For this year’s style guide, I wanted to focus on cruelty-free apparel—meaning stylish outdoor apparel made with performance materials that were not sourced from animals at all or that use ethically-sourced materials. Easy, right?
Not so much. For as many strides as the outdoor industry has made in combining performance materials and fashionable styles, it has a long way to go before we have many options that are either truly cruelty-free or, better yet, vegan (especially when it comes to winter footwear). So although this guide includes as many animal-free options as I could find, I’ve had to include footwear and apparel that are, if still made from leather or wool, at least as sustainable and environmentally friendly as possible.
So, dismayed but undaunted, I give you my picks for the season’s best gear that blends style and performance with industry-leading ethical standards.
There are two reasons I’ve been wearing the Brenna Pants non-stop this fall: With the stretch nylon and spandex, they’re super comfy and—thanks to the slim fit and moto-style detailing—super flattering. Even better: the Brenna Pant is Blue Sign Approved, meaning it meets highest standard in the textile industry for environmental health and safety.$89.
Shown here with the The North Face’s sassy, waterproof Bridgeton Wedge Boots. $150.
When it comes to ethical style, Ibex always makes the A-list. Yes, the incredibly soft Freya Cardigan is made from the highest quality merino fiber, but it’s also made with some of the most humane merino out there. Wool suppliers have to comply with strict animal welfare guidelines for their sheep, including standards for comfort, shelter, freedom from distress, and disease prevention. $150
You may have heard about Patagonia’s awkward moment with their “cruelty-free” wool earlier this year. It turned out the one cruelty-free supplier they found wasn’t so cruelty free after all, and the company promptly cut ties with it. It was a brave and costly decision, and one that highlighted just how high Patagonia’s standards are and how committed it is to brutal, honest transparency about its practices. While Patagonia searches for a new supplier, we continue to covet these incredibly soft, super warm Merino Air base layers (seriously, these are the most comfy base layers I own). And bravo to Patagonia, which continues to set the standard for ethical performance gear. $129. Shown here with Dale of Norway Voss Hat. $70.
Pair the cozy Teva Figueroa boots with some leggings and a big ole sweater and voila: you have your winter weekend uniform. The faux sherpa lining envelops your legs in warmth while the waterproof leather, plus a waterproof membrane, keep your toes dry in nasty winter weather. (Alas, there’s no vegan or cruelty-free story here, and Teva doesn’t make any vegan footwear except some of its sandals.) $200.
Ever since The North Face introduced its Thermoball collection in 2013, I was hooked. Not only is it ultralight and compressible (great for backpacking), the synthetic PrimaLoft fluff keeps you warm even in wet weather. I also love that this vegan jacket is 100-percent animal-free. $199.
It’s a little embarrassing how excited I was to receive Hunter boots for this story. The company has created the gold standard for durable, beautiful wet weather footwear for well over a century, and of course, the rubber boots are completely vegan. The Balmoral II Poly-Lined Wellington Boots have a tall rubber shaft and burly Vibram outsoles to combat all that is wet and slippery. And now you can convert your favorite rain boots into your favorite winter boots with Hunter’s cozy new fleece boot liners. $210.
A winter style review would never be complete without a nod to the Queen of après-ski style, Dale of Norway. I love the Hafjell Knitshell Feminine Jacket for its ability to combat wind, water, and stains (the wool is dirt and stain resistant), while still managing to look as regal as ever. Dale gives a few nods to environmental considerations: the factory uses hydropower and eco-friendly materials and inks for their garment tags. $428.
Shown here with Dale of Norway Flagg Headband. $50.
If you’ve entered an outdoor shop lately you’ve likely already encountered Sorel’s omnipresent Cate the Great Wedge, one of the fiercest new boot styles this season. The waterproof upper repels the wet stuff, while the microfiber lining keeps your feet toasty. And don’t worry about that fancy wedge heel: the molded rubber outsole is surprisingly beefy, keeping you happily vertical on slick footing. (Unfortunately, for as sweet as Sorel boots are, all use leather and the company couldn’t provide us with any info on any cruelty-free leather sourcing.) $260.
Prana always makes my short list with its dependable blend of beauty and sustainability. The gorgeous and snuggly Mattea Sweater is made with sustainable recycled wool fibers. With its flattering asymmetrical cut and tremendously soft wool, this sweater has become one of my fall staples. $149.
If you’re looking for the very best in style and environmental responsibility, Timberland has some great options. The Savin Hill Double Buckle Ankle Boot is one of the prettiest booties I’ve come across this season, and the best part: it’s made from soda bottles. The mesh lining and footbed cover are made from 100% recycled PET (the plastic used to make disposable bottles). Even better, the leathers used to make this boot come from a silver-rated tannery (a classification based on energy use, waste production, and water treatment). $150.
Icebreaker cranks out so much fashiony goodness I had a hard time narrowing down my choices for this review. Although I’ve chosen the Vertex Long Sleeve Half Zip base layer here (because it’s pretty and I’m loving base layers lately), all Icebreaker’s woolen goods boast the same elite standard of eco and animal welfare. The sheep are happy, healthy, and free-range (and so are the sheep dogs!), and all Icebreaker products are guaranteed mulesing-free. $150.
Shown here with Skida’s Darling Knit hat. $82.
Columbia’s Minx Mid Slip On Omni Heat Boots are my top pick for vegan performance. Made with zero animal products, these comfy boots are waterproof and super warm with 200 grams of synthetic insulation, Columbia’s Omni-Heat reflective interior, and a cozy faux fur lining. Huge props to Columbia for creating one of the only high quality, fully weatherproof vegan boots I could find. $120.
I wasn’t familiar with Kora before they reached out as I was prepping for this story, but I’m glad they did because I’m hooked on these base layers. The incredibly soft, warm fabric is made entirely from ethically-sourced yak wool (extra points for creativity in source materials). The company claims its yak wool is 40-percent warmer by weight than merino, and is 60% more breathable than merino. Although I can’t verify this, I can confirm that it is certainly warm and comfortable. Plus, I love the company’s ethical stance. $147.
With its cotton polyester upper, faux fur lining, the Keen Howser Slide slippers are probably the cutest vegan performance slippers I’ve ever met. They are warm, easy to slide off and on, and are prepared for mild outdoor encounters (the rubber outsole is surprisingly substantial for a slipper). Around the house, I live in these this fall. $75.
If I had a prize to give for most eco-friendly product, The North Face would win with its perennial favorite, the Denali Jacket. The recycled polyester is made from used water and soda bottles, and according to TNF the dyeing process (for its black and gray colors) uses up to 50-percent less water and chemicals than traditional dyeing techniques. Wear it alone in coolish weather, or pair it with a compatible TNF shell for nasty conditions. And don’t forget your crazy hat!
Shown here with Skida’s Floral Fiesta Nordic Hat. $30.
Got puddles? Bogs has your back. The adorable Sidney Lace boots are second on my list only to the Columbia Minx for vegan shoes built for real performance (I’m a sucker for fuzzy liners, what can I say). Made from 100-percent waterproof materials, these boots are also insulated for temps down to 5 degrees (although I haven’t gotten into weather that cold so far this season). And obviously, they’re really cute. $120.
Oh, Icebreaker Destiny Dress, how do I love thee? You’re breathable, odor-free, you protect me from UV rays, and your silky merino is ethically sourced. There’s so much to love about this dress, and because it’s Icebreaker (and Icebreaker is at the top of the game when it comes to ethical sourcing), you can even trace the source of the wool through the company’s Trace Your Garment program. $200.
Shown here with Skida’s envy-inspiring 100-percent cashmere Basketweave Shawl. $175.
Want to add some vegan sass to your winter outfit? Stuff some clever little boot socks into your Hunters and carry on with your winter shenanigans. $175, with $30-$60 boot sock.