Stacy London on Unethical Fashion and What Not to Wear

Vegan fashion is a term that once called up images of burlap-like fabrics and unflattering shapes. But the world of ethical apparel has grown significantly in the past decade, shaking its “crunchy granola” reputation and attracting some of the biggest names in fashion. As style expert Stacy London tells us, the industry can’t afford to ignore the movement.

Stacy is probably best known for her role as co-host of What Not to Wear, a TLC reality television series that ran 10 seasons. She made a career trashing the closets of fashion offenders before building up their wardrobes—and confidence—by the end of each episode. But Stacy’s impact in the fashion industry extends well beyond that gig. She is a former fashion assistant for Vogue, and she has added celebrity stylist, fashion editor, and published author to her ever-growing résumé.

We caught up with Stacy in New York while she was previewing a collection from the pioneering vegan fashion brand VAUTE, created by activist-turned-designer Leanne Mai-ly Hilgart. In this interview, Stacy shares with us her take on how some founders have helped shift the perception of consumers—and big brands—toward more ethical fashion.

How is public perception of vegan fashion evolving?

Stacy: I think we used to see vegan fashion as something unfashionable—that the material was something that you could be proud of, but the cuts were kind of awful. It’s very similar to what happened with plus-size fashion. It used to be you could buy a nylon or polyester muumuu tent and be the woman who’s a larger size who didn’t feel pretty at the wedding.

But now that there’s a real switch in this industry, the way people are talking about plus-size fashion is exactly the way they’re talking about average-size fashion. It’s the exact same thing with things like vegan fashion. It’s going to become almost a non-issue, and it really is a question of where you want to throw your money and your support as a consumer.

So what changed?

Stacy: There was a real shift after 2008, after we really saw the economy crash. People were sick of bullshit, and they wanted whatever they bought to have a real-use value and to be worth the money that they were paying for it. The biggest problem was that vegan clothing was expensive to make because it was hard to find the fabrics to make them. Much less so now, where you have more people thinking about this responsibly and consciously, and also what are we doing to the world in terms of the oceans or landfills? It’s what’s happening in the world and in this industry right now, where having a conscience has been so much a part of being a consumer, like we’ve never seen in history before.