Although vegans may be known for being kind to animals, they aren’t so nice when it comes to clothing companies that use veganism to sell more products. Although it’s certainly not the first incident of its kind, the latest example comes from British-based retailer Topshop — and a seemingly innocent pink tee that hides a non-animal-friendly secret.
Women’s apparel is one of the most important subsets of the clothing industry. While countless decoration methods have been developed in recent years — like sublimation, a heat transfer method that uses four different wax color ribbons to create high-quality images on garments — some brands embrace a traditional, throw-back feel. Tee and Cake, a brand carried exclusively by Topshop, is making everything old new again. Their collection features lame-turned-hipster graphic tees, sweatshirts with tassels, and embroidered tops that look like something your grandma might bring you back as a vacation souvenir.
One of their t-shirts, in particular, has caused quite a stir among vegans. The simple design of a vegan brontosaurus, featured on a simple tee in a baby pink hue, might not seem to be all that controversial at first. But when customers took a look at the Tee and Cake care tag inside the garment, they raised their eyebrows in surprise.
You see, Tee and Cake’s kitschy take was to provide customers with a recipe for something sweet, involving sugar, flour, baking powder, vanilla extract… and butter and eggs. The last two ingredients are certainly not vegan, a fact that social media users were quick to point out. Many of those who have chosen a plant-based lifestyle aren’t shy about promoting their values — and they weren’t so forgiving to Topshop for the oversight.
Those up in arms over the shirt have even speculated that the juxtaposition was a purposeful diss to vegans or that the two brands merely wanted to capitalize on the vegan trend to sell more shirts. One Twitter user wrote, “Yet another company trying to cash in on veganism without knowing anything about what it stands for… shameful use of vegan for profit.” In the UK, where Topshop is headquartered, veganism is one of the fastest growing lifestyles in the country; while only 150,000 people followed a vegan lifestyle 10 years ago, at least 542,000 follow a vegan diet now.
In response, some vegans took the opportunity to share more sustainable, truly vegan-friendly brands. And to their credit, Tee and Cake actually shared a vegan-friendly cake recipe on their Instagram account, which included vegetable oil and soy milk in place of the animal byproducts featured in the original.
Since approximately 62% of Americans say they own more than 10 t-shirts in their wardrobe, companies may feel they have to go to great lengths to ensure theirs sell. Maybe a lower price point would help; the dino tee in question also had a $40 price tag in addition to the offending recipe.
Some vegan activists are supportive despite the gaff (and cost). The director of ProVeg UK, a food awareness group, was quoted by The Sun as saying: “We love Topshop’s ‘vegan dino’ t-shirts, despite the printing error on the label! It’s very clearly an oversight from the manufacturer, nothing more — they use this same label on every item in their range. More importantly, these t-shirts show just how mainstream and popular veganism has become now it’s being printed on clothes sold in one of the most well-known fashion retailers in the world!”
As of early March, the tee was still available for purchase on Topshop’s website. But perhaps the outrage has caused at least one brand to think twice about promoting faux veganism in the future.