Vegan fashion is more than just a trend — and retailers are increasingly scaling up their selections of cruelty-free footwear to meet the demand.
According to a new report from Edited, a retail technology and data company, there are now 52 percent more products described as “vegan” selling online compared with the same time last year. The researchers analyzed more than 40 major retailers and found that many expanded their animal-free offerings over the past year, with those in Germany and the U.K. leading the charge. Germany, which last year had only a limited selection of products described as “vegan,” increased its offerings by 131 percent as of Jan. 31, compared with the year prior. U.K. retailers such as ASOS and Topshop had 75 percent more vegan products in stock, while the U.S. saw a more modest 11 percent gain, though its overall number of offerings remained the largest of any market.
While beauty products accounted for the lion’s share of new cruelty-free stock, faux-leather and -suede footwear has made significant strides. Looking at just clothing, shoes and accessories described as “vegan,” footwear makes up 73 percent of the total market.
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Among the retailers that have ramped up their offerings in the past year are Marks & Spencer, which last month announced a 350-piece vegan spring shoe collection for men, women and children after what the company’s senior footwear technologist, Rachel Smith, described as “increased customer interest in veganism and a rise in online searches for related products.” Birkenstock, too, rolled out an expanded collection of sandals free of animal byproducts last year.
At the luxury end of the market, Stella McCartney is still the standard-bearer for vegan accessories, collaborating with Adidas in September on the brand’s first-ever leather-free Stan Smith sneakers. Up-and-comer Nanushka, however, has thrown its hat into the ring, and Net-a-Porter stocks a selection of croc-effect boots and vegan slides.
We can look for more momentum to come: The global synthetic-leather market is expected to reach $85.05 billion by 2025, according to a 2017 report from Grand View Research Inc. The footwear category is expected to show the fastest growth, with an approximated compound annual growth rate of 9.7 percent from 2016 to 2025.