As a preface to this article, I’d like to formally state my deep and profound objection to winter, or at least Canadian winter (California winter, for example I’m generally okay with). Is it sacrilege for a Canadian to speak out against out against a season which we, as a nation, so often use to define ourselves? Probably, but it’s also safe to say that there is a fair amount of misrepresentation in how Canadian winter is presented. The vision of winter, played out in so many Tim Horton’s commercials, as games of pond hockey, followed by a cozy cup of hot chocolate and a maple glazed donut, do not realistically capture what it is to endure the often brutal conditions. Some of us, believe it or not, don’t even play hockey. The truth of our winter is that it is long, hazardous, isolating and uncomfortable.
While there’s not a whole lot we can do to change the blustery cold and snowy weather up here in the north, there are ways that we can help abate its impact. Dressing warmly is, of course key, but winter outerwear is notoriously unfriendly to animals and even, in some cases, defiantly anti-vegan – the ever popular and quite disgusting Canada Goose being the best example.
Vegan clothing, in many ways, has not achieved the level of general accessibility or popularity that vegan food has, but it is a market that is growing, especially as it ties into the general push for more sustainable consumer practices. After struggling on numerous occasions to find clothing that is both ethically sound and winter-proof, I decided to compile this list of some of the best available options and vendors. I can’t honestly say that all these outlets are affordable (i.e. Wuxly), but hopefully you can find something that appeals to both your fashion sense and wallet.
The Hemp Tailor
Originating in the Netherlands, online retailer The Hemp Tailor offers a nice selection of men’s and women’s parkas, puffers, and light jackets all made with their eponymous material as well as recycled polyester and organic cotton. For added warmth, their coats are insulated with PET Repreve – a performance fiber that’s made from recycled bottles. Their prices range from high 200s to mid 500s (USD) – not entirely unreasonable for a decent winter jacket. Their top of the line Nordic Nightwatch Parkas will set you back about $549 USD, but will keep you nice and toasty to about -15 degrees. And the fur trimming is faux of course.
I’ve noticed that some coat retailers have a very light interpretation of what winter conditions can be like – a denim jacket or pleather bomber is not going going to cut it in Canada. But home-grown brand Wuxly understands the harsh nature of our weather and designed their outerwear to be hardy and high performance even in the most extreme of conditions. Their coats are a bit on the higher end of the price scale, but they are built to last and undoubtedly worth the investment – they are also just really sleek and attractive. All the materials they use are plant-based, sustainably sourced and eco-friendly. Their outerwear is insulated with PrimaLoft Gold, a synthetic fibre that is said to outperform down!
Save the Duck
Save the Duck is an international brand, with its roots in Italy, that is 100 percent animal product free. It’s one of the older and more established vegan outerwear providers and probably the first to have built a global presence. They have a pretty substantial and diverse collection and, despite the company’s pedigree, you’re likely to find something that’s in your price range. Their stylish lightweight, but hardy, RECY puffer jackets, for instance, are a very reasonable $258. If you want to go high end and premium performance, they have jackets that will set you back $1000 as well.
Frank and Oak
While not an entirely plant-based brand (they used recycled wool in a lot of their product line), Frank and Oak, a Canadian shop with numerous brick and mortar locations, has made a substantial push towards creating a sustainable and eco-friendly practice in an otherwise environmentally unfriendly industry. They use prima-loft to insulate their coats, and some items like their Expedition Puffer and Capital Waterproof Parka are polyester-based and vegan friendly.
The Noize brand originates in Montreal, so when the company claims that “they know a thing or two about winter,” I’m inclined to believe them. Their attempt to make fashionable and warm outerwear accessible for all is admirable – and this is definitely one of the few truly affordable options out there for completely vegan coats. The trade-off is that the coats, while being designed in Canada, are actually manufactured in China. Their top of the line heavyweight parkas retail usually for around $300 or less, and it’s not uncommon to find their products on sale via their website.
The Portland Oregan based sports and activewear company is probably going to be the most recognizable name on this list, as they’ve been around over seventy years. While not a vegan brand, they have many product lines that are vegan-friendly and have often been my go-to for durable and reasonably priced outerwear over the years. Make sure to check the tags or website to ensure that there’s no down in the coat you’re looking for – their plantbased alternative for filling shell, lining and fill is polyster. Prices vary but you can score a pretty solid coat for a couple hundred dollars.
Started by former model turned fashion entrepener Leanne Mai-ly Hilgart, Vaute claims to be the world first vegan fashion brand. That claim is a bit dubious but there’s no doubt that the product line has made in an impact in the otherwise envirionmentally toxic and destructive world of fashion. There is a flagship store in Brooklyn but you can buy off their website as well, and while their product photography is…a bit odd, the coats themselves are unquestionably of high quality. Their $600 (USD) Whitman is the camel coat of my dreams, sans camel hair, and I have no doubt would be worth every dollar.
SHOES AND BOOTS
Call It Spring
In 2019, relatively new retailer Call It Spring, an off-shoot of Aldo Shoes, did something completely unexpected and made their entire product 100% vegan, and also developed a new and aggressive sustainability policy. They have a huge selection of sneakers, loafers, dress and casual shoes, as well as winter boots perfectly suited for snow tromping. Their prices are unreal, with few pairs exceeding the $80-90 mark, and while there is a flagship store in the Eaton’s Centre, shipping for orders over $60 is completely free!
The epitome of stylish footwear, Brave Gentleman’s rualefined plant-based collection replicates the handsome and sleek leather look, with vegan alternative “Future Leather,” a PU based microfiber made in Italy. Their line is also certified under the European Union’s Eco Label. Their standard boots sells for about $300 (USD) – a bit pricy – but there’s no doubt that their products are of the finest quality. Founder and fashion designer, Joshua Katcher sums up his company’s approach with this simple, but meaningful quote – “The handsomeness of the object should be matched by the handsomeness of how it is made.”
Noah’s Italian Vegan Shoes
The Europeans definitely seem to be leading the way when it comes to crafting fine and functional vegan fashion. Employing the classic high quality standards of fine Italian handcraft, Noah’s large diverse collection of shoes, boots, and accessories will likely appeal to any shoe lover. Prices vary for each style, but a good pair of winter boots will set you back about 170 Euros (Approx 250 CAD), which is pretty reasonable cost to keep your toes toasty and stylish.
Vegetarian Shoes is a U.K. based company that sells a huge variety of footwear at very reasonable prices. Though they are a small business, with only one brick and mortar location in Brighton, they’ve developed a fairly substantial online presence. Founder Robin Webb started the business twenty years ago, hand-crafting the shoes himself from synthetic microfibres, and the products still resound with the same kind of individual care and craftmenships, even as they have expanded. Not matter what your style preference, or budget, you’ll find something appealing in this hearty and warm in this collection.
Novacas is a vegan Portugese shoe brand that sells through numerous online vendors including the popular Canadian site MooShoes. Using faux leather microfibres and microsuede, Novacas’ footwear has all the style, comfort and practicality that your craving, especially in the winter months. Their prices are very reasonable. One of my personal favourites, the Xander Boot, for instance, costs around $200 via MooShoes.
A Brazil based company doing incredible things with vegan materials, Ahimsa has the distinction being the only plant-based brand to have their own 100% vegan shoe factory, which means they have complete control over their production without having to go through third party manufacturers that may not share their compassionate vision. They have a pretty big selection, and again, prices are pretty reasonable, with most pairs costing around the $230, but you can also find a few styles for under $200.
While warmth is usually the priority during the winter months, sometimes you want to wear something that’s a little less utilitarian and that has a bit more pizzaz. Enter Hatsmithe, a Puerto Rico based company that offers vegan versions of that timeless headwear, the fedora. Hatsmithe uses a form of polyester felt to create their classic wool look and fell. Undeniably stylish and thoroughly committed to plant-based manufacturing, this is a company to keep an eye on, especially as they’ll be expanding their product line soon.
Arvin Goods is an eco-conscious brand that is largely know for their socks, but they also sell some really rockin’ beanies made from a propietary fibre called Polylana, a low impact alternative to wool that ensures comfort and warmth. The Beanies, while designed in Seattle, are manufactured in Canada, so for $25 (USD) you’ll be investing in a product that is at least partially homegrown.
Created by off-the-grid homesteaders, Rawganique is a vegan and ethically driven company that sells organic clothing and home products made from cotton, linen and hemp. They have a pretty large product line that includes things like shower curtains and bedding. There’s not a lot of outerwear products, but you can get a nice beanie, ski hat or Pompom hat for around $20 (USD), all made with 100 percent organic cotton fleece.
If you’re looking for a pop of colour to augment your winter wear, Wawwa has got you covered with a rainbow selection of beanies. Their hats are made from acyrlic yarn and are part of their 1+1 collection, which means for every beanie you buy they’ll donate another to someone less fortunate. To complete your outerwear ensemble, you can pair your new hat with one of their stylish and cozy scarfs.
While vegan friendly gloves may be one of the easier accessories to track down, MEC (Mountain Equipment Co-Op) makes it even easier by provided an option to search their glove and mitten inventory by material type. Their diverse selection uses materials like synthetic leather and sued, nylon, polyester, and they have options at pretty much every price point. You can also further narrow down your search by selecting the type of glove your looking for – from snowsports to casual wear, they’ve got it all.
Toronto’s only completely vegan clothier is technically a re-seller, not a brand but they deserve to be somewhere on this list, being one of the few stores whose collection pretty much covers every category on this list. Their glove selection is small, but well-curated, with offerings from companies like Hoodlamp, Vegetarian Shoes, and Mechaly.
Another European company, this time based out of Germany, doing great things with alternative vegan and eco-conscious fabrics and materials. Bleed’s line is designed for sporty individuals, so you know that it has to be durable. It should be noted that they also could be slotted in one of the other categories, as they sell a variety of outerwear, but their thick knit organic cotton gloves will undoubtedly be your hand’s salvation during those ruthless cold spells.