High-end high street retailer Zara is decking out its customers and their homes in supreme cruelty-free style.
Spanish retailer Zara has always been revered for delivering cutting edge fashion to the masses. However, the global brand is less well known for its extensive efforts to preserve the planet through sustainability initiatives and an unflinching environmental policy. With a commitment to toxic-free production, no-animal testing, and sustainable sourcing, Zara is helping to pave the way towards a vegan-friendly future.
With conscious consumerism on the rise, there is an ever-increasing demographic in search of cruelty-free suiting and booting. Zara has risen to the challenge with a range of vegan-friendly products, including faux leather jackets, acrylic wool jumpers, and an entire line made of recycled and sustainable materials, called Join Life.
The steady rise of ethical consumerism in recent years has highlighted the impact of our buying habits, not least the effect of textile production, upon the environment. In 2017, the Copenhagen Fashion Summit reported that the fashion industry is responsible for dumping 92 million tons of solid waste in landfills every year. In an effort to reduce waste, Zara works according to a sustainability initiative called “Closing the Loop.”
Zara was founded in its native Spain in 1975 and is owned by Inditex, the world’s largest retailer. Inditex is constantly working towards a circular economy, developing a complete and efficient life cycle for their products where nothing goes to waste. The industry giant has taken considerable steps towards a full circle with its “Collect, Reuse and Recycle” policy.
Inditex launched its in-store recycling points scheme across several Zara stores in 2015, and now has 1,382 drop off points for used items across all its companies. The ultimate goal is to grow this number to 2,000 by 2020. Since the in-store points were launched, 357 tonnes of garments, accessories, and shoes have been deposited by customers.
The deposited items, which can include boxes, hangers, and accessories as well as last season’s haute couture, are sent to eco-friendly textile centers. They are then sent to charitable organisations, including Oxfam and the Red Cross.
Clothes which can’t be reused for their original purpose go on to be recycled for industrial fibres and fabrics. In its ongoing pursuit of a circular economy, Inditex also transforms its textile waste into a fibre called TENCEL™ which Zara uses in its Join Life Collection. By 2020, Inditex will have invested $3.5 million on such sustainability initiatives.
Is Zara Environmentally-Friendly?
Through its parent company, Zara is a part of the Global Fashion Agenda, which aims to reduce the effects of fashion production on the Earth’s natural resources and environment.
Founded in 2005, the global leadership forum explains its mission on its website.“Global Fashion Agenda engages with the decision makers of the industry in order to ensure the prioritisation of sustainability at a highly strategic level,” it notes.
It continues, “Influencing leaders – from CEO’s to creative directors – is the most impactful way to drive industry change at large scale, and that has been the core focus of Global Fashion Agenda since the very beginning.”
Zara maintains its environmentally-friendly focus in each sector of its company, from production to marketing. Ninty percent of Zara’s stores are eco-friendly, and all the company’s headquarters and offices are powered by renewable energy sources. As well as this, 90 percent of the shopping bags used at Zara stores are fully recyclable paper, with the remainder being made of biodegradable plastic.
Zara also follows the production principles of Inditex which aims to use minimal water in traditionally “wet” textile processes, such as printing, washing, and tanning.
The global retail giant is also committed to reducing its use of chemicals which could be harmful to the environment and plans to achieve zero discharge of hazardous chemicals by 2020.
Inditex has already been so successful at developing green manufacturing processes that in 2016 it was granted the Detox Catwalk award by Greenpeace.
Zara’s Join Life Collection
Launched in 2016, Zara’s Join Life Collection showcases the brand’s typical catwalk-inspired designs, created from entirely sustainable and forest-friendly materials. These include recycled cotton and the biofabric TENCEL™ which is made from wood pulp.
All of the suppliers used for Join Life must meet with strict criteria assigned by Inditex. Conditions for being a Join Life textile provider include the fabric being manufactured with one of Inditex’s “Green to Wear” technologies and the supplying company must earn a grade A or B in Inditex’s environmental sustainability standard.
Zara says on its website: “Our goal is for our products to become increasingly more sustainable.”
Using Animal-Friendly Materials
Inditex adheres to the “Five Freedoms of Animal Welfare” as laid out by the Farm Animal Welfare Advisory Committee in the 1970s. Like many fashion retailers including Stella McCartney, Gucci, and Hugo Boss, Zara does not use any fur in any of its lines.
As Inditex states on its website, “Inditex stores do not sell fur. We strictly follow the Fur Free Retailer Programme supported by the Fur Free Alliance.”
Championing cruelty-free snuggliness, Zara has launched an entire line of faux fur coats for 2019. The range includes a synthetic fur coat and a vegan shearling jacket made from polyester.
Zara introduces its new line on its website by saying, “who needs a real fur coat when the faux fur options are so good these days?”
It continues, “Our fur outerwear collection has everything from full fleece jackets in a rainbow of colours, to classic parkas and black coats with fur-trimmed hoods and collars. Get through the cold season in style.”
The rise of vegan fabrics, particularly vegan leather, has grown substantially in recent years.
According to Grand View Research, the vegan leather industry is expected to be worth an eye-popping $85 billion by 2025. The materials used to make vegan leather range from pineapple skin to plastic bottles and ingenious new designs are being developed at lightning speed.
While Zara is not a leather-free chain, it does stock a considerable number of vegan leather items, termed faux leather. These include shoes, leggings, and jackets.
While the cruelty involved in the fur industry has been publicized, leading to the UK banning fur farming in 2000, the fashion industry includes many animal products which are also inhumanely sourced, including silk, made from silkworms, angora, made from rabbits, cashmere, mohair, and sheep’s wool.
While Zara cannot be described as a vegan company, it does place emphasis upon using ethically sourced sheep wool and will not buy from any manufacturer that practices mulesing. It also insists that all its leather is produced as a byproduct of the meat-industry, rather than the cow being slaughtered just for its skin.
Zara has also agreed to phase out mohair from all its lines by 2020. It says on the Inditex website, “following constructive discussions with PETA, we have also committed to phase out the small number of products our apparel brands sell containing mohair, so all their products will be completely mohair-free by 2020.”
As well as its fashion stores which number an impressive 2259 branches in 96 countries, in 2003 the brand branched out to homeware by launching Zara Home.
The homeware chain specializes in soft furnishings such as scatter cushions, wallpaper and table lamps, all of which are produced in-keeping with Zara’s environmental policy.
In June 2018, PETA applauded Zara Home’s commitment to sustainability by recognizing the company at the second annual Vegan Homeware Awards. The praise went one further when Zara Home beat the competition to the Best Wool Free Blanket Award, for its plain weave, multicolor blanket.
Elisa Allen, UK PETA Director, told House Beautiful UK in an interview, “compassionate consumers can adorn their abodes with the beautiful, cruelty-free winners of PETA’s Vegan Homeware Awards.”
She continued, “PETA is delighted to honor the forward-thinking companies that are meeting the booming demand for vegan homes with fashionable and functional pieces that are sure to make every space shine.”
In December 2018, Zara branched out yet again by launching its own makeup line. While a full range of cosmetics is still in development, Zara teased its eager public with a line of lipsticks in 12 shades and only available online. Although the products are not labeled as vegan, a look at their ingredients does not show any serial offenders such as beeswax or fish derived-guanine.
Inditex states on its website, “we will never sell cosmetic products that have been tested on animals at any stage of production, or that contain ingredients of animal origin.”
11 Top Vegan Zara Picks
Here are our 11 top vegan items from across Zara’s fashion, homeware and beauty ranges.
1. Satin Camisole Dress
This off-white dress combines lace and button detailing for a modern take on the Victorian pinafore. Cut from man-made satin, the glossy cloth is silk-free and cool against the skin.
This dress retails at £29.99.
Buy it here.
2. Flat Ankle Boots with Studs
For a slight rock-chick edge, these vegan boots are comfy enough for you to boogie the night away in. Zara stocks a variety of leather and animal-product free shoes. A good rule of thumb is, if the product doesn’t mention leather in the write-up, it’s probably worth investigating.
Buy them here.
3. Buttoned Faux Fur Coat
For occasions when you want to feel like a 1930s socialite, this knee-length faux fur coat is ideal. Made of modacrylic and polyester, the two buttoned coat is 100 percent vegan and allows the wearer to stay warm and embrace their inner glamorpuss at the same time.
Buy it here.
4. Tote Bag with Bamboo Handles
This crocheted tote is from Zara’s “Natural Bag” collection and is made from non-synthetic materials including the vegetable fiber, jute. There are also a number of hessian and organic cotton bags in this line, as well as several faux leather items across this season’s collection.
Buy it here.
5. Long Double Breasted Coat
This finely cut overcoat is wool-free and instead made of cotton, polyester, and other fibres.
Buy it here.
6. Belt with Tortoiseshell Effect Buckle
Made from woven jute and plastic, this summery belt is one of Zara’s many vegan accessories.
Buy it here.
7. Cushion Fillings from Zara Home
These feather-free pads are made from 100 percent polyester in a polypropylene casing, making them not only vegan but hypoallergenic.
Buy them here.
8. Double-Sided Vegan Sheepskin Blanket from Zara Home
Made from acrylic materials, this is the perfect fluffy blanket to get cozy with.
Buy it here.
9. Zara Behind the Scenes Lip Kit
Zara’s first foray into the world of cosmetics took place at the end of 2018 with a line of 12 high-pigment, matte lipsticks in either liquid or creme. This set includes one lipstick, one lipliner, and one liquid lipstick in corresponding shades.
Buy it here.
10. Combt Pnt 2
These khaki combat pants are part of Zara’s second SRPLS military-inspired collection. According to the brand, the collection is inspired by “the uniform of rebels and rockers for more than half a century.”
Buy it here.
11. Cm Shrt 2
This camo shirt is also part of the military-inspired SRPLS collection. It’s made from 100 percent cotton, with a desert island tree print.
Buy it here.