful vegan leather handbags and vegan shoes. Now when I purchase an item I am happy not just because it looks good, but also because I found something that didn't harm animals, and I can be a walking message of how it is possible to be okay, stylish and happy without the use of animals. I believe choices like this slowly push the fashion industry to leave cruelty behind. More and more people are making the decision to make their wardrobe cruelty-free, creating more demand for vegan fashion items. Let us be part of that conscious change.
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