It’s no secret that going vegan signals something about you: you’re eco- or health-conscious, a conservationist, or you, at the very least, care to read the news or watch documentaries filled with warnings about what we humans do to animals and what consuming them may do to us in return. But, it can also be a difficult, occasionally costly, transition.Seem like a stretch? Not so much. Veganism calls for excluding everything animal-derived, and, more explicitly, abstaining from “all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose.” The Vegan Society’s definition goes further to state that veganism, “by extension, promotes the development and use of animal-free alternatives for the benefit of animals, humans and the environment.” It acts more as a guiding principle for life than it does a dietary deviation from meat. That leaves as many holes in wardrobes as it does refrigerators, and, for companies, filling voids for vegans proves to be smart business.
Blundstone CEO, Adam Blake, recognizes this. His brand’s vegan debut — two pairs of Chelsea boots called #2115 and #2116 that became available in October — was an effort rooted in inclusivity.
“Ever since we were founded in 1870, we’ve prided ourselves on a very simple mission: to make the boots people need and want,” Blake says. “On any one day around the world, we could have a young woman going to a musical festival wearing our boots or a middle-aged man in an industrial context wearing our boots. We want our brand to be open for everyone to feel a part of and engaged with. And, I think, from a very simple perspective, we decided we couldn’t truly stand by that unless we moved into developing [vegan] Blundstone boots.”
Blundstones are traditionally made from leather with the brand’s “fit-for-purpose” mission front of mind. They’re designed to endure whatever the wearer puts them through. This universality proves reminiscent of another brand, the venerable Dr. Martens, which first introduced vegan boots in 2011.
Since then, the vegan market has grown exponentially. It’s set to reach a valuation of $31.6 billion dollars by 2026 — and that’s just food. As alternatives penetrate countless new product categories, it’s a mere matter of time until consumers come to expect vegan choices in every facet of their lives — from the cosmetics they use to the clothes they wear.
Other notable footwear and apparel brands are taking note: Vegan Clarks Desert Boots and Wallabees came to market in August, and Canada Goose announced plans to pivot away from fur (and goose down, PETA hopes) by the end of 2022.
These brands — Clarks and Canada Goose, along with Blundstone — create products heralded for comfort, functionality and durability, so this shift toward vegan materials represents more than virtue signaling or cashing in on a growing consumer base. It’s an endorsement of a number of new alternative, animal-free materials. Vegan iterations used to be inferior, and now they’re nearly indistinguishable. But synonymity came slowly, Blake explains.
“It has taken us some time. I’ll be really honest,” he says. “Partly why is because of our own principles, and our own considered nature by which we go about developing new products… We were not going to come to market at all unless we could stand by that it was 100-percent tested and verified as vegan. That sounds very obvious, but, trust me, that’s not the approach all brands take.”
Blundstone is transparent about the alternatives it employs: Grupo Morón’s onMicro, a microfibre thinner than silk, and onSteam, a microfibre known for being moisture-wicking. They’re also upfront about the certifications they’ve been awarded: Vegan by third party verifier, Eurofins.
Eurofins tests materials down to the molecular level, where they can uncover even the most trace evidence of animal biomaterial. These tests not only inform how brands can market their products, but they help establish basic confidence in them and set a standard for other industry members to follow. For consumers it’s a way of knowing what goes into them, explicitly what doesn’t, and how they should perform — and most often it’s to the same level or higher.
Now let’s see if consumers can tell the difference between these core products and their vegan counterparts. Chances are, they can’t.