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Published February 19th 2020

Quality Vegan Fashion Items Are Hard to Find. How Can Brands Help?

Exploring how online communities are coming together to find, evaluate, and recommend vegan products, and what brands can learn from them to improve the path to purchase

A vegan diet has never been easier to follow and adoption is flourishing, especially with events like Veganuary inspiring brands to launch tasty new products.

But, beyond the plate, going vegan can present lots of challenges.

In addition to following a plant-based diet, vegans commit to using and buying products that are animal-free. That means wool-free clothes, leather-free shoes, and insect-free lipstick (yep, insects are used for the red pigment!).

The problem

The path to finding fashion and cosmetic items that are animal free is tough.

Vegans can look for products with the cruelty free label, a guarantee that a product and its ingredients weren’t tested on animals – but this is not a great signpost. If a product is vegan, it’s necessarily cruelty free. But if a product is cruelty free, it isn’t necessarily vegan. This means that a cruelty free label alone isn’t enough to identify a product as vegan and more investigation (like reading through small print on labels) is needed.

Being vegan myself, I was curious to see how other vegans might use social media throughout their purchase journey for animal-free fashion items and how they engage with brands offering vegan products.

Using our Customer Research Platform, I was able to explore conversations across the web, and I discovered a number of opportunities for brands in this space.

Finding vegan fashion items

Looking at the various conversations happening online, what struck me the most is the number of posts from people asking for recommendations on how and where to find vegan fashion items.

Navigating the vegan offering can be strenuous, as vegan-friendly fashion items are rarely labeled as such.

Social media really comes in handy here. If you’re looking for a vegan friendly pair of boots, asking the vegan community online is far more efficient than browsing a store’s website for hours, let alone going to their store and checking the tag of every pair of boots.

High expectations

Using sentiment analysis, I found that there were more negative conversations than positive ones around vegan fashion. Consumers are often frustrated when trying to find good quality items.

Not only is it difficult to find nice animal-free items, but once you’ve bought them, they don’t always meet the standard of quality you expected.

However, when vegans are happy with the products they’ve bought, they don’t refrain from sharing their joy on social media:

Just being ‘vegan friendly’ won’t cut it for vegan folks.

The market has matured, and consumers are now looking for a product that is fashionable, durable, and ethically sourced while being affordable.

Vegans are expecting the same level of quality from brands as they did before going vegan but, needless to say, it can be like looking for a needle in a haystack.

A painful customer journey (and an opportunity)

Although I have yet to find the perfect vegan winter boots, I have learned that I’m not alone in this ever-ending quest.

I’ve also come to the realization that there is demand for middle ground products that sit between accidentally vegan shoes made in plastic from your favorite retailer and high-end, ethical, designer-made vegan brands.

It is now up to high street retailers and brands in general to take note of these expectations and align with consumer values around sustainability, as well as to make it easier for vegan consumers to find quality products. To keep up with consumers, brands must:

  • Not substitute on quality. Vegan items must meet the same quality standards as non-vegan items
  • Make it easier for vegan consumers to find the items they’re looking for. This can come down to better labelling in store and online, and better marketing and social selling.
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