Indifference is out and compassion is in but few fashion companies are paying more than just lip service to ethical operation, with Humans Are Vain being a notable exception.
Fast fashion has become a poster child for a wealth of unsustainable practices and outdated modes of operation. Characterised by ruthless manufacturing methods and an inherent lack of stewardship for those being employed, it has, rightly, raised a lot of questions and found itself in the glare of a very unflattering spotlight. But it has contributed to one positive development: Chris Margetts co-founding Humans Are Vain.
Having worked in the cut and thrust of London’s fast fashion scene, Margetts used his disdain for immoral practices and unsustainable materials to instigate change. Big change.
Turning his back on the industry, he moved to Sweden and in November 2019, co-founded Humans Are Vain. In the year that followed, the product range grew significantly and the fully vegan and sustainable catalogue proved that style and ethics can be a timeless co-ord if you have the courage to turn your back on what the wider fashion industry tells you you should be wearing.
Already vegan, Margetts was determined that not only would Humans Are Vain showcase items produced with minimal impact on the environment, but also without using any animal products. He reveals how important this was to him: “For me, one of the key factors to true sustainability is using vegan materials.”
He expands: “The damage caused to the environment by methane gasses produced by cattle farming is huge and accounts for around 25% of greenhouse gasses. As a vegan, personally, I wanted to produce and sell products that were 100% cruelty-free too.”
With strong ethical motivations, keen insight into the fashion industry and ideas ready to progress, Margetts was in a fortunate position, but turning concepts into a tangible business model is always a risk. Starting with a soft launch, Humans Are Vain listed a limited number of products and styles, to gauge demand and instantly, a core demographic of ethical consumers cried out for more: “I had no idea what the reaction would be, but straight away the orders came in and people were asking for more styles and more stock.”
He continues: “It was a nerve-racking moment. We’d spent time and money launching a brand and had tried to tick lots of different boxes, such as making the products recyclable, so it was a massive relief when that first order came in, followed by many more.”
It must have been extremely gratifying to witness consumers demanding change, both through orders and requests for more options. This validation that there truly is a market for considered, compassionate products gives hope that perhaps there is a world where the fashion industry no longer exploits people or animals for the sake of a quick seasonal fix.
Leading by example, Humans Are Vain offers a better alternative, but Margetts remains realistic about the limited impact of independents on the fast fashion giants: “We can’t take on the high street brands or the huge global sports brands because they will always be cheaper and have more reach, but we can show people that there are better products out there and explain why.”
He muses: “It’s up to consumers to make a conscious decision about how they want to spend their money. The fashion industry as a whole should do more to promote ethics and be more transparent, while looking beyond their high-profit targets, but for now, we are here to show people something more intrinsically ‘good’ and without any compromise on styling or quality.”
The sour taste that the world of high turnover fashion has left in Margetts’ mouth is visceral, but he isn’t bitter. Rather, he has an infectious passion for being the change he wishes he could see in the wider industry. Speaking with him makes you want to shop more thoughtfully, and that’s a power that no high street brand can lay claim to. Let’s not overlook the impact of a strikingly clever and ego-piercing brand name too.
Margetts explains: “I wanted a name that made a statement and totally summed up why the brand exists and what it’s about. After that, it’s all about letting the products and styling do the talking. Humans Are Vain was already in my mind, long before the brand was even born. While working in the fashion industry, I always felt stuck between two vanities: the end user who just wanted fast cheap products and the corporations who only cared about profit and flashy cars.”
There’s more to the name than a direct assault on our deepest desires to constantly consume though. If we truly are vain, perhaps highlighting the atrocities that run rife through the regular fashion industry will encourage more people to shop sustainably, if only for outward-facing eco-points.
Does self-centred motivation diminish inevitable good? In this case, perhaps we can all forgive influencers who jump on the greenwashing bandwagon, as long as they are supporting an independent brand that was founded on genuine ethics. The line is hard to draw, but with every sale made, hope grows for a future where buying sustainable products is simply the norm.
Margetts agrees and feels optimistic that perceptions will shift both genuinely and permanently: “There could very easily be a world where fashion is all 100% vegan. Take our shoes as an indicator. We have shown that innovative non-leather materials can now perform better than leather and look the same, so the real question is: why are people still buying leather? Sadly there will always be a small contingent of immovable people that choose to associate animal skins with quality, but if we can reduce their numbers over the next few years then we will be making a huge difference and driving important change.”
Humans Are Vain is supplying an exclusive 25% discount code for readers of The Vegan Review until the end of December. Use code ‘vegankicks’ to receive 25% off at checkout.
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